The question is: will this supercharge Republicans before the midterms or send them totally off the rails?
At this point, the persistent question of “will Donald Trump run for president in 2024?” has essentially boiled down from a matter of “if” (was it ever?) to a waiting game of “when.” As Trump himself put it in an interview published Thursday with New York magazine: “In my own mind, I’ve already made that decision.” Adding, “Do I go before or after [the midterms]? That will be my big decision.”
But despite his theatrical hedging, he may have already made his choice on that front, as well.
According to several unnamed “Trump Advisors” who spoke with the Washington Post this week, the former president is looking to announce his next campaign for the White House in September, just in time to play a major — if unpredictable — role in the upcoming midterms some two months later. While nothing is set in stone, one advisor put it at “70-30 he announces” before November, while another noted that “you can only hold him off so long. One day he’ll wake up and say, ‘Put it out.’”
Some Republicans, however, worry that by launching his bid for the presidency in September, Trump could play accidental spoiler for his own party’s odds at retaking one, or both chambers of congress, as they’re widely expected to do. While a Trump campaign would certainly galvanize his core base of supporters, it would also potentially have a similar effect among Democrats already seeking — and in some cases succeeding — to regain the offensive after a series of Republican victories expanding gun rights, and restricting reproductive healthcare access. A Trump announcement ahead of the midterms also risks sucking the oxygen away from down-ticket candidates, and diverting their much needed fundraising avenues. Furthermore, with Trump vaulting himself back into the political center ring, his spotlight only serves to intensify the scrutiny on his handpicked candidates for Senate in Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — all of whom are political neophiles with enormous electoral liabilities like “overt racism” and “being totally nuts.” Similarly, if conversely, having Trump in the race only reminds voters that while Trumpism may be the dominant strain of conservative politics in the United States, he, himself, is waning in influence in the face of smarter, more competent (but no less abhorrent) up and comers like Ron DeSantis.
As one Biden pollster succinctly put it to the Post, a pre-midterm announcement from Trump would make the next few months all about him, to the potential detriment of the rest of the GOP: “The Jan. 6 hearings have disturbed America. It is real we see movement in these numbers,” Anzalone Liszt Research, Inc president John Anzalone explained. “If Donald Trump gets in before the midterms, every Republican congressman and candidate is going to have to answer these questions.”
Not that Trump himself would likely care, so long as he’s the center of attention one way or another — all while maximizing his fundraising capacity as early as possible, to capitalize on what would be, win or lose, a two year campaign/personal enrichment enterprise. After all, for Trump — a guy who never really wanted to be president in the first place — it’s not the destination, but the journey (read: rallies where people cheer his name and give him oodles of money) that matters. And whether it happens in September or at another date, the sooner he can get back to milking that particular cash cow, the happier he’ll be.