Over the weekend, President Barack Obama was on a podcast run by his former advisor David Axelrod. He boasted that had he run for a third term in 2016, he would have won based on the old “hope and change” theme that he used successfully in 2008. He may well be right. He is a better politician than Hillary Clinton could ever conceive of being and, while his policies are unpopular, his personal job approval remains high.

He would not have made the mistakes that Clinton did nor does he have any of the personal baggage that the actual 2016 presidential candidate suffered from/

But hope and change? Try, to coin a phrase from the late Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing. Those were the themes with which the president won a second term against the relatively inoffensive Mitt Romney. What we could have done to frighten people about Donald Trump can only be imagined.

On the other hand, in an alternate reality in which the 22nd Amendment had been repealed, would the Republicans have nominated Trump or would have they gone with a less risky candidate, that is to say, anyone else? Let’s say that the GOP put up a ticket of Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina. Cruz is a scrappy, tireless campaigner. Unlike Romney, he would have spared no opportunity to take the fight to the president.

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Donald Trump

Cruz would have had an advantage had he been able to incite Obama fatigue. He might have been able to drive the president’s numbers down with a relentless attack while doing his own version of “hope and change.”

The only president to have achieved a third term was Franklin Roosevelt. He managed it in 1940 against a private businessman named Wendell Willkie, a man who was no way near as mercurial as Trump but who ran on the theme of not being a professional politician.

It had started to sink in that the New Deal was no working seven years after it had begun. On the other hand, Hitler was on the march and FDR was able to campaign on the idea of not changing horses midstream. ISIS is evil, but nowhere near the potent threat that the Nazis were. Even if they were, Cruz would be able to highlight how ineffectual Obama has been.

The bottom line, depending on factors that are unpredictable, a third Obama term is by no means certain.

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