There is all kinds of speculation concerning former President Donald Trump’s future – personally, business-wise and most importantly in politics. The predictions run from jail time to Trump returning to the Oval Office in 2024. No one can predict the future, but we all can have opinions – and I believe a return to the presidency is more likely than a stretch in the hoosegow.
First, we must understand that Trump is a formidable political force despite the constant maligning by the Trump-hating news media and two impeachments. Yes, he lost the controversial 2020 presidential election, but not after garnering 74,216,154 votes – more than any presidential candidate in American history other than President Joe Biden.
(Every time I write that, I get push back from friends who insist that Trump won by a wide margin. The official count is official, Joe Biden is sitting in the Oval Office and the debate over the results is academic, political and relatively meaningless. Outside of pursuing lingering cases of vote fraud, it is time for Republicans and conservatives to develop a forward-looking strategy. But I digress.)
The Trump Base
The left-wing media – that generally predicts that Trump will no longer attract those 74,216,154 voters – believe – or hope – that he can do no more than be a spoiler for the GOP because he maintains a small but very loyal base within the Party. There is no doubt that Trump has a loyal base, but I do believe it is larger than Democrats and the media believe – and it is grounded on all those issues that many Americans like more than they dislike Trump’s personality. And certainly more than they like the left-wing agenda of the Demcorats.
No matter how you rate the size of Trump’s base, it should be generally agreed that it is significantly larger than any other potential Republican presidential candidate has as of this moment. I have not seen a comparison of potential Republican presidential candidates, but I would be shocked if Trump was not in the lead at this time. Keep in mind that Trump won the presidency riding atop a base of between 25 and 30 percent of Republican primary voters.
Trump’s legal challenges
Having failed in two questionable impeachments, Democrats are counting on partisan prosecutors to finish him off – even land him in jail. Of course, every ambitious publicity-hungry Democrat prosecutor – from obscure county states’ attorneys to state attorneys general – will be looking for cases to file. And there is still the question of what the U.S. Department of Justice will do. Most will not gain traction in the courts. Trump will win some…most… and maybe all cases filed. He may get fined. But a hardcore felony conviction seems very unlikely. Ironically, the very pursuit of so many cases may actually build sympathy for Trump – and enhance his political creds.
The 2022 midterm elections
The outcome of the 2022 midterm elections will have an impact on Trump returning to the White House in 2024. The first indicators will come in the Republican primaries. The tea leaf readers should keep their eyes on about a dozen races. These are the Republican office holders up for re-election who either voted to impeach Trump or to convict him in the Senate trial.
In the Senate, there are three GOP members who voted for conviction and whose terms come up in 2022. They are Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Richard Burr of North Carolina. Toomey and Burr, however, have decided to not run for re-election. That leaves Murkowski to endure the wrath of the Trump base if she goes for re-election.
Of the ten Republicans voting for impeachment in the House, a couple have announced their retirement – others have not yet made their intentions known. Perhaps the two key races will be Adam Kinzinger in Illinois, and Liz Cheney in Wyoming. As part of the House leadership, she has a better chance to survive. Kinzinger – and others like him – are highly vulnerable.
The best outcome for Trump would be the defeat of his Republican adversaries in primaries and the GOP winning control of the House. It is possible – based on an analysis of the Republican victories across the country in 2020 — that the GOP could take control of both chambers of Congress.
There can be no doubt that Trump’s personality drove off a lot of so-called establishment Republicans and a bunch of hitherto iconic conservatives. By joining in common cause with the Democratic Party Left, they very likely played a role in the GOP loss of the House in 2016 and the loss of the presidency in 2020. But they did not prevent those 74,216,154 million voters from sticking with Trump. Whether Biden won because of turn out or fraud is immaterial to the future. Trump proved to be very popular with the general public despite the constant attacks. The number of Trump votes indicate that despite polls and pundit opinion, Trump maintains voting power well beyond the so-called base.
Who would these erstwhile Republicans – like Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska – vote for if Trump was the GOP candidate in 2024? What would the conservative apostates at The Lincoln Project do? It is hard to believe that they would once again abandon their political principles and philosophy to aid and abet the left-wing Democratic Party and candidates. But they did it in the past.
Trump could be a spoiler for the GOP – just as the disloyalists were spoilers for the GOP during the Trump years. But he COULD also re-invent himself. I emphasize “could” because he has not shown himself to have the political dexterity to adjust to changing situations. He never “pivoted” as he once promised – and it cost him and the GOP.
For Trump to be in the game in 2024, he will have to pivot – and he has more than enough time to improve his brand with the American public. Trump can start that process by addressing the nation with a calm, non-defensive presentation. He should specifically address his response to the Capital Hill rioting.
Trump has one speech that would start to shift public sentiment in his favor, but he may not know what that speech is – or how to deliver it. He has not been the best messenger for himself and the Republican Party. He has to be more persuasive and less pugnacious.
I could propose a strategy and write that speech for him, but he never calls. And maybe he would not take my advice if he did.
The Democrat opposition
One of Trump’s – and the GOP’s consistent – advantages is the broad public support for the Trump conservative issues. We saw it in the state and local election in 2020 – and how close the GOP came to taking control of the House. There are still Americans like me who believe the issues and the governing philosophy are more important than the personality. Frankly, we are counting on the newly empowered left-wing Democratic Party to drive more voters to the GOP. The drums of left-wing autocratic rule are being heard across the land. Recent polls have already shown a significant level of “buyers’ remorse” among Democrat voters who believed that Biden would be an in-charge centrist.
There are three factors that could prevent Trump from running in 2024. His health could give out. He could wind up in jail. He could continue to flay around in public like a wounded bear.
Trump may be down at the moment, but he is by far not out. There is a lot of political pavement between the here-and-now and 2024. Getting back to the White House may be a three-bank shot – but it is a shot.
So, there ‘tis.