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Trump can still hold both parties hostage

 

At the end of the day, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE will do what Donald Trump believes is in the best interests of Donald Trump — and that petrifies the Republican and Democratic leadership. 

In one of those “I know that you know that I know that you know” scenarios, no matter what each political party may say publicly, the former president indeed does know that, in a number of critically important ways, he now has the Republicans and the Democrats exactly where he needs them — in order to benefit him.

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The main reason for this is the approximately 75 million votes he got in the last election, of which he arguably still holds a majority in his back pocket. How many of those voters will still follow Trump? How many can still be swayed by his pronouncements? How many will turn against Republicans who Trump feels have sinned against him? How many would follow Trump into a newly created political party? No one knows for certain. 

“But,” some may argue, “Trump said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the end of February that he would not form a third party, and he labeled such speculation as ‘fake news.’ ” If you truly believe that, then allow me to sell you this deed I have to a bridge in Brooklyn. 

As he has demonstrated in the past, Trump’s unbendable convictions can turn instantly malleable if the change favors him, or a position he is advocating, at that exact moment. 

During that same political conference, Trump also stressed: “Biden has failed in his No. 1 duty as chief executive, enforcing America’s laws. This alone should be reason enough for Democrats to suffer withering losses in the midterms and to lose the White House decisively four years from now. Actually, as you know, they just lost the White House, but it’s one of those things. But who knows? Who knows? I may even decide to beat them for a third time, okay?”

Does any of that sound like Trump has accepted and made peace with the certified results of the last election and is now ready to go quietly into the night? 

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In a recent piece in Politico about Trump being done with Twitter and possibly creating his own platform, the sub-headline read: “The 45th president loves attention. But he also holds grudges.”

Indeed. All legal, political and constitutional evidence to the contrary, Trump not only believes he was wronged in the last election, but he blames certain Republicans as well as Democrats.

The political world has never seen anyone like him. As such, much of the conventional wisdom surrounding that world can instantly mean less than nothing if Trump is still in the equation.

Hate it or not, Trump is still a force unto himself and is in the catbird seat in a number of election-altering ways. No matter what he said at CPAC, it makes absolutely no sense for him to take a third-party run off the table. In fact, it can be argued that a third-party run is the only possible way he could win back the White House in 2024 — a third-party run that would likely come into play only if the Biden-Harris administration were to face increasing failure and loss of support across the board while the Republican Party nominated someone not from the Trump pre-approved candidate list.

As the Democratic primary season of 2020 proved, Democratic voters were not particularly enamored with either former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE nor then-Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris's uncle discusses COVID-19 surge in India: 'The conditions are pretty bad' Updating the aging infrastructure in Historically Black Colleges and Universities Bowser on Manchin's DC statehood stance: He's 'not right' MORE (D-Calif.). Biden, who was fading fast, only became the last candidate standing after the Democratic leadership threw him a lifeline. And Harris, who was one of the very first to drop out of the Democratic primaries, only came back because Biden picked her to be his running mate.

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Trump surely now understands that much of the Biden vote in the general election came from millions of Americans who truly hated him with a passion. But, in a 2024 frame of mind, Trump could easily spin that into a positive. Meaning, if the actual voter support for Biden-Harris was paper-thin in 2020 and became even less solid if the administration continued to falter, then by 2024 much of that vote might evaporate or go elsewhere.

In that case, the “elsewhere” could be a diverse Republican ticket made up of two candidates who not only were not approved by Trump but — worse, from his point of view — who publicly disavowed him at some point. In other words, a ticket that might look attractive to a sizable number of centrist Americans who voted for Biden only because they couldn’t stand Trump.

If those two scenarios come to pass — and both are well within the realm of the possible — then Trump’s smoldering anger and still-growing ego might then sense an opportunity to go third-party and see how many of his 75 million voters from 2020 would go along for the ride. That could be a possibility most especially if, as his aides are predicting, he is successful in creating his own social media platform which would replicate the 88 million followers he had on Twitter. 

All that is to say that if the Democrats and Never-Trumpers think they’ve vanquished “Count Trumpula,” they might want to hold on to those barrels of holy water and cloves of garlic for a few years longer. 

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.