There is one thing that makes Donald Trump wake up at night in a cold sweat, but it’s not China or Covid-19. 

It’s the thought of failing to win a second term as President of the United States, and becoming one of the “losers” he despises.

Trump would be the eleventh President to lose their second presidential election.

He has made a habit of calling his political opponents “losers”, such as Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich, who he faced off against in the 2016 Republican Party primary. 

He also stirred up major controversy when he called John McCain, a celebrated war hero, a loser for having lost the 2008 election and being captured in the Vietnam war.

So Trump will undoubtedly be desperate not to join the unlucky ten, which includes John Adams (1797-1801), John Quincy Adams (1825-1829), Martin Van Buren (1837-1841), Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893), William H. Taft (1909-1913) and Herbert Hoover (1929-1933).

George H W Bush served only one term

However, Trump bears similarities with the three most recent one-term presidents, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, such as a struggling economy and internal party opposition. 

George H.W. Bush, the father of George W. Bush, who was president from 2000-2008, was the last president to lose reelection.

In the first three years of his presidency it looked like he had a strong chance at winning another term.

He had several foreign policy successes, such as his response to the Tiananmen Square incident, and the invasion of Panama in the same year, both in 1989. He also led the United States to victory in the Gulf War in 1991.

Jimmy Carter was also a one-term President

But the United States had already begun to enter into a recession, and the 1992 race riots in Los Angeles sunk his popularity to just 29%. 

Come November he lost to Bill Clinton by just under 6 million votes.

Clinton’s unofficial campaign slogan was “it’s the economy stupid”. With the US economy shrinking by nearly 33% between April and June, this could mean bad news for Trump.

Jimmy Carter was president from 1977 to 1981. Like Trump, he was an outsider, elected off the back of the Watergate scandal in 1974. 

The incumbent Gerald Ford had pardoned disgraced president Richard Nixon and, unlike Trump, Carter was seen as an honest alternative, telling voters in the 1976 election “if I ever lie, or even make a misleading statement, don't vote for me”.

His honesty didn’t stop his popularity from plummeting after he failed to respond to the 1979 Iranian revolution and hostage crisis. 

He also came under attack from within his own party, when Ted Kennedy ran against him in the 1980 primary and criticised his stance on healthcare.

Like Bush Sr. and Trump, the economy under his watch faced high unemployment and inflation. 

Gerald Ford didn't even win a first election, let alone a second

Gerald Ford was the only person to become president without having won an election as Vice President or President. 

He replaced Spiro Agnew as VP in 1973 when he was forced to resign as a result of corruption and tax fraud charges. He then replaced Richard Nixon in 1974 when he was forced to resign after the Watergate scandal. 

In his first speech as President, he told America that “our long national nightmare is over”. 

But it had just begun. Like others who lost election after him, his presidency was marked by high inflation and a recession in 1974, the worst since the Great Depression.

And in 1975 the Communist North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam, and the United States was forced to evacuate. 

Like Carter, Ford faced opposition from within his own party. Future President Ronald Regan ran against him in the 1976 Republican primary, claiming that Ford had let the United States’ military power slip behind the Soviet Union’s. Although Ford won, the challenge weakened him.

Trump was challenged for the Republican nomination by Bill Weld, the former Governor of Massacheuts. He won overwhelmingly, with 93.9% of the vote. However prominent Republicans such as Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger have openly opposed his candidacy, and the Republican- run Lincoln Project political action committee produce pro-Biden anti-Trump advertisements.

Although at 42% his poll rating is higher than previous one-term presidents, he is sitting below where George W. Bush and Obama, two presidents who won reelection were at this point in their campaigns, 53% and 49% respectively.

Trump has not been clear about what he would do with four more years as president. But what is clear is that he might struggle to win them.