We've seen the 2020 Democratic primary before

Lessons from the 2012 Republicans

Presidential candidates.
(Image credit: Illustrated | PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, hakkiarslan/iStock)

"Happy families," Tolstoy wrote, "are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." For years I have wondered whether a version of this dictum might be applied to presidential elections.

Pretending that there are ever direct one-to-one correspondences between different election cycles is a mug's game. But that doesn't mean that there is nothing to be gleaned from past campaigns. In many ways the election that 2020 resembles most is the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012, in which an incumbent who had begun to lose his hold over independent voters triumphed over what passed for an ideological moderate from the opposition party, who had survived an intemperate primary.

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