There’s a lot of Twitter-mockery of Trump’s Drudge-splashed decision that he will run for reelection in 2020 and that he’s appointed his “digital guru” Brad Parscale as his campaign manager. In one sense, the mockery is valid because we knew Trump was running already. He literally filed the paperwork to run again on the day he was inaugurated. He’s been holding campaign events throughout his presidency. (And the news that Parscale will be his campaign manager — for a while at least — is entirely unshocking.)
But so what? I’m pretty sure previous presidents have done staggered roll-outs of their reelection announcements, though certainly not in this exact way. At least since James Polk (PBUH), they pretty much all plan on running again. Trump is more comfortable in campaign mode than in presidential mode (don’t argue with me on this; it is known). This move gives him more of a psychological excuse to keep doing what he wants to do anyway, and it gives his boosters a talking point to defend his behavior. If, within the next few months, Sean Hannity doesn’t say some variation of: “Of course he’s not being ‘presidential’ right now, all presidents are different in campaign mode,” I’ll be shocked.
This also sends a signal down through the Republican-party apparatus that all hands need to be on deck to support the head of the party who is now in reelection mode. At the margins, that will make the hurdles for possible primary challengers a little bit higher. It will also send a signal to donors that investing in those challengers will be even more expensive or risky.
Oh and if he decides not to run later, using one excuse or another, so what?
The one possible downside is that it will further energize the Democratic party by putting a bow on the fact that the national election has begun and that 2018 is a referendum on Trump. If the Democrats can get presidential year turn-out in a midterm election, while the GOP only gets conventional midterm turnout, the House will flip, regardless of what the polls say.
That’s all a big if, and I’m inclined to think this isn’t that big a deal. But it’s not nothing and, on Trump’s terms, it’s not dumb.