Trump 3.0: 45th president launches 2024 presidential bid
The business magnate-turned-politician will face new challenges this time around but is still playing the role of D.C. outsider.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
The 2024 presidential campaign officially began on Tuesday night, when former President Donald Trump announced he's running for the White House.
Trump's announcement comes at a time when he's still the dominant voice and de facto leader of the Republican Party. At the same time, however, a growing number of dissenters within the party are calling for Republicans to move on from the 45th president in the wake of last week's midterm elections, which were disappointing for Republicans nationwide.
Many Trump-backed candidates lost high-profile Senate and gubernatorial races, leading some GOP lawmakers and prominent conservatives outside government to call for the political right to turn the page on the Trump era.
"It would be a bad mistake for the Republicans to have Donald Trump as their nominee in 2024," Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), formerly an ardent Trump supporter, told AL.com, saying he alienates independents and Republicans. "Even a candidate who campaigns from his basement can beat him."
Mike Lawler, a New York Republican who last week beat Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on CNN that he would like to see the GOP "move forward" and in a "different direction" from Trump in 2024.
Some House and Senate Republicans have expressed similar sentiments over the past week, arguing a Trump campaign in 2024 would hurt the party.
Mike Pence, who served as Trump's vice president, said in an interview that aired Monday that he believes Americans will have "better choices" than Trump in future elections.
In this environment, Republican megadonors are looking to back various other potential 20204 contenders. "Donald Trump is in his weakest political state since 2015 or early 2016," wrote National Review Editor in Chief Rich Lowry.
Such opposition might play right into Trump's hands, however, as Republican elites continue to take shots at him so he can frame himself as the target of attacks from Washington, D.C.
"Trump's strength will remain his ability to run as an outsider," said Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. "Whether it's the swamp or the deep state, he has the arguments to make against both."
Trump has performed his best politically when underestimated or perceived as the underdog. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump emerged as a political newcomer to defeat a packed GOP primary field for the party's nomination and then pull off what some media outlets dubbed "the biggest upset in U.S. history" by defeating Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Ironically, the midterm results may help Trump if allegations of suspicious activity at polling stations and concerns about election integrity are verified. A key to Trump's political success since 2016 has been highlighting and speaking to his supporters feeling ignored or abused by a "rigged" system run by influential elites.
And then there's Trump's history of surviving multiple politically devastating episodes, from the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape of him making lewd comments about women to the fallout from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
But Trump does appear more vulnerable in a GOP primary than at any point since 2016, potentially opening lanes for other candidates.
"For most presidents, losing a reelection bid means the end of a political career," said Tevi Troy, a presidential historian and senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. "Think of the 20th century examples of George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Herbert Hoover. "This history, combined with the fact that Trump no longer can claim outsider status, and has had a poor record in recent elections, means that there is an opening for alternatives such as Ron DeSantis or Mike Pompeo in the 2024 GOP primaries."
Pompeo, who served as secretary of state under Trump, said Trump's announcement won't impact his own decision on whether to run for the White House.
As for DeSantis, he's the 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to potential challengers to contend with Trump.
Republicans have heaped praise on DeSantis since last week, when he handily won reelection and led a strong Republican performance in Florida, which appears to have shifted from a swing state to a comfortably Republican one.
Trump has attacked DeSantis in recent days in an apparent early effort to preempt a potential rival. The 45th president dubbed the Florida governor "Ron DeSanctimonious," called him an "average governor" and claimed DeSantis initially won the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election only because he received Trump's endorsement.
When asked about the attacks on Tuesday, DeSantis shrugged them off as "political noise" that comes with the job.
"One of the things I've learned in this job: When you're leading and getting things done, you take incoming fire," said DeSantis. "That's just the nature of it," he said at a press conference. "What you learn is, all that's just noise. What matters is: Are you leading and getting in front of issues? Are you delivering results for people and standing up for folks? ... We're focused on results and leadership."
DeSantis then added, "At the end of the day, I'd tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night."
Another possible GOP candidate to challenge Trump is Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, according to Anuzis, who argued a Trump candidacy would be divisive for the Republican Party.
"Trump's candidacy will be much more divisive to the Republican party than a multi-candidate primary of new, younger leaders from around the country," he said. "Republicans have one of the strongest and deepest benches of potential candidates that we've had in the last 40 years."
Anuzis also said there are three factions within the GOP: pro Trump Republicans, anti-Trump Republicans, and those who want to move on.
"I believe the 'wanting to move on faction' is large and growing," he explained. "They are not anti-Trump; they just want to win and like the idea of investing in a candidate who could serve eight years and not start out with all the baggage a Trump campaign would have."
According to 2016 Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, however, the party isn't supposed to come together around any one person at this point, with many ambitious people vying for one nomination.
"I don't think we should focus on, 'Oh, how are we going to have a kumbaya party right now?'" Manafort told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show on Tuesday. "We worry about that when we get near the end of the nominating process."
That being said, most Republicans appear to agree they want Trump to be their nominee, according to recent polling.
The RealClearPolitics average of polls, for example, found Trump comfortably leading all likely GOP primary opponents, including DeSantis, over the past couple months.
A new Politico/Morning Consult poll showed that 47% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they would back Trump if the primary were held today. By comparison, 33% said they would back DeSantis.
"The fact of the matter is the rank-and-file Republicans on the grassroots want [Trump] back again," pollster John McLaughlin told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Tuesday. McLaughlin cited a survey he conducted on Election Day showing six out of 10 Republicans want Trump to run again, and if he ends up running, 77% would support him.
"They know he was a good president," McLaughlin said of the American people. "If you ask today, among likely voters, whether you approve or disapprove the job he did, the majority of Americans will tell you he did a good job."
Manafort echoed that point on Tuesday.
"Donald Trump has earned the right to run for president again," said Manafort. "He's built a record, he built the party, and if people don't think he should be the nominee, they'll have a chance to voice that opinion. There are other candidates who have got experience. They have to make the decision if they want to get in the game. But to say that Trump should not run when he has been the only success the party has had in the last six years, that'd be a mistake."
Even before Trump announced his candidacy, the third-ranking House Republican endorsed him, arguing he kept America safe and prosperous as president and would easily defeat any GOP challenger.
"I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2024," Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said in a statement last week. "It is time for Republicans to unite around the most popular Republican in America who has a proven track record of conservative governance."
But recent polling conducted on behalf of the Texas Republican Party and the conservative group the Club for Growth show DeSantis leading Trump in a hypothetical primary matchup in several states where he previously trailed.
Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center found in a recent survey that the share of Republicans who feel "warmly" toward Trump is down modestly since last summer, from 67% to 60%.
At this point, though, the influence of Trump is expected to prevail nonetheless.
"The likeliest result is another Trump nomination followed by a Trump–Biden rematch," wrote American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Matthew Continetti. "But likely is not the same as certain. There are bound to be surprises along the way."