early and often

An Early Trump 2024 Announcement Could Screw Over the GOP, Again

Trump allegedly campaigning for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in January 2021, when all he could talk about was the stolen-election fables he acted on a few days later. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Multiple media reports suggest that Donald Trump is considering a very early announcement of his 2024 presidential candidacy. And “very early” could mean imminently, as the New York Times reported on July 1:

The timing of a formal announcement from Mr. Trump remains uncertain. But he recently surprised some advisers by saying he might declare his candidacy on social media without warning even his own team, and aides are scrambling to build out basic campaign infrastructure in time for an announcement as early as this month.

Aside from the cruel pleasure he might derive from chuckling as his own minions are blindsided by his imperial whim, why would Trump want to announce his third presidential candidacy so soon? There are two obvious motives. One is to reinforce his argument that the proceedings of the House Select Committee investigating January 6 represent a partisan witch hunt aimed at knocking down the 2024 adversary they most fear, meaning that Republicans should cover their ears and cry la-la-la-can’t-hear-you as the dangerous evidence adds up.

The second Trump motive for a quick announcement is to force the hands of potential Republican presidential rivals. With the right amount of blustering pressure, he might induce nearly all of them to bend the knee to him preemptively, making any future challenge to his GOP domination more difficult. Ron DeSantis is 43 years old. Does he really want to gamble his career on a 2024 fight with Trump when keeping his powder dry could make him Trump’s obvious successor?

So the 45th president has two selfish reasons to tell us right now that he intends to become the 47th president. But they are indeed selfish reasons since an early announcement would not be welcome news to Republicans focused on the 2022 midterms. That’s true even for serious MAGA Republicans because near-certain midterm GOP gains depend on keeping voters riveted on their discontented feelings about Joe Biden. It’s supposed to be a referendum on Biden, not a “choice election” contrasting Biden with Trump or any prospective 2024 opponent.

Aside from affecting how persuadable swing voters may think about the meaning of their vote in November, a pre-midterms Trump announcement might have a serious positive impact on Democratic-base turnout. Young voters in particular set turnout records in 2018 and 2020, mostly thanks to their disdain for Trump. It is widely assumed they will not return to the polls in anything like those numbers if they are simply expected to give a thumbs-up to Biden, who has pretty clearly disappointed them. Republicans are already worrying that the Supreme Court’s abolition of abortion rights in June could mobilize the Democratic base and, particularly, young voters. Adding Comeback Candidate Trump to the mix could make things a lot worse for the GOP, which has been happily anticipating the conquest of the House if not the Senate, along with some key battleground governorships and secretary-of-state positions.

So which way will the ex-president go? Well, Trump already demonstrated supreme selfishness and disinterest in his party’s needs in late 2020 and early 2021 when control of the U.S. Senate was at stake in two Georgia runoffs. The GOP entered these contests strongly favored. It lost both races, and pretty much anyone you ask in the Peach State will tell you the chief culprit was Donald Trump. When called into Georgia to help boost Republican turnout for GOP incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, Trump instead depressed it by running his mouth about Georgia’s (Republican-run) election system being rigged.

We know Trump’s narcissism is more powerful than any attachment to the GOP. He could yet decide to postpone a 2024 announcement for reasons of his own. But if he does, don’t assume for a moment that his motive was to get out of the way and let his party succeed without his brooding presence.

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An Early Trump 2024 Announcement Could Screw Over the GOP