Former President Trump is apparently going to announce he will run for reelection in 2024. Or he may just announce he “intends to run,” as President Biden has been doing. Or he may change his mind.
I don’t know whether Trump will run for president, but I do know he shouldn’t, for several reasons.
He could tear the Republican Party apart. The Republican Party is filled with people who generally liked and supported Trump and his policies. But they have grown very weary of his nasty and often vindictive and erroneous comments, especially after the recent election. I hear it from virtually every Trump supporter I know. They were glad he ran and won in 2016, they voted for him in 2020, but not one of them wants him to run again.
And you can see it in the numerous Republican responses to Trump’s criticisms of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.), and his attempts to take credit for their successes.
Assuming he does run, he will use all the tools and leverage at his disposal to get Republican leaders and voters to back him while trashing any Republican considering a run. That would likely become a very nasty fight that could divide the Republican Party even more than it is, and perhaps for good.
While the good of the country comes before the good of any political party, the good of the party comes before the ambitions of any individual. And that should apply to Biden as well as Trump.
The GOP has lots of good potential presidential candidates. DeSantis’s prospects of being the 2024 GOP presidential nominee skyrocketed after his amazing win in Florida. But 2024 is a long way off, and he’s not the only one interested in a run.
The Republican ranks are filled with current or former governors, senators, a vice president and a secretary of state who might capture the public’s imagination in a presidential bid. And while the GOP bench is deep, the Democrats have relatively few who look like real presidential contenders who could beat Biden in the primaries.
The fact is Republicans don’t need Trump to run again, but Democrats and the media do, because both of them do much better when Trump is the focus.
Trump has lost independents. No presidential candidate can win without independents. And there are several reports out asserting that the red wave never happened because independents turned against many Republican candidates, especially those most closely associated with Trump.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, “Undercutting the GOP advantage was that independents favored Democrats by 4 points nationally, the survey found, and by a far more substantial 18 points in Pennsylvania, 28 points in Georgia and more than 30 points in Arizona.”
There is no reason to think that Trump could recapture those independents in a 2024 presidential election. They would likely settle for the Democrat, even if they didn’t like or really want that candidate, or just stay home.
Trump may never concede he lost the primaries or the election. If Republican voters were to shun Trump in the 2024 primaries for one or more of the other Republican candidates, Trump would likely cast doubt on those elections. If he were to lose to Biden, with all the current president’s problems, he would likely question that outcome also.
Trump’s the only Republican who could lose to Joe Biden — again. I have said many times that Trump was probably the only Republican who could beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. And he’s probably the only Republican who could have lost to Joe Biden in 2020. And there is every reason to believe Trump would lose to Biden again if they were the two nominees.
One reason the American democratic experiment has survived for so long is that former presidents, whether term-limited or defeated for reelection, stepped out of the limelight for a while. Former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all did that.
It was a pattern set by our first president, George Washington, and it was one of his greatest legacies. It allows for the peaceful transfer of power, and it lets the new president set up his administration and policies on which he was elected.
Trump left the White House, but he never left the limelight. He has continued to press his opinions and his grievances and promote his followers. He has tried to stay involved, claiming credit for anything good that happens, whether he had any role in it or not, and casting blame on others for anything and everything that goes wrong. That hurt Republican candidates in 2022, and it will hurt them again in 2024, unless Trump or primary voters decide it’s time for him to retire.
Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.
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