On Nov 15, former president Donald Trump officially announced that he will be running for president in the 2024 election. The news came as a shock to many who assumed that the rumors were just speculation, but Trump had been dropping hints up to the day of the announcement.
Three weeks ago, during a rally in Iowa, Trump said that “In order to make our country successful and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again, OK,” referring to his previously successful run in 2016. One month earlier he said something similar, that he “will probably have to do it again.” One Trump’s senior advisers anonymously said that “I think like a moth to a flame, Trump will run in 2024. I think that he wants to run and announcing before Thanksgiving gives him a great advantage over his opponents and he understands that.”
Despite all the confidence and grandiosity characteristic of Trump, he clearly has a difficult path ahead of him if he intends to run and win the election. Perhaps most importantly, Trump is no longer a political blank slate. Whereas voters could, in 2016, project their hopes for future change onto the clearly change-focused Donald Trump, he now has four years of a presidency under his belt. There are concrete policies that he supported or struck down, making him a less chameleonic and more tangible figure. For a candidate whose platform is based around change and unpredictability, this could be a drawback for him.
Another problem facing Trump is his association with the January 6th Capitol Hill riots. Contrary to popular belief, Trump never explicitly told his supporters to storm the Capitol building. His biggest faux pas was the constant reiteration and belief in election denial, the idea that the Democrats stole the 2020 election from him. While there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, this was enough to cause his supporters to believe that democracy had died in the United States, leaving violent uprising as their only option. This of course wasn’t helped by Trump’s explicit organization of a protest in order to, as he said, “peacefully and patriotically” make their voices heard. With that many angry people in the same area it’s no wonder violence broke out.
All of this may be forgiven, however. Joe Biden’s approval rating has been steadily declining over the course of his presidency, starting at 57% and slowly trickling down to the current 37% approval. This is just barely higher than Trump’s record low of 34% immediately after January 6th, which not only opens the way for Republicans but Democratic challengers as well. If Trump and Biden were to face off again the results may be different. However, the Republican party is not without suitable presidential candidates. One of the biggest names in recent months has been Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida. He has shown himself able to handle crises such as Hurricane Ian. He also represents the same grassroots, populist ideals that Trump supporters have expressed. The Martha’s Vineyard fiasco also was able to make him a household political figure, adding to his own personal marketing, as well as showing off his “lib-dunking” prowess to conservatives nation-wide. If Trump wants a real shot at winning the presidency, he would need to find a way to beat DeSantis first.
All that said, a second Trump presidency a la Grover Cleveland is by no means impossible. He has already made a clever strategic move by announcing his run this early. He is the first major candidate to announce his intentions and therefore has 100% of the media coverage about said candidates. While Trump has never been starved for media attention, it was a factor in his victory the last time, so more time in the minds of the American people couldn’t hurt.
Additionally, Trump has always pushed for policies favored by conservatives. While Democrats loathe both the person and the policy, Republicans tend to favor the actual policies he pushed. Up until the pandemic, Trump presided over nearly uninterrupted economic growth, which is a big deal for most conservatives. In addition, Trump had the opportunity to appoint three justices to the Supreme Court, a major factor in overturning Roe v. Wade and fulfilling a longtime Republican goal. Since these policy positions are likely to remain unchanged in such a short time, it’s probable that the ones who voted for those reasons would still vote that way.
In the end, Trump is a notoriously surprising man. His first 2016 campaign announcement was surprising, his nomination was surprising, and his election was more than surprising. Trying to predict what will happen in the coming years would be a fool’s errand for even the most informed political commentators. The only thing we can do is sit back and wait for the results.