Foreign diplomats are still feeling burned after assuming Donald Trump would lose in 2016 — and they don’t want to be fooled again.
So many of them are quietly preparing for and predicting a Trump victory in 2020. Some are even trying to game out who will be on the president’s team in a second term. The belief that Trump will win reelection — gleaned from conversations with around 20 foreign diplomats, international officials and analysts who deal with them — appears widespread.
“In 2016, nobody believed he was going to be elected. People don’t want to be stupid twice,” said Gérard Araud, a former French ambassador to the United States.
There’s no known scientific survey on the topic — few foreign officials would participate in one given diplomatic norms that preclude them from commenting on another country’s internal politics. But none who talked to POLITICO was willing to say Trump will lose. Instead, they pointed to three key advantages for Trump: He’s the incumbent, the U.S. economy is strong and the Democrats have no definitive front-runner to challenge him.
The expectation could affect how allies and adversaries approach negotiations with the U.S. While countries such as China and Iran have shown signs of trying to wait out Trump, several foreign officials said it would be ill-advised to count on a Trump defeat in 2020. Even if Trump loses, they argued, some of his policies and views may shape U.S. foreign policy for years to come.
“The way it looks to people is it’s going to be another four years,” said an Arab diplomat, who, like most people, requested anonymity to discuss the politically sensitive subject. “If he gets reelected, he’s bound by nothing, except Congress. And I don’t know how that’s going to play out.”