CUMBERLAND — President Trump is no saint. But what separates Trump from past unsaintly presidents – and there are many – is his style of negotiation: His opening bid is to the extreme, and often hyperbolic. This phenomenon has had a simple yet powerful effect: Supporters take him seriously, not literally, while his opponents take him literally, not seriously.

I would humbly suggest that “Never Trump” voters start to take President Trump very seriously, as I believe there is a high probability that he will be a two-term president. Why? Trump’s core base is going nowhere. Trump is a gargantuan economic stimulus package. And moral hysteria by the media purifies the Trump presidency and sets the expectations bar exceedingly low.

• As Trump said himself, he could murder someone on Fifth Avenue and his support would not budge (and depending on who he murdered, it may in fact go up).

In Maine, we have the “privilege” of living under Gov. LePage. Riding the tea party wave of 2010, LePage was elected as the anti-establishment candidate. And after four years of highly suspect behavior, the only rational conclusion was he had next to zero shot at re-election in 2014. But his support did not budge. Not an inch.

Trump is LePage. His core base is going nowhere.

• The combination of Trump’s regulatory overhaul, tax reform, infrastructure spending and refusal to touch entitlement programs simultaneously provides relief to the American business community (particularly the small and medium business community) and pumps fresh dollars into the economy.


Trump’s election has ushered in a tectonic shift in American business sentiment, as the business community anticipates the above-outlined stimulus package. Since the election, the National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Optimism Index has gone vertical, driven in large part by an improved outlook for business conditions and higher sales expectations.

If Trump executes his economic policy agenda, a healthy number of independent Hillary Clinton voters who favored policy stability over policy uncertainty and “Never Trump or Hillary” third-party or write-in voters are likely to give Trump the nod in 2020.

As James Carville likes to say, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

• Since the election, the mainstream media has embarked on a rampant anti-Trump campaign, claiming moral responsibility to hold Trump accountable for each and every seemingly immoral action. Let’s call it “moral hysteria.”

This hysteria has two effects. One, it ensures the Trump administration will get away with nothing (which is a good thing!). The spotlight is simply too intense. And two, the expectations bar is set exceedingly low.

The second effect is the key. The nature of hysteria is that it is exactly that: hysterical. In its quest to hold Trump morally accountable, the media paints virtually everything he does with a negative brush. So, for example, rather than put the vertical ascent of Small Business Optimism Index on the front page of the morning paper, the media focuses on the risks to the global economic order that Trump’s “aggressive” trade policy rhetoric supposedly represents.


If the media adhered to the “seriously, not literally” framework, then it would interpret his trade policy rhetoric as both an opening bid in renegotiating trade relationships and a piece of a larger business-friendly economic agenda. The “negative paintbrush” approach virtually guarantees Trump will exceed voters’ economic policy expectations by 2020.

What are the risks to my “two-term Trump” thesis? In ascending order of likelihood: Twitter, China and the business cycle.

• Trump’s Twitter account, when utilized appropriately, is an extremely effective mode of unfiltered communication. But it is exactly that – unfiltered. If he spends the next four years attacking the ratings of “The Apprentice,” “Saturday Night Live” and Hollywood actresses, he could fatally “trump” an otherwise robust policy track record.

• China’s status as a rapidly growing global superpower makes negotiation around trade policy, North Korea and the South China Sea of paramount importance. Aggression and deftness are required. Trump is aggressive, but appears to lack deftness. Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis must provide deftness to those negotiations. Given their background, I am confident they will.

• The key risk, in my opinion, is economic timing. The United States appears to be in the middle to late innings of its business cycle; if the economy falls into recession in close proximity to the 2020 election, voters’ mood could sour just enough to thwart re-election.

But for now, I believe the weight of the evidence firmly suggests “Never Trump” voters should prepare for eight years of President Donald J. Trump.


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