After all the analysis of the 2022 election cycle, one thing is very clear. The tighter a GOP candidate embraced Donald Trump, the poorer that candidate performed in a contested general election. Those GOP candidates who performed well in 2022, like Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp, typically kept quite a bit of distance between themselves and Trump. This allowed independent voters to see them as mainstream GOP thinkers, even though both have a strong streak of Trumpy behaviors. While many GOP candidates did embrace Trump and still win they were either in heavily GOP areas, or, as in the case of JD Vance in Ohio, they scraped in while vastly underperforming other GOP candidates in the same geography. There is now a widespread realization that Donald Trump’s focus on the 2020 election is a millstone for the GOP.
As we enter the landscape of the 2024 election, Trump has already announced his candidacy in an ill-conceived attempt to ward off the upcoming indictments from the DOJ. Its still not clear how many GOP candidates will challenge him. It could be as few as two or three, but it could also be as many as six or more.
In Trump’s ideal scenario, numerous weak candidates (everyone except Ron DeSantis) will run, therefore splitting the potential opposition votes and letting him win GOP primaries with his 30-40% GOP base vote. That would make him the 2024 GOP Presidential candidate, and likely put him into a rematch with Joe Biden. It’s also very conceivable that the US economy could be in a long recession for which Biden would receive (fairly or not) much of the blame. So, in that scenario, could Trump win re-election?
The simple answer is Hell No. With Trump at the top of the ticket, the GOP would go down to a massive, crushing defeat across the board in 2024. Leveraging his power as the leader of the party, Trump would use the 2024 primary season to once again pick GOP candidates that would pledge undying loyalty to him personally; such candidates would lose in the general elections in such numbers that the Democrats would win control of both houses of Congress, the White House, and multiple additional statehouses. If Trump is the GOP candidate, he will set the party back for years.
But what if he is not the candidate? This scenario assumes that over time the Trump show becomes less and less attractive to enough GOP voters that they slowly lose belief in him. The GOP leadership, realizing that Trump has no chance to be elected, coalesces around a single alternative (likely DeSantis) who then polls higher than Trump in the primaries and wins a messy battle to become the GOP candidate.
What will Trump do? Will he put the party first and support the GOP nominee? Of course not. His narcissism will never allow him to support another GOP candidate, least of all Ron DeSantis. He will claim that the election was stolen, and tell his supporters that the entire party is corrupt and that they should stay home or vote for the Dems just for spite. He may even launch a third party bid, but that would take a lot of work and he’s not likely to want to bother. His goal won’t be to win, just to extract revenge on those who have wronged him. In either case, he will once again bring the GOP to a catastrophe in the 2024 general election.
What about all the legal issues that Trump faces? What impact will they have in 2024? Other than keeping Trump on the defensive and reminding voters what a menace he is, they won’t be definitive. The legal cases need to proceed effectively to ensure that justice is served. The Democrats must do all they can to stay above the fray, and maintain their integrity in the eyes of voters. Then stand by as the GOP self-destructs.
Is there a third scenario? Yes. If Trump dies before Primary season, the GOP would be free of his narcissism and could win it all. Other that that, it’s a done deal.