Imagine Donald Trump acknowledging that he lost the election and placing a formal concession call to Joe Biden. Now imagine the defeated one-term president spending the next four years preparing to retake his old job back.
Find it hard to believe? Don’t. Because at the same time Trump is denouncing the election results, complaining about the universe conspiring against him and pushing his campaign lawyers to file lawsuits about bogus voting irregularities, the 45th president is also talking about running again in 2024.
If this was another one of those ridiculous stories for the rumour mill, people would have forgotten about it after 24 hours. But more and more news outlets, including Axios, NBC News and the New York Times, are talking to people who think a 2024 Trump campaign is a possibility. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who won his own race for re-election, urged Trump on the Fox News airwaves to keep his political prospects alive. ‘I would encourage him to think about doing it,’ Graham said. ‘Grover Cleveland came back. Donald Trump should think about it if he falls short.’
Right now, Trump is only musing in private about running again. But he is also doing what other presidential hopefuls have done in years past: forming a political action committee to keep his name in the news cycle and ensure he remains the dominant powerbroker in the Republican party going forward. The leadership PAC, which is already accepting donations, is called ‘Save America’ – a slogan one could easily see Trump using in a hypothetical political comeback tour.
A possible 2024 bid would play to Trump’s ego in a number of ways. It would be similar to a retiring athlete keeping the dream of a championship alive. Trump could tap into the power of his name, the 70 million people who voted for him, and his alliances in the conservative media ecosystem to snipe at president Joe Biden. He could continue organising massive, maskless rallies in stadiums across conservative America and use them to continue his baseless rantings about how the election was stolen from him and how the Biden-Harris administration is destroying the 1950’s America of coal mines, car factories, housewives, and white picket fences he holds up as the ideal country. A 2024 presidential campaign would be more about licking his wounds and avenging his loss than about moving America in a more conservative direction.
And, if Trump indeed pulled the trigger, his candidacy would freeze the GOP presidential field. His enormous popularity within today’s Republican party would likely persuade others, including his own vice president, Senate allies, and some of his own cabinet members (Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo) to sit out the 2024 election cycle.
All of this sounds like science-fiction today. But I wouldn’t put another presidential campaign past Donald Trump. It would serve his ego and his sense of self-importance. Whether it would serve the country is another matter entirely.
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