It’s almost always a good sign for a would-be candidate’s future prospects when his party enjoys a surprising if not shocking victory, but this may not be the case for former President Donald Trump and his hope of pulling off another history-making campaign.
What could be cause for celebration in Trump world -- the triumph of (hopefully) conservative outsider Glenn Youngkin in Virginia last week -- has lots of folks reexamining the Republican party in general and what makes for a winner in the current, post-Trump American political landscape. Trump blazed so many trails for the GOP in 2016 that most Republicans are grateful for everything he did and for the indelible and lasting punch mark he left on the face of the proverbial establishment is perhaps Trump’s greatest accomplishment.
But people still wonder about his role as unequalled party leader and possible (probable?) 2024 presidential nominee. Have things changed after Virginia?
“Can Trump, like Youngkin, win back suburbanites and independents to achieve a 51 percent majority—something no Republican presidential candidate has achieved in 33 years? Or could his less carnivorous rivals of the status quo be able to keep the Trump base from sitting out the election as they did in 2008 and 201?
“Would Trump ever be content with becoming the senior statesman basking in the credit of rebooting the Republican Party from a stereotyped wealthy white corporate party into a populist-nationalist movement of the middle class of all races and ethnicities?
“Or will Trump redo 2016, bulldoze to the nomination, go for the jugular of the now hard-left Democratic Party, clobbering his way to a 2016-like Electoral College victory—or a defeat that others who copied his agendas might have avoided?”
This is the eternal mystery, one that I’ve examined quite a lot. The incessant questions were getting rather boring until Youngkin won last week, but now that there’s something contemporary to compare Trump’s future to, the answer is murkier than ever. Certainly nobody -- at least that I’ve seen -- is suggesting that Glenn Youngkin is a budding presidential candidate now. America’s barely seen him and even Virginia conservatives ponder what kind of leader he will be. We’ve been disappointed a lot.
But if someone like Victor Davis Hanson is penning columns titled “Trump Nearing the Crossroads,” it makes you wonder. Trump’s path to victory now feels a little narrower vis-à-vis his Republican opponents, which is odd. Trump took credit for helping Youngkin to victory last week and at the very least deserves a shout-out and fitting salute for urging the MAGA masses to get to the polls. We shouldn’t forget that he also, at one point, said the election’s integrity was already compromised and people shouldn’t bother voting.
Can, as Hanson asked, Trump ever hope to get a 51 percent American popular majority? He would need a major switch in American attitudes, which may be taking place with senile Joe Biden in the White House. Biden’s approval rating plummeted to 38 percent this week in one poll, which is pretty darn low considering the diehards in the Democrat base would never fully abandon him. They know what’s possibly waiting behind the Delaware swamp dweller’s rickety old shoulders -- and it ain’t the socialism they all crave.
64 percent of those surveyed don’t want Biden to run again (including 28 percent of Democrats). Good news? Absolutely. But 58 percent also indicated that they don’t want Trump to do it either (including 24 percent of Republicans). Clearly there is no groundswell of emotion for either of the party figureheads. The most ardent of Trump backers will be with him. But it looks like there will be plenty of folks open to other alternatives as well.
Would Trump consider serving, as Hanson offered, as a “party elder statesman”? Possibly; but he might not, too. Either way, Democrats would bombard the newly minted GOP presidential standard-bearer as being “Trump 2.0” or “Trump with fewer calories” or “Trump disguised as (Candidate X)” or “Take off the wig and there are orange roots.”
Trump will symbolically be on the ballot in 2024 regardless. And if he takes a high profile, which he almost certainly will, he’ll be front and center no matter what. The sagging establishment media is wetting their pants at the chance of having Trump to kick in addition to another Republican without a fully formed brand. They’ll want to turn him or her into Hitler 3 (the original, Trump and the new nominee).
One reason to withhold judgment on another Trump run is the former president’s current health, meaning… it’s almost too good. Many a commentator has pointed to Trump’s apparent weight loss and renewed vigor as reasons he might or should give it another try, but we shouldn’t forget that his entire presidency -- and particularly the last half year or so of it -- took a noticeable toll on the indestructible man’s appearance.
For those who’ve seen the brilliant recent war movie “Hacksaw Ridge”, Trump looked like he’d just spent a tour up on the mountaintop.
As would be expected from him, Trump wrapped up his reelection campaign by waging multiple rallies per day, each an hour or hour and a half long (or however long Trump felt like speaking) and then jetting off to another one, typically late into the night. The event held here locally in Virginia started after 10 p.m, as I recall. Sure, there were tens of thousands of supporters who’d waited hours for Air Force One to arrive, but they weren’t the ones who’d campaigned all day long, either.
The toll of the road even wore on Trump, the septuagenarian with boundless energy. As the balloting was being questioned in several states after November 3rd, Trump was largely absent from view. Critics said he was recuperating from the vigor of the campaign in its final stretch, and they were most likely right. Trump always prided himself on being able to do anything, and he’d lost a good number of staffers who couldn’t keep up with his daily requirements.
Heck, even Kellyanne Conway left her position in August of 2020, suggesting she needed to spend more time with her family. Everyone who’s worked on a campaign realizes it’s a total commitment, but Trump could have difficulty finding people who’d want to put up with it all over again.
Trump himself will likely give this some consideration, since he’ll be four years older in 2024 and the wear and tear alone will have been significant. Think about it. Compare images from the 2016 campaign with those from last year or even those from recent appearances. It ain’t the same Trump. He still shines like a classic car in good working order, but what about more years’ worth of mileage?
You can shine up the exterior all you like, but under the proverbial hood lies a well-worn chassis and engine.
As Hanson pointed out in his piece, Trump has unexpectedly benefitted from a lack of access to social media. Gone are the tweets from 20 hours a day during the campaign and his presidency. No doubt Trump still has a voracious appetite for consuming media, but there is far less temptation for him to pick up his device and shoot off a message at the spur of the moment.
With the launch of his new social media platform, all of it returns. Will Trump accept advice from his advisors and improve his image through self-restraint? Many argue that his social media habits helped make Trump the politician and mold his Make America Great Again message without any filters from the obnoxious establishment media. But I also thought Trump’s Twitter thumbs were a little like receiving chemotherapy -- meaning, you kill as many good cells as bad ones.
Did Trump win converts with his messages? Certainly. But accumulating such a large following also meant he was providing round-the-clock fodder for his enemies, too.
Could Trump “change” himself to appeal to that extra 3, 4 or 5 percentage points of voters? Would he try to do it if it meant the difference between victory and defeat or the permanent extinction of the Make America Great Again movement? 2024 is shaping up to be America’s last chance to turn around and right the ship.
The challenge is daunting enough as it is. Runaway inflation. Foreign policy disasters. Potential new “climate change” agreements that will tank the American economy for no tangible benefit. More liberal judges. A military overrun by wokeness. Federal education policy drawn up by teachers unions. Energy policy that will guarantee high prices at the pump indefinitely. And more welfare bills on the horizon.
The 2024 election… it’s the whole ballgame, folks. Trump is great, but will he put the country’s needs before his own?
The questions surrounding another presidential run for Donald Trump in 2024 aren’t going away anytime soon. Last week’s elections demonstrated that Republicans can compete in blue territory with the right candidate(s). A 78-year-old Trump could mean the difference between an electoral squeaker and a fairly convincing GOP win. Which will it be?
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