2020 Presidential Election Odds: Can Michael Avenatti Topple Donald Trump?
Late last week, news broke that prominent attorney Michael Avenatti has serious interest in running for president in 2020. Even if you may be unfamiliar with his name, you will surely recognize Avenatti’s face if you have watched even 5 minutes of cable news in the last year or so. Avenatti has been making the regular rounds on cable and network talk shows for months as the primary attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels. You’re probably familiar with the details of the whole Stormy Daniels-Donald Trump situation, so no need to dive into that in this space.
Last Thursday, Avenatti traveled to the state of Iowa to meet with prospective voters and discuss several issues facing Americans today. While he was there, he told the Des Moines Register, “I’m exploring a run for the presidency of the United States, and I wanted to come to Iowa and listen to people and learn about some issues that are facing the citizens of Iowa and do my homework.”
While the attorney has not yet officially launched any sort of campaign for the presidency, it sure sounds like Avenatti has serious interest. Whether that interest eventually blossoms into a full-blown presidential campaign remains to be seen, but as of now Avenatti is the first potential Trump opponent to throw his or her hat into the ring ahead of the 2020 election.
Iowa hosts the first presidential caucus in each election cycle, and the Iowa State Fair is often a destination for prospective candidates. Avenatti gave a speech at the Democratic Wing Ding fundraiser on Friday. In the past, this event has hosted the likes of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (both in 2015) as well as former president Barack Obama (2007). Avenatti was accompanied in Iowa by Matt Paul, a Democratic strategist who worked on Clinton’s 2015 campaign. Avenatti plans to travel to New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, within the next month, as well.
Is Avenatti serious? It’s early, but it sure sounds like he is. If he is really going to run, does he have a shot at earning the Democratic nomination? If he’s nominated, can he beat Donald Trump in 2020?
Early Long Shot
Again, it’s early. The next presidential election won’t take place for another 27 months, and the Democratic field of candidates is expected to be a crowded one. Avenatti may be the first to be making headlines regarding a potential run for the White House, but don’t be surprised if we hear from the likes of Sanders and Joe Biden over the next few months. With all of the opposition to President Trump out there, there will be no shortage of candidates vying for the chance to succeed him in office.
Oddsmakers aren’t giving Avenatti much of a chance as of now. The attorney checks in around 100/1 to win the 2020 election at most sites, which puts him in the same neighborhood as people like Alec Baldwin, Ben Carson and Bill de Blasio.
Of course, if 2016 taught us anything it’s that anything is possible. Donald Trump got elected president, which automatically qualifies any American with a pulse for the highest office in the land. When Trump announced his plans to officially run in July of 2015, just about everybody wrote him off as a sideshow with no real hopes of winning. We don’t need to rehash what happened afterward.
While the most likely scenario here is that an established politician will rise to the top of the Democratic ticket, it would be foolish to write someone like Avenatti off so quickly. We saw 2 years ago that Michelle Obama’s infamous “When they go low, we go high!” mantra wasn’t enough to sway undecided voters to Clinton and away from Trump. While the Democrats would obviously prefer to win back power via a more dignified route than the one Trump took, they can’t really afford to be picky at this point.
‘Fight Fire with Fire’
If you’ve seen Avenatti on TV, you’ve seen that he isn’t afraid to speak out against the current president. At his speech at the aforementioned fundraiser last week, Avenatti actually took a different stance than the one made by the former First Lady at the ’16 Democratic Convention. Avenatti said, “We must be a party that fights fire with fire. When they go low, I say hit back harder.”
So far, it has been difficult to say whether Trump’s unconventional path to the White House has served as a real wake-up call to the Democratic party. While the Democrats do stand a real chance of flipping the House of Representatives back in their favor at the upcoming midterms, the party’s leadership has remained reluctant to forfeit its pro-civility stance.
Civility went out the window a long time ago with President Trump and his supporters on the right side of the aisle. Based on his rhetoric in the media and his speech in Iowa, it sounds as though Avenatti believes the best way to thwart Trump is to try and beat him at his own game. If that means not playing nice all the time, so be it.
Barack Obama’s civil approach worked against John McCain in 2008 and again against Mitt Romney in 2012, but Trump and the modern Republican party present a different kind of challenge. The Democrats thought that same approach would work out just fine against an obviously flawed candidate in Trump 2 years ago, but the election result proved that a pivot in strategy is necessary moving forward. Obviously, that’s something Avenatti sees.
Not everybody that voted for Trump in 2016 is pleased with the way things have gone since his inauguration in January of 2017. If the Democrats want to win back the White House, they are going to need to find a way to get through to those disenfranchised voters. There were plenty of similar cases in 2016. Trump didn’t have the support of all Republicans in the midst of his often-chaotic campaign, but the alternative (Clinton) was so unappealing to said Republicans that voting for Trump was apparently the most palatable option.
Frankly, we don’t know much about what sorts of policy stances Avenatti would take as a presidential hopeful. He said during an interview with ABC over the weekend that he sided with Clinton over Sanders in 2016. He said he believes in healthcare for every American without going into specifics. He said the best way to fight against Trump and his dishonesty is to counter with the truth.
Can He Actually Win?
Avenatti isn’t afraid to get down and dirty and muck things up, which is a quality that will certainly appeal to a large swath of voters. Avenatti is actually somewhat similar to Trump in that regard, so it would be interesting to see them go head-to-head if such a thing came to pass.
Of course, we have a long way to go before any prospective debates go down. There is no telling whether Avenatti will be able to gain any sort of mainstream traction among Democratic voters. At this point, most people view his potential candidacy as more of an entertainment story than a legitimate news story.
One thing is for certain: Avenatti won’t be going away any time soon. He’ll be plastered all over your TV set whether you like it or not. Like Trump, Avenatti’s skillful television presence will ensure that he gets plenty of airtime moving forward. While Avenatti isn’t nearly the known commodity Trump was at the time the latter decided to run, the Democrats should be willing to support whomever gives them the best chance at dethroning the 45th president in a couple of years.
Will Avenatti’s similarities to Trump ultimately turn people off? There’s no question. There is clearly no shortage of ego with the 47-year-old. Will his lack of political experience hurt his case in the eyes of some? That didn’t wind up hurting Trump’s bid, so who knows? Will the electorate be willing to do the same thing all over again with a candidate that made his name as a television presence?
All of these are potential roadblocks Avenatti will have to hurdle if he’s serious about all of this. He is already a long shot, and his odds will only get longer if (when?) the likes of Sanders, Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker enter the fray. There were about 20 Republican presidential candidates vying to succeed Obama in 2016, and you can expect another large field of Democrats to hit the campaign trail with the hopes of being the one to oust Trump.
Whether Avenatti will rise to the top or sink to the bottom remains to be seen. While I’m certainly skeptical of his motives, Trump’s victory made it clear that we can’t truly write anybody off when it comes to politics these days. As a result, I think you can do worse than take a flier on Avenatti to win the 2020 election at 100/1. The profit potential there is massive, and we saw 2 years ago what kind of impact a strong personality can have on the general electorate. Anything is possible.