July 13, 2022

Trump, the Midterms, and the Future

The incompetence of the Democrats bodes well for the Republican electoral future, but some big questions are looming.

There are still 118 days between now and the November 8 midterms, and a near-eternity of 846 days until the next presidential election on November 5, 2024, but it’s never too early to begin pondering the plans of Donald Trump.

Will he run again in 2024? If so, when will he announce his intentions? And what about the rest of the Republican field? Everyone with presidential aspirations would seem to be licking their chops at the opportunity of taking on a historically unpopular Joe Biden, or his even-more-unpopular vice president, Kamala Harris, or some as-yet-unnamed Democrat who’ll attempt to shove them both off the stage while trying to defend and promote the policies that got us into this colossal mess. Talk about a heavy lift.

“Donald Trump’s whisperers,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, “are saying he may soon announce his plans to run for President in 2024, and Democrats are keeping their fingers crossed that he does. Since his surprising victory in 2016, Mr. Trump has been the main cause of Democratic electoral success.”

What electoral success might that be, we wonder? The narrowest, most unworkable congressional margins in decades? The deeply controversial election of the most cognitively challenged president since a stroke-addled Woodrow Wilson more than a century ago? The destruction of a political brand that’s now only slightly more popular than root-canal surgery?

Some success that. And then there’s Trump himself, whose four tumultuous years in office reflect inarguably smart and successful conservative ideas from growing the economy to closing the border to taking on China to keeping the peace. Oh, and earning 13 million more votes than any Republican presidential candidate in history.

But the Journal’s editors, who’d clearly like to see someone else take up the Republican mantle in 2024, do make a good point about a premature presidential announcement:

[If] the record of Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress is the dominant issue in November, the GOP should regain control of the House and Senate. To put it more starkly, less than four months before Election Day it would take surprising events or political malpractice for the GOP to lose.

Enter Mr. Trump, who may announce his presidential candidacy before the midterms, which we can’t recall a major candidate doing. The former President’s advisers say he may do this so soon because he doesn’t like the attention other potential candidates are getting. … That would thrill Democrats, who are eager to change the subject from inflation and the Biden record. They timed their Jan. 6 committee hearings for mid-2022 to remind everyone about Mr. Trump’s behavior and wrap him around GOP candidates.

Indeed, both Trump and the Dems want him to play an active role: Trump because he thinks he was cheated out of his second term, and the Democrats because they think a Trump-led GOP is their best chance for minimizing the midterm damage and, looking ahead, their best chance of keeping the White House in 2024.

Again, it’s a great point to make. Trump energizes the Republican base like no one else, perhaps ever, but he also energizes the hell out of Democrats.

Trump, though, also knows political talent when he sees it. His endorsements have been highly successful this primary season, even when we factor in an occasional dud like Senate candidate Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, or the ill-advised endorsement of former Senator David Perdue over current Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.

But more than that, Trump also sees tons of political talent in first-term Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, which is why he floated the idea of a Trump-DeSantis ticket in 2024. The politically savvy Trump no doubt sees a potential threat from the popular governor, knows Florida is essential to Republican electoral success, knows DeSantis is the youngest governor in the union, and knows that such a peace treaty could stave off a very bloody and damaging civil war if they have to go hard at each other in a presidential primary fight.

“Well, I get along with him,” Trump said of DeSantis recently when asked about the possibility of teaming up. “I was very responsible for his success because I endorsed him and he went up like a rocket ship.”

Earlier this year, National Review’s Rich Lowry noted in DeSantis and the Republican Party generally “a new combativeness that is clearly a reflection of how Trump underlined the power of cultural issues and changed the rules around how you deal with controversy — by doubling down and hitting back harder.”

We welcome this development, because the times call for it. Thanks to Trump, the Republicans now know how to counterpunch — both against their Democrat opponents and against a woefully corrupt mainstream media. Many Republicans lament Trump’s abrasiveness and his mercurial nature, but today’s hyper-politicized America calls for a fighter. We wish it weren’t so, but it is. And fighters tend to have mean streaks.

No one else could have done what Donald Trump did in 2016. No one else could have taken on the establishment of his own party and the opposition party, and had the mainstream media fully arrayed against him, along with Hollywood and the foundations and corporate America and every other institution in the country except for the military and the NRA, and still won the presidency. No one else could have done it. Trump is a singular if polarizing political talent. As Scott Adams, the Dilbert guy, once observed, he has “weapons grade” communications skills.

There are pros and cons to a second term for Donald Trump, which columnist Kurt Schlichter has laid out here and here. But in any case, Trump’s preemptive outreach to DeSantis was brilliant. It shows he’s willing to make peace with a strong challenger rather than go scorched earth and damage the whole party.

The Democrats would love nothing more than a civil war, and Republicans should do everything possible not to give it to them. Things are setting up well for the Republicans — so long as they don’t shoot themselves in the foot.

UPDATED: One additional consideration: While Donald Trump has hinted all along that he’s likely to run again in 2024, Ron DeSantis has steadfastly focused on serving the citizens of Florida. As the youngest of our nation’s 50 governors, DeSantis has an enviable window of opportunity to the White House. Thus, he might instead seek a resounding re-election this fall, finish up a strong second term, and position himself for a 2028 presidential run, free of the battle scars that would invariably accompany a 2024 partnership with Donald Trump.

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