From a piece I have running on the “Think” section of the NBC News website:
Among the most enviable and least recognized qualities of a presidential candidate is something they share with lottery winners and bowling champions: a talent for dumb luck. And for those politicians blessed with this wholly undeserved and unearned gift, the most valuable form of it, the lucky break coveted over all others, is a lousy opponent.
President Donald Trump demonstrated such talent in abundance in 2016 when he faced the widely despised Hillary Clinton. For anyone who had trouble voting for Trump because of various concerns about his character, the alternative of punching a chad for Clinton made things much easier.
Trump looks all set to get lucky again once Democrats decide which of the current forlorn crop of candidates they want as their nominee in 2020. One, Andrew Yang, stooped so low during Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Houston that he decided to start buying votes, saying his campaign would shell out $1,000 a month for a year to 10 families.
Trump is but the latest in a history of presidential candidates bestowed by fortune with the perfect foil.
Ronald Reagan had Walter Mondale, who promised to raise taxes, the political equivalent of a hockey team putting the goalie on offense. George H.W. Bush had Michael Dukakis, a diminutive, robotic individual who offered a dispassionate answer about the death penalty when asked about his wife being raped and murdered and who staged a ludicrous photo op swallowed up by an M1 Abrams tank.
This is not to say Trump won’t earn the presidency. Or that he did not in 2016, either. He adroitly tapped into a gold mine of discontent with the established order, understanding the anger in the hinterland far better than the professional politicians and pundits who couldn’t see the problems with the establishment because they were part of it. But he also got lucky with his opponent — and he barely won.
You can read the rest of the piece on the NBC News site here.