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The Memo: Trump casts long shadow over 2024

The Memo: Trump casts long shadow over 2024
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The clock is ticking down on President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE’s time in the White House, but he shows no sign of departing the political stage.

Speculation is growing louder that Trump will consider another presidential bid in 2024. 

Whether he ultimately jumps into that race or not, the fact that he might do so has huge effects, complicating the electoral calculus for other contenders.

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GOP strategist Dan Judy said that, regardless of Trump’s final decision on 2024, “there is no question that he is going to keep his name out there, and try in some shape or form to remain the head of the Republican Party and the center of attention.”

Trump has fanned rumors about 2024 even as he continues to insist, falsely, that he won this year’s election. 

Last week, Trump reportedly told an audience at a Christmas party in the White House that he was “trying to do another four years” beginning now, but if that failed, “I’ll see you in four years.”

Last month, Politico quoted Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGroup of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment MORE (R-N.D.) saying that Trump told him, “If this doesn’t work out, I’ll just run again in four years.”

And on Wednesday, NPR reported that Trump is “seriously considering” a 2024 bid.

A second, nonconsecutive Trump presidential term would be one of the most unlikely twists yet in a tumultuous political journey. Only one president in American history has pulled off such a feat: President Grover Cleveland lost his 1888 reelection bid but came back to win in 1892.

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Trump is hardly likely to be put off by a scarcity of historical precedents, given how unlikely his rise to the presidency was in the first place.

It’s easy to make a case as to why Trump would have a strong shot at the 2024 GOP nomination, at least.

He received more than 74 million votes this year. Though he was defeated handily by President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBudowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit DC might win US House vote if it tries Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman inks deal with IMG Models MORE in the popular vote — Biden’s tally now stands at more than 81 million votes — the decisive states were very close. 

If Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona had gone the other way, the Electoral College vote would have been tied. Biden’s margin of victory was less than 1 percentage point in all three of those states.

Trump is by far the most popular politician in the nation among Republican voters, even though he is deeply divisive with the electorate at large. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Dec. 2, 78 percent of Republican registered voters approved of Trump’s job performance. 

His ability to command the loyalty and attention of his grassroots supporters is unparalleled within the GOP. His capacity to get them to open their wallets is startling too. The New York Times reported on Dec. 3 that Trump had raised over $200 million since his election loss, about 75 percent of which can be used by his newly formed political action committee.

“Look how much money they’ve raised already,” said Sam Nunberg, an adviser who worked on the early stages of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Nunberg added, regarding the GOP 2024 primary, “I think it’d be a very, very difficult proposition to beat him. You’ll have others that are going to claim they don’t care. But, I mean, who’s going to beat him — Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyNikki Haley: If Biden rejoins Human Rights Council 'it will fly in the face of our fight for human rights' Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Can we protect our country — from our rulers, and ourselves? MORE?”

The former South Carolina governor is one of the names most often cited as a 2020 contender, even as some in Trump’s orbit disparage her as ill-suited to carrying forward his populist mantle.

A potential Trump candidacy is a headache for other potential candidates who might otherwise hope to win over his voters. Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate to vote Tuesday on Biden's secretary of State pick To 'lower the temperature' raise commitments to federalism Leahy, not Roberts, to preside over impeachment trial MORE (R-Texas) and Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTo 'lower the temperature' raise commitments to federalism Leahy, not Roberts, to preside over impeachment trial Beto O'Rourke: Ted Cruz 'guilty of sedition' in Capitol insurrection MORE (R-Mo.), as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida scientist who accused state of manipulating coronavirus data tests positive for COVID-19, turns herself in Overnight Health Care: Testing capacity strained as localities struggle with vaccine staffing | Health workers refusing vaccine is growing problem | Incoming CDC director expects 500,000 COVID deaths by mid-February COVID-19 testing capacity strained as localities struggle with vaccine staffing MORE (R), all broadly fit that description.

There is plenty of skepticism about a Trump comeback in Republican circles too, however.

One question that resurfaces again and again is whether Trump really has the appetite to put himself through another election campaign. He will be 78 on Election Day 2024. Many people see the gossip about a run as a publicity gambit, meant to maintain Trump’s relevance and media profile. 

Then there is the debate about whether Trump’s dominance over the party will fade with time. 

“The second he becomes an ex-president, how much attention is he going to get compared to what he does now?” said Doug Heye, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee. “In February, he can’t veto a bill or fire anybody at the Department of Justice. So when he tweets something, how much attention does that get?”

Another Republican strategist, Liz Mair, said she was “incredulous” at the thought of the party choosing Trump as its standard-bearer again in 2024. Mair acknowledged that Trump still had his loyal base, but she also questioned the degree to which he could expand beyond it.

“He has a very high floor and a very low ceiling — that’s the challenge,” she said. 

She also had a starker observation. 

“Republicans generally aren’t big fans of losers. They want to move on,” she said.

Whether they want to move on from Trump, however, is a much more complicated question. 

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.