Republicans have been upset in the midterm elections, causing introspection and recalibration. The defeat, and the corresponding uncertainty, have tainted Donald Trump’s upcoming campaign launch – which could be announced as early as tomorrow.
Trump is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential race from Mar-a-Lago, at some point this week, some saying as early as tomorrow. Typically, Trump’s announcement wouldn’t have been especially controversial – at least not within the GOP itself. But the wind appears to be shifting. Trump no longer seems to enjoy the ability to maneuver unconstrained within the GOP, free from criticism or pushback. Now, for the first time in seven years, Trump appears vulnerable to losing his hold on the Republican party. And accordingly, Trump’s campaign announcement is inspiring a tepid response.
The midterms were not good for Trump or his brand. MAGA-aligned candidates fared poorly. Trump-endorsees fared poorly. The Republican “red wave” never materialized. Some Republicans are blaming Trump squarely, accusing the former president – and his unpopularity with mainstream America – of degrading GOP chances of winning a congressional majority. Chris Christie was especially vocal – stating (factually) that Trump has lost in 2018, 2020, 2021, and now 2022. Granted, Trump scorned Christie in remarkable fashion back in 2016, so Christie’s critiques should be taken with a grain of salt.
Similarly, some GOP operators are calling for Trump to postpone the announcement of his presidential campaign until after the Georgia Senate run-off has concluded because they don’t want Trump to hinder Herschel Walker’s election over Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. To be fair, Herschel Walker seems to have hindered his chances just fine all by himself. In addition to an endless stream of gaffes and bizarre ramblings, Walker ran on a pro-life platform – despite having paid two separate women to have abortions. Still, Walker is in the race. Neither Walker nor Warnock achieved the 50 percent vote threshold needed to win outright. And while Warnock edged out Walker in the midterm (by about one percent), a Libertarian third-party candidate likely siphoned more votes away from Walker than from Warnock. Meaning the run-off could be tight and could even favor Walker.
And the Georgia run-off is quite consequential. To come up with a 50-50 split in the Senate, Republicans need Walker to win in Georgia. If Walker loses, Democrats will take a 51-49 majority in the Senate. This is why some GOP members are now advising Trump to sit still and be quiet for a little while longer. The fear is that if Trump declares his candidacy, his lack of popularity will suppress voter enthusiasm and turnout for Walker – who himself is a Trump-endorsee.
Aside from the pending run-off in Georgia, and the poor performance of Trump-aligned candidates in the midterms, several other factors cut against support for Trump’s candidacy. Namely, multiple lawsuits and investigations, which GOP mainstreamers are reluctant to see reflected, even if indirectly, in the GOP presidential campaign.
Recently, Trump and his company (and his family) have been sued in the State of New York. New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump for fraud, alleging that the former president’s company overvalues its company assets. Trump, against the advice of some of his company’s general counsel, filed a countersuit against James. So, that’s one pending legal drama. Another is the ongoing investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents. Allegedly, Trump stored classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. The Department of Justice is looking into it. Speaking of the DOJ, Merrick Garland is understood to be weighing whether to bring criminal charges against Trump – which would of course be a first for a former president.
In all, Trump just has a lot of baggage – and a poor performance record. Accordingly, the more practical, less ideological, amongst the GOP are beginning to look beyond the embattled former president.
Harrison Kass is the Senior 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.