Yes, Trump has very good odds of winning in 2024

Former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in Orlando, Fla., in February 2021. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS

People who think that Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party has been mostly malign are always looking for signs that it is fading.

Matt Lewis, writing in the Daily Beast, sees several such indicators, from the empty seats at recent Trump events to the struggles of some of the candidates he has endorsed. Josh Kraushaar, a columnist for National Journal, thinks Trump has handed his opponents in the party an opportunity by backing former aenator David Perdue’s primary challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. If they help Kemp withstand it, they will liberate other Republicans from the need to stay supine before Trump.

A lot of anti-Trump Republicans took heart in November, too, from Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia’s governor’s race since it suggested that their party can regain some of the voters Trump repelled from the party while holding on to the ones he recruited to it.

The obvious bad news for Trump’s opponents — something neither Lewis nor Kraushaar denies — is that Trump retains great strength in the party and remains its most powerful leader. The less obvious bad news is that he is also stronger than he looks.

There are two reasons for this hidden strength. The first has to do with Republican voters’ interest in winning the 2024 election.

Anti-Trump Republicans will seek to persuade them that they will lose to the Democrats if Trump is again the nominee. Trump has been consistently unpopular, he lost re-election, and he has increasingly concentrated on his personal grievances rather than issues of direct concern to most voters.

Losing a presidential election, and especially a re-election, typically hurts a candidate’s political reputation so badly that he can’t try a comeback four years later. Trump’s nonsense about having won the last campaign in a landslide, only to have it stolen from him, is partly about avoiding an exile to loserdom.

But it’s not just myths about 2020 that will lead Republican voters to think he is a viable candidate for 2024. There’s also the reality that, well, he’s a viable candidate for 2024.

A Wall Street Journal poll in December put him only one point behind Biden in a rematch. A different poll had Trump ahead by two last month. Of course, it is very early, and Democrats may be at a low ebb.

The takeaway from these polls is merely that Trump isn’t a sure loser. If Democrats are struggling in 2024, his enthusiastic supporters might again combine with those voters who grudgingly prefer him to the Democrats to give him an electoral majority.

The second reason Trump has more power over Republicans than it looks is that his influence depends as much on the depth of his support as on its breadth. Some Republicans who wish Trump would fade away have taken solace in polls that show voters increasingly likely to call themselves primarily Republicans rather than Trump supporters. (In October 2020, Trump-first voters outnumbered Republican-first voters 59-30; this month, the split is 42-50.)

Let’s say, though, that the Trump-first number shrinks much further, to 10% of right-leaning voters. If Trump is willing and able to convince that 10% not to vote for Republican candidates he dislikes, Republicans won’t be able to win races in a lot of places. And we know he’s willing to do it.

Jonathan Karl of ABC has reported that on the last day of his presidency, Trump threatened to destroy the Republican Party by starting a new one. That was two weeks after he had cost Republicans two Senate seats and consequently control of the chamber by attacking Georgia Republican officials and casting doubt about whether elections were administered honestly.

Since then, Trump has openly talked about how Republican voters won’t show up in 2022 or 2024 if Republicans don’t “solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020” — which can easily be read as a threat against Republicans who don’t indulge his landslide fantasy. If Kemp beats Perdue in the primary, Trump will likely campaign against him in the general election without worrying that a Democrat will profit from it. If Kemp then loses, Republicans looking for lessons about Trump will pay more attention to the end of his governorship than his primary victory.

Trump is, in short, well-protected against the electability argument his Republican opponents would most like to make, and he stands apart from his would-be rivals in his indifference to anything but his own self-interest. Like it or not — and I really, really don’t — these are both political assets for him that have a good shot to endure.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a senior editor at National Review and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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(3) comments

KRobbins

If Ramesh Ponnuru wanted to do something positive for the GOP he’d be writing articles entreating them to break with Trump instead of whatever he was trying to say in this one. As long as they can’t come out en masse and say he lost the election, Trump controls them. Ponnuru can’t say it either and sees it as a positive that Trump won’t concede and remains a spoiled child.

I can’t wait to see the race between Kemp and Perdue in GA. Kemp’s major crime against Trump, because he’s all that matters, is that he wouldn’t break laws and undermine democracy. Otherwise, the two of them agree on everything. That’s what every Republican primary is going to be fought over is loyalty to the Leader.

We’ll see what the 2024 election looks like after 2 years of the looniest loons imaginable running amok in the House. Just a reminder: Elise Stefanik is a leader of those folks. How’s she doing? Good job?

About as good as McCarthy and Scalise, I suppose.

KRobbins

I do want to thank Trump for his efforts to make Stacey Abrams the next governor of, as Trump would say, the GREAT state of Georgia.

KRobbins

But it’s not just myths about 2020 that will lead Republican voters to think he is a viable candidate for 2024.

The writer does know that a presidential candidate needs independent votes as well as Republican ones?

I’m not foolish enough to make a prediction, but Trump lost by, I believe, 5 million votes in 2016 and 8 million in 2020. That doesn’t seem like a good trend line. He’s facing a lot of serious legal problems some of which may put him behind bars. Also, there’s the question of his physical and mental health nearly 3 years into the future.

What qualifications are there for writing the ridiculous columns this guy writes and then getting them syndicated? 😜

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