Former President Donald Trump is still a viable candidate to win the GOP nomination in 2024. But Trump’s hold on the GOP is waning, his victory is not assured. Trump will face legitimate primary challenges that have the potential to unseat Trump as the GOP standard-bearer.
So, what happens if Trump loses the GOP nomination? Will he fade away quietly, into the night? Or would Trump perhaps launch a third-party campaign?
Trump and the GOP
For the first time in seven years, Trump seems especially vulnerable within the GOP. Questions about Trump’s electability are mounting. Naturally. Trump lost the 2020 presidential election – and his endorsees have been losing in elections ever since. Most notably, Trump endorsees were destroyed in the 2022 midterms; only one Trump endorsee (JD Vance of Ohio) won a battleground election.
Simultaneously, Trump is deeply embroiled in several lawsuits, investigations, and scandals – all of which serve to degrade Trump’s stock further.
A recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll indicated that conservates preferred Trump’s policies – but would like a different candidate to be the GOP nominee. The candidate the poll takers preferred: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
But DeSantis won’t be the only viable challenger for the GOP mantle. Former Vice President Mike Pence is posturing for a run. Prominent senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and maybe even Josh Hawley, will run. Mike Pompeo will probably run. Nikki Haley might run. The point is Trump is going to have stiff competition at a time when his stock has never been lower. Trump may well lose the GOP nomination.
Trump as a Third-Party Candidate?
Trump doesn’t strike me as the type to just pack up his bags and go home. While 999 out of 1,000 Republicans who lose the Republican nomination will call it quits, Trump could be that one-in-a-thousand type of stubborn.
Political advisors with access to Trump recently told Salon that a Trump third-party run was plausible.
“Trump was so successful in part because he ran against the elite and out of touch political establishment on both sides, so I’d say it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility.”
If Trump were indeed to run as a third-party candidate, it would, of course, cleave the conservative voting bloc in two. Trump is still an iconic figure, practically an institution in and of himself. Much of MAGA nation would follow Trump anywhere, even into third-party territory. The results would be disastrous for the GOP. Trump would likely siphon substantial portions of the conservative voting bloc away from the GOP nominee. The GOP candidate would be hobbled. Trump wouldn’t have enough support as a third-party candidate to take out the Democratic nominee. Ultimately, a Trump third-party bid would be a petulant exercise in cannibalism.
Would Trump do that to his own party? Um, yes, I think he certainly would.
Funding a Third-Party Run
The beauty of wealth is that it grants freedom and autonomy. Trump is independently wealthy, giving him options the standard public servant does not have, like say, running for president independent of a national party.
And Trump is still capable of, indeed he is currently, raising good money from outside sources. A super PAC backing Trump “has quietly amassed a small group of megadonors that could be key to financing their effort to bolster his 2024 campaign,” CNBC reported. The PAC, Make America Great Again, Inc., has already raised over $40 million.
Granted, the outside funds could dry up if Trump loses the GOP nomination, but that’s where personal wealth comes in handy. And frankly, Trump’s resiliency and stubbornness is such that he may be able to keep raising good money even without GOP support.
A Trump third-party run is not the most likely outcome – but it’s a possibility.
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.