What 2018 tells us about 2020
I not only strongly expect President Trump to be defeated, but would come close to losing all respect for the American people if he is not. But you can't beat somebody with nobody, and if anyone but Joe Biden is the Democrat, the situation looks to me to be worrisome for the Democrats. Whoever they nominate must be able to appeal at least minimally to the center. I'm not sure that even those few potential 2018 candidates who are comparatively well-known (other than Biden) could even make a beginning of doing that.
At the moment I expect John Kasich to run as an independent, especially since he's backed off his recent statement that if he ran it would be a primary challenge to Mr. Trump. His statement on Election Night sounded to me like he realizes that doing that would be pointless. That, of course, could have the ironic effect of throwing the election to the president, since the anti-Trump vote would be split. But I think that's a risk worth taking in order to provide a sane alternative- hopefully, a permanent one- to our two extreme and polarized parties.
Nate Silver points out that 2018 looked a lot more like 2012 than 2016, which is good news for the Democrats. But he also observes that in a typical year the dynamics seem to point toward an election in which the Republicans would have an electoral advantage, but one so slight that the election would in effect be up for grabs. A great deal rests on the ability of the Democrats to resist the temptation to go ideological and instead make an active pitch for the formerly Republican Never Trumpers and the large lump of voters in the center. Somebody might still surprise me, but it the moment it seems to me that Biden is the only potential Democratic candidate in a position to be even taken seriously by the people the Democrats have to win over.
I remain optimistic that Trump will be defeated and that one way or another and a more centrist option will permanently emerge. I am not optimistic that at this point either of the major parties can be salvaged. But I'm viewing the potential Kasich candidacy with interest, and I'm fairly confident that somebody will run as a centrist third-party option. And I'm hopeful that at the very least that will be the beginning of a permanent realignment in American politics that will result in a saner and less polarized nation and a less toxic political environment.