As horrifying, exhausting and depressing as it seems, the 2020 race for president has started. I know this because Wednesday night President Trump hosted his first re-election fundraiser at his hotel here in D.C. I also know because the rivers are flowing backward, the sky grew dark at noon, and my windowsill is covered with ravens.
Mind you, don’t take all of that as a commentary on President Trump. These signs and wonders are merely harbingers of the dreadful idea that another bone-crushing, soul-searing election could launch so soon after we escaped that purgatory.
But back to the president.
If you think it seems a tad early to be stocking up the re-election war chest, you’re right. As my CNN colleague Jeff Zeleny notes: “It’s more than two years sooner than George W. Bush or Barack Obama held their first fundraising events for their re-election efforts.”
So why do it? Three reasons.
1 Approval ratings. Trump’s numbers are so low the White House might have to dig a basement under the basement to hold them. Whipping his followers into a re-election frenzy is one way of creating – if not better numbers – at least better optics.
2 Legislative momentum. The president is having a devil of a time passing any substantial legislation. Reminding his Republican colleagues just how long he may be around could nudge some of them to consider his legacy – and it’s not a bad way to draw some of the attention away from his struggles.
3 A warning shot. There are probably Republicans in D.C. right now plotting ways to snatch the party’s nomination from the sitting president. Such maneuvers are rare, and success is even more elusive. But, you know, desperate times and all. By starting his fundraising, the president is plainly telling any would-be challengers that he will be up for the fight.
Of course, all three of those tactics could come up a bust. But at $35,000 a plate, the fundraising dinner is perfect for doing what Trump does best – grabbing headlines, making him look larger than life and once again showing D.C. he plays by his own rules.