What if Donald Trump did get beaten in the 2024 GOP primary? Would he deny he lost as he did in 2020 to Joe Biden?
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So, Trump – who has a well-documented history as a sour loser – may well lose the GOP nomination that he has won twice consecutively.
How would Trump handle a GOP primary loss?
Would Donald Trump accept the loss?
Deny the loss?
The question may soon be relevant.
Trump faces a tight GOP field
Most notably, DeSantis is expected to declare his candidacy soon. DeSantis has surged ahead of Donald Trump in polling, becoming not just the number one challenger, but the race’s front-runner.
DeSantis has become the heir apparent to Trumpism – which is odd given that Donald Trump is still alive and kicking.
Senator Ted Cruz, who finished second in the 2016 GOP primary, will likely run. And Marco Rubio, who finished third in 2016, will also likely run. Both senators are seasoned and capable and Hispanic – a demographic the GOP has begun to slowly win over from Democrats.
Former Trump World members are also expected to run against their former boss. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, is posturing for a presidential race; Pence released a memoir and has been making the interview rounds. Pence will need to clarify just who he is and what he stands for – but he’ll be a prominent figure in the race. Trump’s Secretary of State and CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, plus Trump’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, are also both expected to run. Each will add to the race’s depth.
What if Donald Trump loses?
So, given the depth of the race, and given Trump’s sinking popularity, the possibility exists that Trump could lose the GOP primary. If Trump does lose, the most pressing question is whether he would accept the loss.
Accepting loss doesn’t appear to be in Trump’s nature. Trump lost the 2020 election by seven million votes yet held onto the idea that he might be able to retain office through legal technicalities. Trump ultimately left office voluntarily – but still rants and raves about the election having been stolen from him.
So, Trump certainly has a precedent for election denialism. If Trump loses the GOP primary, it’s not hard to imagine him crying foul.
But claims of election fraud in the GOP primary would be much different than in 2020 – when Donald Trump was a sitting president with a term of eligibility remaining.
For one, Trump wouldn’t be the occupier of the White House while he denied the election results; Donald Trump wouldn’t be the commander-in-chief of the US military, or the handler of the US nuclear codes. If Trump lost the 2024 GOP primary, he would just be some private citizen, crying conspiracy.
Second, Trump wouldn’t be accusing Democrats of stealing the GOP primary (probably not, anyways), which was the charge Trump levied after the 2020 general election.
Instead, Trump would be accusing fellow conservatives of stealing the election. Such a charge is less likely to stick amongst Trump’s conservative base. Sure, some of MAGA world would rally around Trump’s new cause and say the establishment GOP was corrupt.
Trump’s accusations of a stolen election might be against the very people who were once receptive to Trump’s 2020 claims.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison 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. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.