Even though the next Presidential Election is a full three years away, people are starting to talk about the re-election of President Trump. After all, he lost the 2016 popular vote in his election by several million votes. His polling is among the lowest ever recorded for the start of a new Administration, and he hovers consistently right around the 35% approval rating. So just pure math says he is a dead duck in 2020, right? As FSU great and ESPN Analyst Lee Corso says, "Not so fast, my friend." I learned a long time ago, there are ways to artificially make any election close.
For this exercise, let's just stay with the popular vote, not the weighted electoral college vote, because it is easier to make my point. Looking at three previous Presidential Elections, you could argue that the third candidate in the race probably shifted the final victory from one candidate to another:
1968: Nixon beat Humphrey, but Humphrey would have probably won if Wallace did not get 13% of the vote.
1992: Clinton beat Bush I, but Bush would have probably won if Perot did not get 19% of the vote.
2016: Trump beat Clinton, but Clinton probably would have won if Johnson and Stein did not get 4.3% of the vote.
So, applying this principle of a third candidate drawing votes from the other two main candidates, under some formula, what is a smart strategy for the President? Trump should encourage a Democratic leaning candidate that is similar to his opponent, to get in the race and draw votes from his opponent. Does it ever happen? Sure, in my last Senate race, a third candidate got in the race at the last minute, with a well known name and I believe pulled votes from me. I still won, but by a lesser margin than if I would have run only against my opponent.
You can bet that the Trump Campaign will be looking for that third candidate to take his 65% deficit down to something like a 5-10 point difference between him and his Democratic opponent at the very start. That makes a national election a "toss up." It really is easy to make elections close.