As we’ve seen both before his election and since, Trump is a minority candidate, essentially a factional leader, who has incredibly durable support of between 35% and 45% of the population. He really, really needs the presence of spoiler candidates to pull the contest down into the mid-40s where it was in 2016. I’d never say never. But I think there’s a good argument that a significant third party/spoiler candidacy — or ideally more than one — are the necessary predicate of Trump’s reelection.
People probably think mostly of a third party left candidate like Jill Stein. But just as plausible and just as dangerous is a “center” candidate like Starbucks baron Howard Schultz wanted to be. Stein-type candidates could flourish with a Biden ticket and a Bloomberg or Schultz type could with a Sanders or Warren one.
Ideally for Trump you’d have both — a billionaire centrist to peel off preenish Never Trumpers who don’t want higher taxes and a Jill Stein wrecker-type candidate to peel off purism voters on the left. Yes, the Electoral College is a big deal. But third party candidates are what make an Electoral College victory at roughly 45% of the vote plausible.