What will Trump do? With respect to the 2024 upcoming GOP presidential primary, there are more questions than answers.
Namely, who will run?
And who will not run?
Seemingly, the most determinative factor is whether Trump runs again or not; everything else, including who else runs, flows from Trump’s decision.
But the race has explosive dramatic potential whether DJT runs or not.
In the scenario that Trump does run, he may face – for the first time – a legitimate challenge to his stronghold on the GOP. If Trump does not run, the GOP field will be wide open, beckoning a variety of top conservative politicians to enter the fray.
The Donald Factor
The 2024 GOP race hinges on the 45th president.
The GOP has encouraged Trump not to announce his 2024 plans until after the 2022 midterms are concluded; the GOP wants the upcoming midterms to be a referendum on Biden and the economy – not a referendum on Trump.
So we still have a few months to speculate on DJTs intentions. It’s hard to imagine the Donald stepping aside. Even by Washington’s standard, Trump is vainglorious, uninclined to turn down the opportunity to be front and center again. Trump’s behavior since leaving office eighteen months ago – his persistent public presence – confirms that his thirst for the spotlight is unquenched. Yet, the possibility remains that Trump will withhold from a 2024 run. Several factors dampen Trump’s 2024 viability – and potentially, his enthusiasm for another run, too.
Trump’s influence over the GOP appears to be waning. When Trump secured the Republican ticket in 2016, he became the most influential figure in the party – bar none. Trump’s cutting, and very public, vindictiveness quashed opposition, leading to a party consolidated in obedience towards its new leader. For the past six years, Trump crafted a GOP environment where sycophantism was rewarded – while dissent was an excommunicable offense. Now, signs are emerging that the tide may be shifting.
Trump’s endorsement record through the primary season has been mixed; a Trump endorsement does not guarantee victory. Granted, a Trump endorsement is still valuable and coveted – Trump pushed J.D. Vance over the finish line in Ohio, and Mehmet Oz over the finish line in Pennsylvania. But a collection of losses in Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, North Carolina, and South Carolina demonstrates that Trump’s power is no longer absolute – meaning he has lost power.
The Donald In Decline?
The polls support the notion that the ex-president has lost power. “Donald Trump leads in primary polls and is well-liked by his party – but his position is worse than it was a year ago,” David Byler reported for the Washington Post. “Surveys show half of Republican voters are considering other candidates.” The “other candidates” voters are considering won’t sit on their thumbs if the data suggests they have an opening – regardless of whether Trump runs, too. Meaning, the 2024 primary may feature a primetime inter-GOP assault against DJT, for the first time since 2016. What would be incredibly enticing is the scenario in which former Trump lackeys, like Mike Pence or Nikki Haley, challenged Trump in the primary.
Of course, Trump is thin-skinned and, were he to lose, he would become the first former president ever to lose two reelection bids. Trump’s ego, or some primitive sense of self-preservation, may inspire him to withhold from another run, in which case the GOP field would be wide open. If the field opened up, it could set the stage for a 2016-esque GOP bloodbath
In 2016, after eight years of an Obama presidency, the GOP was brimming with presidential hopefuls; characterizing the GOP primary that year was a deep, eclectic pool of presidential prospects, many of whom seemed at parity with one another. The frontrunner was supposed to be Jeb Bush, who had waited his turn patiently, behind his father and brother, to inherit the White House. But the general population looked beyond Bush – indicating that perhaps they felt the presidency shouldn’t descend along bloodlines. The result was a wild race amongst several viable candidates. Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Marco Rubio. Governor Mike Pence. Governor Chris Christie. A slew of political neophytes were surprisingly relevant, too. Ben Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon, actually held the lead for a minute. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, had a moment. And, of course, real estate mogul Donald Trump won the thing.
A Donald-less 2024 primary could feature a similar cast of characters concerning depth and parity. Cruz and Pence would run again. Governor Ron DeSantis would be the favorite – but that doesn’t seem to mean much anymore. Presumably, some newcomers would enter the fray, too. But a primary without Trump would ultimately be less dramatic than one with him; a primary without Trump might center on actual policy, like tax rates or foreign intervention, rather than say hand-dimension analysis or locker room talk.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.