With the 2020 presidential election only a week away, President Donald Trump is still hoping to pull off a narrow Electoral College victory if he can perform well in enough swing states — and Florida and Pennsylvania are at the top of his list. But conservative journalist William Kristol, one of Trump's most blistering critics on the right, is hoping that Trump loses badly. And Kristol lays out three possible scenarios for a Trump loss in an October 27 article for The Bulwark.
In his article, Kristol argues that a Trump loss and a victory for former Vice President Joe Biden could be Scenario #1: Retirement, Scenario #2: Rejection or Scenario #3: Repudiation.
In Scenario #1: Retirement, Kristol writes, the headline on Wednesday, November 4 might be "Trump Loses Presidency As Midwest Flips; GOP Holds Senate" — whereas in Scenario #2: Rejection, the headline might be, "Trump Defeated By Big Margin; Election Called Early As Florida and North Carolina Go to Biden; Democrats Win Senate." And for Scenario #3: Repudiation — which would be the most brutal of the three for Trump — the headline might be, "Biden Wins By Double Digits in Popular Vote; Rout Extends to Victory in Texas; Democrats Control Senate Easily."
Delving into U.S. presidential history, Kristol points to the 1932, 1980 and 1992 elections as possible examples of what Trump might experience on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
President George H.W. Bush's loss to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992, according to Kristol, was an example of Scenario #1: Retirement.
Kristol recalls, "In 1992, President George H.W. Bush lost by 5.6 percentage points to Bill Clinton — a defeat, but not a rout. There was no change in the party composition of the Senate, and Republicans, helped by redistricting, actually picked up nine House seats. Voters were tired of Republican rule after 12 years of Reagan-Bush, and they were reassured that Clinton wasn't seeking to undo the positive aspects of that period."
According to Kristol, incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter's loss to former California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1980 was an example of Scenario #2: Rejection.
"In 1980, President Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan by 9.7 percentage points," Kristol notes. "And Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time in a quarter century, picking up 12 Senate seats, along with 34 House seats. The 1980 election marked a clear rejection of the Carter presidency. And the rejection lingered: Reagan and Bush would go on to win the next two presidential elections, easily."
An example of Scenario #3: Repudiation, according to Kristol, occurred during the Great Depression in 1932 — when one-term incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover suffered a colossal defeat at the hands of Democratic challenger Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
"In 1932, President Herbert Hoover was defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt by a 17.7% margin in the popular vote," Kristol notes. "Republicans also lost 12 Senate seats and 97 House seats. 1932 was a watershed election, one of the three or four big realigning elections in U.S. history. It resulted in policy by the New Deal, which fundamentally changed the American political, social and economic compacts."
Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were all voted out of office, but Kristol stresses that the size of their defeats must be taken into consideration.
Although Kristol is right-wing politically, he is supporting Biden and is obviously hoping for Scenario #3: Repudiation. Kristol, like other Never Trumpers, believes that Trump has been so terrible for the GOP and the conservative movement that the worse a defeat he suffers on November 3, the better it will be for conservatism in the long run.
"The initial reactions to these would be very different," Kristol explains. "But so, probably, would be the lasting effects. One would be a defeat for Trump, the second a rejection not just of Trump, but perhaps of Trumpism. The third would open up the possibility for a remaking of the GOP and of conservatism itself…. Next week, not just the fact of victory, but the margin of victory, will matter."