WASHINGTON — From the moment President Trump shocked much of the world by winning the White House in 2016, there has been an assumption in political circles that his victory would inspire a why-not-me caucus of imitators in 2020.
But in an all-too-Trumpian twist, and perhaps demonstrating again a failure of imagination on the part of the political class, the first potential presidential candidate following in his audacious path is not another ambitious private-sector mogul. Rather, he is another brash cable news fixture who is busy on Twitter and seems intoxicated with the publicity derived from a media profile and connections to a photogenic woman.
Yes, Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’s lawyer and Mr. Trump’s tormentor, is pondering a presidential campaign.
“I’m strongly considering it — it’s going to have a lot to do with who enters the race,” Mr. Avenatti said in a telephone interview Thursday night from Iowa, where he ate not one but two pork chops at the state fair.
He first revealed his apparent intentions to The Des Moines Register.
He will be addressing Iowa Democrats on Friday at a party dinner, known as the Wing Ding, that is a traditional proving ground for White House aspirants in the first-in-the nation caucus state. And he said he had scheduled meetings with “key officials” in Iowa and was being escorted by Matt Paul, a Democratic operative who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign there.
Next, Mr. Avenatti revealed, is New Hampshire: He is headed to the first primary state “within the next month.”
Like the president he has delighted in hectoring while working for Stormy Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and who claims to have had an affair with Mr. Trump — Mr. Avenatti has never served in elected office. But he has ample self-confidence and a ready answer for whether this is simply a grab for more attention.
“Anybody paying attention in the last six months knows the last thing I need is any additional publicity,” he said, with a trace of irritation, before trumpeting what he called his “18-year, very successful legal career.”
Of course, many Americans with ego, money and time on their hands — or some portion of each — can float themselves for president.
But it is a sign of the opportunity available to any Democrat willing to aggressively confront Mr. Trump that Mr. Avenatti is being invited to such venerable gatherings as the Wing Ding. After all, there is no lack of veteran Democratic officeholders with all manner of conventional qualifications who are also hoping to receive invitations to such events. (The dinner will also include a more familiar brand of dark horse candidate: House members. Representatives John Delaney of Maryland and Tim Ryan of Ohio are attending.)
“We live in a different age,” Mr. Avenatti offered as an explanation for how this was even possible. “I think a lot has changed over the last eight to 12 years with the advent of social media.”
But then he quickly put aside punditry and returned to his central message, and what he said was the important lesson from 2016, when Mr. Trump steamrollered a group of Republican politicians before dispatching Mrs. Clinton.
“We don’t want another candidate that just has a lot of experience,” he said. “Democrats need to nominate somebody who can actually beat this guy.”
He would not name any such potential candidates, of course: Why share the spotlight with anyone else?
A California-based lawyer, Mr. Avenatti was quick to note that he spent his “formative years” in St. Louis, that his parents still live there and that he considers himself a Midwesterner.
And he said he will return to Iowa later this month.
As for the pornographic film artist who put him on the map — or screen — he said that “Stormy is 100 percent supportive” of his exploration.
“She knows these are dire times,” Mr. Avenatti said.