Two words explain why Trump won’t run in 2024
Whenever two or more politically active people engage in conversation, invariably someone asks, “Will Donald Trump run in 2024?”
My standard answer is always “I have no idea” — until last week when Trump’s much-ballyhooed vendetta campaigns to defeat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ended in embarrassing anti-Trump failures.
Reportedly, Trump was “stunned” by the results and headlines such as The Washington Post’s “Trump rebuked with stinging losses in Georgia GOP contests.” But they’re not surprising since the former president’s primary challengers — former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) — were Trump stand-ins specifically chosen to promote the “Big Lie” — his perpetual mantra about the “stolen” 2020 election.
Trump’s repudiation in Georgia has Republicans speculating about his declining kingmaking powers, openly defying him as he loses his “vise-like grip on the party” and potentially endangering his front-runner status. So, circling back to the most-asked question, my new answer is “Trump won’t run in 2024” — based on personality traits rooted in the words “fear” and “fight.”
We begin with “fear,” indirectly drilled into young Donald Trump’s psyche by Fred, his authoritarian father, who demanded that his son always win and show strength but never weakness. Fred taught Donald that he could lie or twist the truth but never back down. Consequently, Trump developed an unnatural fear of losing or being called “a loser.”
Those grueling family dynamics were chronicled in Mary Trump’s book “Too Much and Never Enough,” subtitled “How my family created the world’s most dangerous man.” Donald Trump’s niece is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist whose best-seller was published in July 2020. Then, during a television appearance on Dec. 3, 2020, Mary explained, “It’s impossible for Trump to believe that he lost the election.”
That inability is why Trump can’t let go of 2020 and will tease a 2024 run for as long as possible. But, ultimately, Trump’s fear of losing is likely stronger than his willingness to take the risk. Moreover, during a second reelection campaign, the former president would be hard-pressed to use the same predictive excuse first heralded in a May 25, 2020, Politico headline: “Trump sees a ‘rigged election’ ahead. Democrats see a constitutional crisis in the making.”
And again, on Aug. 17, 2020, a Hill headline quoted the president’s losing rationale: “Trump: ‘The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.'”
Then, amazingly, on Tuesday, Trump activated his go-to playbook, writing his followers, “ICYMI: ‘Something Stinks In Georgia,’” explaining why his nemesis, Gov. Brian Kemp, won 73.7 percent of the primary vote. Stay tuned for that explosion.
Furthermore, Trump’s fear of running and losing reelection a second time is not assuaged by presidential history. In 1892, Grover Cleveland was the first and only former president to win the office nonconsecutively. But there is a striking political difference between Trump and Cleveland’s win-loss record.
Cleveland, a Democrat, was first elected in 1884 after winning the popular vote and Electoral College. In his 1888 reelection defeat, Cleveland lost the Electoral College but still won the popular vote. Then in his second reelection campaign, Cleveland won the Electoral College and the popular vote for the third time. By comparison, Trump has never won the popular vote — a fact that must haunt his ego and heighten his fear of 2024.
And now, since I don’t believe that Trump will run again, it’s a good time to solicit Roger Stone’s opinion. Stone, a colorful political operative, is Trump’s longtime consultant and confidant who received a presidential pardon in 2020. In a text message, he wrote:
“I think he [Trump] wants to run, is inclined to run, has not made a decision to run. If he chooses to, I don’t think he could be stopped for the nomination, and I would be for him. This is a precisely accurate reflection of my conversation with him on this topic.”
But between the lines in Stone’s message, I read, “fear.” Why else would Trump have excessively teased his run and still “not made a decision”? Of course, the “Big Tease” has been an effective fundraising platform, banking more than $100 million for Trump’s PACs while solidifying his dual status as king of the GOP and MAGA world. And is there any difference between the two? “Yes,” is the answer that brings us to “fight” — the second word explaining why Trump will not run in 2024.
Usually, the 45th president loves fighting, but fighting for his party’s nomination is now beneath his stature and shows weakness. Thus, King Trump wants and believes he deserves the 2024 crown delivered to his Mar-a-Lago palace on a blue satin pillow.
Meanwhile, a fighting bench is forming with numerous former and current officeholders unlikely to bow to Trump’s crowning demands. Most prominent is former Vice President Mike Pence, who is actively “campaigning” focusing on “the future.”
Meanwhile, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recent fundraising email was ostensibly for his reelection campaign but packed with poll-tested, red-meat phrases to gin up the national MAGA base without its baggage-laden founder. I firmly believe that the Republican version of “the future” is “Trumpism without Trump” — anticipating the next generation of leadership, and DeSantis, age 43, fits the bill.
To recap: Trump won’t run because he fears losing and does not want to fight for the nomination. But here is why I could be wrong:
I asked Mark McKinnon, the co-host of Showtime’s “The Circus” and the last presidential strategist to win the reelection of a Republican president — George W. Bush in 2004. McKinnon replied:
“Trump will never concede the stage or the spotlight to anyone else unless he’s in prison or a hospital. He’s not licking his wounds, he’s licking his chops. Every defeat is someone else’s fault. Every victory is his alone. The notion that he would simply exit stage left because of some political reality, self-reflection, or awareness flies in the face of everything we’ve learned about him.”
It is fitting to conclude with a favorite Trump quote: “We’ll see what happens.”
Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.
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