This was originally published in the November 4 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Sign up here to receive it every weekday morning.
By this time next year, we’ll know whether President Donald Trump was a fluke or not.
Today is one year out from the vote count that will be a pivot point in history, no matter how it goes. Will Americans validate the rule-breaking and fact-bending Trump presidency that scorns the post-World War II international system? Or will they return the world’s most powerful nation – at least for now – to a more traditional path?
History suggests that Trump’s low approval ratings spell doom for a second term. He is also nearly certain to be impeached by the Democrat-majority House.
But even if the House votes to impeach, the Republican-led Senate will likely keep him in office, and the strong economy is a good sign for any incumbent. Meanwhile, Trump is shrewdly turning his unchained behavior into a “No Mr. Nice Guy…” election pitch that loyalists will adore.
Sign up here for more analysis of US politics for global readers
The top-polling Democratic challengers have obvious liabilities: Long-time frontrunner Joe Biden is the only candidate with a real connection to African Americans – a critical demographic – but he’s error-prone and leaves the party’s radical grassroots cold. His rivals Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders may be too progressive to appeal to Middle America. And rising outsider Pete Buttigieg lacks experience, and the fact that the South Bend, Indiana, mayor is openly gay may not be a fit in conservative pockets of America.
Still, the dog-eat-dog nature of primary races means that few candidates come across with the gravitas of a potential president. It’s the matchup with the other party’s nominee that matters in the end. And Trump could turn out to be the weakest incumbent in generations. Or his divisive campaign tactics could deliver a victory on November 3, 2020, that will make his 2016 upset look tame by comparison.