“America’s comeback starts right now,” the real estate mogul and reality star told the audience at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida. Mar-a-Lago. Trump, who tried to to annul the results of the 2020 election and refused to admit he had lost, calling his time out of the office simply a “break.” (Fact checkers have been counted 20 false and misleading statements in a speech that lasted more than an hour.)
Trump is not the first president to launch a comeback campaign. Several presidents have tried to return to the White House and failed. Some examples include Martin Van Buren in 1844 and 1848; Millard Fillmore in 1856; Ulysses S. Grant in 1880, in the era before terms and four years after serving a second term; and Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 with the third party Progressive Party after losing the Republican nomination.
But Democrat Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve non-consecutive terms, from 1885 to 1889 and from 1893 to 1897. According to The University of Virginia’s Miller Center, which specializes in presidential scholarship. Although both were defeated in their bids for a second consecutive term, historians say Trump faces a more difficult political environment when he returns than Cleveland.
Steven “Grover” Cleveland — aka “Big Steve” and “Uncle Jumbo” — didn’t plan to run again right after leaving office. He lost the 1888 presidential election to Republican Benjamin Harrison allegations of voting irregularities– and even though he won the popular vote.
According to Louis Picone, author of Grant’s Tomb and spokesman for the Grover Cleveland Presidential Library in New Jersey, Cleveland enjoyed fishing at his home on Cape Cod and spending time with his new wife and daughter Ruth.
Like Trump, Cleveland decided to run again after the midterm elections. He saw an opening after what Picone described as a “bloodbath” for Republicans. Cleveland’s supporters began encouraging him to run after the midterm elections of 1890, which they saw as a repudiation of President Harrison. In contrast, the 2022 election “really wasn’t the ‘red wave’ that was predicted,” Picone says. Many saw this election as a repudiation of Trump-backed Republicans.
The Congress under Harrison was nicknamed the “Billion Dollar Congress” because one billion dollars in federal dollars was spent for the first time. Cleveland was a fiscal conservative dedicated to lowering tariffs, strengthening the gold standard, and reducing public spending. During the Gilded Age, when political corruption was rampant, Cleveland had a reputation for honesty in politics.
Cleveland didn’t have to run a very tough campaign, easily wins his party’s nomination. The backlash to high tariff policies and a wave of violent labor strikes in the silver mines in the summer of 1892 made voters think that Harrison was not doing enough on economic policy.
However, it was not easy for him when he returned to office. The Panic of 1893– the worst economic depression America was facing at that time – colored his legacy. But toward the end of his life, “he regained the grandeur of an elder statesman and a return to an earlier time,” Picone says.
It remains to be seen whether Trump will be able to follow Cleveland’s success in 2024, but he currently faces significant political obstacles. Cleveland was widely welcomed back by the Democratic Party and considered the most electable candidate.
Trump may have a tougher battle for his party’s nomination. After a much weaker than expected performance in the 2022 midterm elections, there is reports that top Republican donors are looking to candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
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