Why Trump could lose the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, even as his legal troubles energize his base

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hilton Anatole on August 6, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.Brandon Bell/Getty Images

  • Former President Donald Trump continues to tease another White House race.

  • Most Republicans believe he will win the nomination if he wants to.

  • But some scenarios and arguments from GOP opponents could turn that around.

Former President Donald Trump is facing major legal and political problems, from scrutiny of his activities during the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6, 2021, to a Justice Department investigation into whether he improperly moved classified materials to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

But ask most Republican insiders, and they’ll tell you they think Trump would easily win the GOP nomination if he were to run again in 2024. Many of the scandals, they argue, make Trump even stronger given how Republicans are scrambling to defend him.

But what if the conventional wisdom about Trump 2024 is wrong? Can Republican opponents make any compelling arguments or tactical moves to chip away at Trump’s fervent support?

That’s the question Insider asked GOP officials, given the growing list of potential Republican candidates who could challenge Trump in 2024, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis.

Other possibilities for the ticket include former Vice President Mike Pence, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas , former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — though it’s unclear if she would be an independent.

Here’s what six operatives had to say about how to beat Trump in a primary.

Mentioning how Trump could only serve one term

Trump has been president once before. That means he only has four more years in the Oval Office if he wins another term. Because presidents historically tend to lose their party’s majority in Congress after two years in office, Trump could likely pass most of his agenda in just his first two years.

Other Republican candidates will run for president with the ability to serve two terms. Republican opponents could regularly use this fact to oppose Trump. It would be a way to differentiate themselves without criticizing Trump’s policies or criticizing him personally.

“At the end of the day people are going to look through the lens of electability,” said Sam Nunberg, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. “Ultimately, he can only serve one term. That’s one reason some voters might be leery of voting for him. He’s lame until June 2025.”

Underscoring Trump’s penchant for drama

Some Republican insiders believe there might be a lane for someone who could appeal to Trump’s base, but without his political and legal baggage.

“They’re tired of the drama all the time,” said a GOP operative working for a potential 2024 candidate.

Trump fatigue began to show in focus groups after the Jan. 6 House hearings, said Gunner Ramer, political director for the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project.

“As these groups worry about electability and finding a Republican to win in 2024, they’ve started looking around for other candidates who don’t have the baggage that Trump has,” Ramer said.

The strategy would be similar to the playbook President Joe Biden used when he ran in 2020, when he presented that he had the necessary experience to lead the country. The argument was persuasive to voters who seemed tired of a news cycle that constantly focused on Trump.

Criticizing Trump’s handling of the pandemic

No Republican should challenge Trump in 2024 other than DeSandis, Nunberg told Insider.

The biggest way DeSantis could distinguish himself, he said, is to show how he ignored the advice of federal health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic to reopen schools and businesses much earlier than other states.

Trump, Nunberg said, was too deferential to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is now Biden’s chief medical adviser. DeSantis regularly criticizes Fauci and has chosen to ignore his advice.

“One handed his presidency to Fauci and the other fought against the entire intelligentsia and was a shining beacon for the country,” Nunberg said. “I think there’s a big policy difference.”

Criticizes Trump’s support for COVID-19 vaccine

Trump supported Operation Warp Speed ​​— a historic government effort that resulted in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in record time.

But when Trump goes to rallies and encourages people to take the shot, his supporters boo him.

Some Republican insiders, such as Nunberg, said Trump’s vaccine push could be a political liability. The data shows that voters in deep red states do not plan to get vaccinated.

There are some signs that staunch vaccine opponents may agree. Earlier this month, Alex Jones, who hosts the InfoWars conspiracy theorist radio show, criticized Trump for supporting the vaccine and praised DeSandis for raising concerns about it.

Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on August 18, 2022.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Using the next few months for a soft campaign

Republicans have until the summer of 2023 to announce their nominations. Those in Congress or in governors’ mansions can work to grab the headlines by introducing legislation and promoting efforts that get passed. These ideas can help create a vision for the GOP’s future.

The strategy could be especially effective for DeSantis. If DeSantis wins re-election in Florida in November, he will have the start of his second term to carve out an agenda for Florida. The legislature, which largely followed the governor’s lead, could then approve many of his ideas.

Already the governor has promised to propose the largest tax cuts in Florida history.

A longtime GOP official close to Trump said that if DeSantis plans to run, he should wait until May or June 2023 to announce.

“If he’s smart, he’s going to use this legislative session as a messaging tool for all the things he wants to accomplish or plan,” the person said.

Arguing that Trump is in the past if Democrats blow out Republicans in 2022 midterms

DeSantis or another Republican could have an opening in 2024 if their party loses heavily in November, particularly if most of the candidates Trump supports lose their races.

Democrats are starting to feel more optimistic about their midterm prospects, even though historically the party that controls the presidency tends to lose seats in Congress.

But Democrats say the candidates Trump supports don’t stand a chance against their own. They also believe voters will be swayed to their side by the abortion issue after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

John Thomas, founder and president of political advertising and strategy group Thomas Partners Strategies, said the midterm elections could shake up the 2024 bid. But he added that he thought it would be best for DeSantis to avoid running in a primary. which had Trump.

In the event of a disastrous midterm for the GOP in November, Thomas’ advice to DeSantis would be this: “He could make an argument saying, ‘Trump is great, he’s the granddaddy of the party, but we need someone who is fighter and winner, and Trump doesn’t have that mojo. We need to take back power, and I am Trump 2.0. I share Trump’s values.”

“He can sideline Trump by basically saying, ‘We’ve got to win and that’s the No. 1 thing here and you’re not going to sacrifice anything on the agenda.’

Knowing the list of alternatives

One of the biggest ways for a Republican to replace Trump at the top of the ticket in 2024 may be for the party to decide it will rally behind one person early on.

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump was able to win the nomination by winning a plurality of votes in state primaries. One of the main undercurrents from Insider’s interviews in recent weeks has been the operatives’ admission that if multiple candidates enter the race in 2024, Trump would again have the ability to split the vote in his favor.

Pointing out that he has already lost

Michael DuHaime, CEO of MAD Global Strategy, who was a strategist for Christie’s 2016 presidential campaign, said the biggest argument is that Trump has lost to Biden in the past.

“We don’t need a guy who’s already lost to Joe Biden to run again,” DuHaime said. “He’s proven he can’t beat Biden. If he wants to soothe his soul by lying to everyone and saying he actually won, he can, but the reality is he lost. Joe Biden is president now. The Republicans have an opportunity to take back the White House. They can’t risk running for someone who has already lost to Biden.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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