“To be or not to be, that is the question.” — Hamlet
All eyes are on the midterms prize right now, which is as things should be, but immediately afterwards we are going to be looking on to 2024. The big question then will be, is Donald Trump running? We have heard from a number of people on that topic already. John Bolton said that Trump would not run again because
“He knows deep inside, although he will never admit it, he did lose in 2020 and very much fears losing in 2024, because if he hates anything in the world, he hates being called a loser,” Bolton said. “He will talk about running incessantly until the very last moment because if he were ever to say he was not going to be a candidate, it would turn the spotlight off, and he doesn’t like that either.”
Definitely he doesn’t want to turn the spotlight off. Because to do that would be to turn off the grifting machine and fade into the shadows and neither one of those is something Trump wants to do.
John Kelly also predicted “He’ll continue talking about it. He may even declare, but he will not run. And the reason is he simply cannot be seen as a loser.”
Jeremy Stahl at Slate has a lengthy, interesting analysis of this burning question. I suggest you hit the link and read it in full. Here are some meaningful passages.
Personally, I don’t think Donald Trump is going to win the presidency in 2024. I don’t even think he’s going to win the Republican nomination. In fact, I don’t think he’s going to run for president, not really. Maybe I’ll deeply regret writing this once Trump returns to power and locks up members of the press in defamation gulags at Gitmo, or maybe this will just be the kind of embarrassing headline that haunts me the rest of my professional life. But—as far as I see it—Donald Trump’s career as a realistic candidate for major office is over.
There are a several reasons I’m willing to break free from my own severe bout of “ah, well, nevertheless” syndrome to say this.
First, I take seriously the civil and criminal probes Trump is facing between now and the time our next president is elected. Two weeks ago, it was revealed that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis sent “target letters” to people involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, signaling to the recipients that they are potentially facing indictment. Last week, there was news that a DOJ grand jury is looking at Trump’s actions related to a scheme to use “false electors” to overturn the election on Jan. 6. This week, we learned Trump’s own former White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating Trump’s actions surrounding Jan. 6.
Good point. Maybe Trump should look at what has happened to Alex Jones this week. Trump world in general is experiencing seismic shockwaves and Trump isn’t looking better from any of it, let’s put it that way.
This next point is great.
Of course, it’s been reported that one reason Trump is considering running is to help escape his legal woes. A wise lawyer would tell him that won’t work. It also has the potential to backfire: Trials are strictly run things with rules enforced by judges with the power to hold people in contempt of court, lock them up, and fine them almost infinitely. If Trump uses a presidential campaign as a way to attack prosecutors or judges involved in criminal or civil cases against him, there’s nothing stopping a judge from placing a firm gag order around what the candidate can say publicly about the trial so as not to taint the jury pool—or even revoking bail if Trump faces criminal charges and disobeys such a gag order. This should be a major motivation against running. [emphasis mine]
But my second reason for thinking Trump won’t run is that there are numerous financial incentives in the other direction—including one big one tied to Trump’s legal woes. That is: The Republican National Committee continues to pay his sizable legal fees and has said it will only do so if he is not a candidate for president, as it “has to stay neutral” in any contested Republican primary. You see, paying for a candidate’s legal bills would break that neutrality. And there’s another financial incentive for Trump to hold off on declaring his candidacy, which is that if he becomes an official candidate for president, he loses control of all but $5,000 of the more than $100 million war chest he has stockpiled in the Save America PAC.
The third reason I doubt a Trump candidacy will actually materialize is that even as he remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party, there are many, many signs GOP voters are already starting to want something different in 2024. According to a recent NYT-Siena poll, Trump’s national polling share of the total vote in a widely contested primary is under 50 percent, with his closest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rising up to 25 percent. Another recent Suffolk University–USA Today poll found DeSantis actually leads Trump when GOP voters’ first and second choices are combined. So, if the Republican field were to narrow quickly enough—unlike what happened during the 2016 Republican primary—DeSantis would currently have the advantage over Trump. Perhaps more importantly, there have been a number of state polls showing DeSantis ahead of Trump, including in the home state of both men—the critical early primary state Florida—as well as in the first-in-the-nation-primary state of New Hampshire.
Further signals that GOP primary voters—and the party elites—will crave something new in 2024 abound. They include: a recent set of focus group surveys published in the Atlantic showing Trump voters cooling to a 2024 candidacy; editorials by the very conservative editorial boards of two Rupert Murdoch–controlled newspapers in recent days beseeching the party to move on from Trump in the wake of continued Jan. 6 revelations; numerous reports that GOP megadonors have stopped giving money to Trump and are turning to other candidates, with a focus on DeSantis; and a set of embarrassing primary defeats for Trump-endorsed candidates in key swing states.
My final reason for not believing Trump will mount a serious candidacy for the presidency in 2024? I think that deep down Trump knows he lost in 2020 and that there are decent odds he will lose again in 2024. Being tarnished as a two-time loser would be too devastating to his psyche to risk it.
There’s no question that Trump knows he lost in 2020. That has slipped out any number of times. And his niece Mary Trump initially said that he knew he had lost and that he wouldn’t run again because his psyche wouldn’t handle it. However, Mary Trump also said later on that if her uncle could be convinced that he would win, then he would run again. That translates as, “Can the GOP get their hands on enough secretaries of state and election officials to destroy the system and hand it to Trump?” In other words, can the election deniers take over?
I don’t think so, for the same reason that Karl Rove cited when all this election denying madness began, “it would take a conspiracy of James Bondian proportions.” That is not to say that I minimize or dismiss the subversive efforts of proponents of the Big Lie. As you are aware, Arizona is ground zero, as we speak, in the election denier skirmish. Kari Lake is making noise about election fraud, Ronna McDaniel wanted an elections official fired in Pinal County and today he was. It’s a mess down there.
So we will have to see if the guard rails hold and the system holds up. Pont being, at this moment, I seriously doubt that anybody can guarantee to Donald Trump that they can fix the 2024 election, because the fact of the matter is, I’m not sure anybody in the GOP really wants to fix the election for him. I think the rank and file Republicans are scared to death of the man and just want to stay out of his crosshairs. I honestly believe that, amongst themselves, they hope for Trump to just fade away like old soldiers are supposed to do, and stop damaging the party. The GOP is a bloodied and beaten pulp right now and they just want the domestic violence to stop.
As Stahl says, we should have the answers soon enough. November is coming up fast and shortly thereafter we will know a lot about the direction this country is going. Let’s hope that democracy is ratified and Donald Trump is out to pasture on his golf course.