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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump is increasingly fantasizing in public and private about his 2020 campaign, using midterm rallies to talk as excitedly about his own re-election in 2020 as he does about the 2018 races that are just 34 days away.

What he's saying: Last night in Mississippi, he even promised "we will do a landslide" in 2020, after a razor-thin electoral victory (and substantial popular vote loss) in 2016. "Who the hell’s gonna beat us? Look! Who's going to beat us?" Trump asked, after amping up his frequent riff about former Vice President Joe Biden as a lightweight he'd love to crush.

A former aide told us: "The greatest moment in Donald Trump’s life was when Hillary Clinton called and conceded the 2016 election. Nothing about actually being the president has ever lived up to that."

  • "It was the ultimate validation for someone who’s been searching for it his whole life," the former aide continued. "That’s why he relives it constantly in conversations and during rallies. So it’s no surprise that he wants to reach that validation high again, which is why 2020 is never far from his mind."

Behind the scenes, Trump has been talking quite a bit about 2020 — not in terms of strategy or tactics, but in a disorganized, riffing way, based on whatever or whomever is in the news.

  • The potential candidate he talks about most: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. "He seems to think she’s going to be the nominee," one source said.
  • Advisers have told Trump he’d be in great shape if she is.
  • Trump has made fun of Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey ("Spartacus") and Sen. Kamala Harris of California after watching the Kavanaugh hearings.
  • Trump thinks "Crazy Bernie" Sanders is talented — he respects that the senator from Vermont fires people up and built a movement. The president thinks Bernie tried to do what he did in 2016, but didn’t quite get there.
  • Trump has mused in private about Mike Bloomberg. At the end of an August interview with Bloomberg News, Trump told the journalists: "Say hello to Michael."
  • Trump says Oprah will never run. “Everyone loves her and the minute you run for president, that changes,” says Trump — who would know.

If Trump is worried about any candidate in particular, it's not apparent to sources close to him.

  • Biden seems to be the potential opponent Trump's staff worries about most.
  • Advisers worry he’ll steal Trump voters from the Midwest, and cut into the president's dominance among white men and whites without college degrees.
  • But Trump genuinely doesn’t appear to his aides to be worried about Biden. As onstage, Trump says Biden is a joke — and claims that once the spotlight is on him, "bad stuff" will come out.
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Go deeper

Updated 38 mins ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

4 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

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