News World US US Election Trump, with an appetite for revenge, wants more. It’s happened before
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Trump, with an appetite for revenge, wants more. It’s happened before

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To the vast majority of Americans, Grover Cleveland is just another stout fellow with a pocket-watch and walrus moustache, staring out from a high school textbook.

To historians, he’s a unicorn – the only man elected president as a bachelor, who beat back charges of fathering a child out of wedlock to win election in 1884.

To Donald Trump, he could be a role model.

For Cleveland is the only man who’s done what Mr Trump says he wants to do – come back from a presidential election defeat to retake the White House four years later.

Mr Trump’s talk of running again has prompted the expected responses: disgust on the left, delight among his base, distraction for everyone. It should come as no surprise.

Grover Cleveland’s two terms were not consecutive. They were from 1885 to 1889, and later from 1893 to 1897.

It’s a neat way out of the box he’s put himself in since Election Day, a tacit concession to Joe Biden’s victory while ignoring defeat.

It’s an escape hatch opening onto another season of the Trump reality show, the one that’s never cancelled and always available on reruns.

Could he win? History is against him. Presidents as popular as Teddy Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant have tried to regain the White House, but either split their parties or failed to woo voters.

In modern times, one-term presidents like George H.W Bush and Jimmy Carter have never seriously considered running again, and their respective parties were relieved about that.

Cleveland’s case has echoes in the present – and not in ways that should encourage Mr Trump.

When he ran in 1888, Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College. Buoyed by that support around the country, he came back four years later and won outright.

That distinction is important. Mr Trump may have won more votes than any sitting president, but he still lost—by millions of votes.

Why would a party that has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections want to go with a man who himself has lost two of those elections?

Because, as noted poll maven Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight says, the GOP doesn’t have much of an alternative.

Trumpism has transfigured (some might say disfigured) the party fundamentally, so that it little resembles the low-tax, strong defence party that Ronald Reagan led in the 1980s.

Jimmy Carter (First Lady Rosalynn Carter) served one presidential term. Photo: Getty

It has essentially vanished as an electoral force in urban areas and big blue states like California and New York. Instead, it is increasingly reliant on white working class voters in rural areas.

Those voters may not be enough to put a Republican in the White House, but they do help the GOP sustain power in the Senate, state legislatures and keep them competitive in the House of Representatives, Silver said.

Faced with that math and Mr Trump’s die-hard support, an alternative may not be that easy to come by.

And with Mr Trump talking about running, it doesn’t get easier. In a poll last week, 53 percent of GOP voters favoured him as the 2024 nominee, with hopefuls like Mike Pence and Nicki Haley far, far behind.

Sure it’s early, but Mr Trump’s mere presence essentially freezes the campaign, regardless of whether he’s serious or not. Potential rivals are terrified of challenging him for fear of turning his base – and Mr Trump’s Twitter feed – against them.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump seethes in the White House, a toxic mix of “You’re Fired” petulance and Lear-like rage, according to the New York Times.

Donald Trump and Melania attended a Georgia rally on Sunday in support of Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Photo: Getty

He dismissed the head of election cybersecurity for having the temerity to say he found no election fraud, and is said to be considering canning Attorney General William Barr for similar honesty.

(Surreally, he is also said to be considering pardons for his two sons and daughter Ivanka, as well as his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that would shield them from any federal charges for any criminal acts they may have committed while in the White House.)

On the weekend, he was in Georgia, ostensibly campaigning for two Republican Senate candidates who must win in January for the GOP to maintain control of the Senate.

He spent over an hour claiming (falsely) he’d won the state and trashing the state’s Republican officials. He barely mentioned the candidates he’d come to support.

The appearance was telling. Mr Trump may have the support of a rabid base, but can they abide his wound-licking for another four years? Can he sustain, or at least feign, the interest to run again?

Or will it be easier to lob Twitter firebombs from Mar-a-Lago and still command attention?

Don’t expect an answer anytime soon, and don’t expect to see the back of his blonde head for a long time to come.

Larry Hackett is the former editor-in-chief of People magazine, and a contributor to the US morning television news program Good Morning America