Albany Times Union

Yes, Donald Trump will run in 2024

- By Paul Waldman Paul Waldman writes for The Washington Post.

Like a horror movie villain, Donald Trump threatens to rise again after we thought he was slain. And while the prospect of him becoming president in 2025 is horrifying enough, even another campaign that ends with him losing would be a catastroph­e for the country.

So brace yourself: While until now it seemed Trump wanted to keep the idea of a 2024 run alive just for attention, the chances that he’ll go through with it are growing fast.

We should be very afraid.

There are certainly reasons Trump might decline to run. He’ll be 78 years old in 2024, and running for president is a lot of work. He’s busy with legal troubles and the decline of his business. Another loss would indelibly mark him as the biggest loser in the histolittl­e ry of American politics, and he has spent a lifetime trying to convince everyone he’s not a loser.

But if he started with those thoughts in his head, things may have changed. Let's consider how it now looks from Trump’s perspectiv­e:

Republican­s are rallying around his potential candidacy, even if they privately think it’s a bad idea. When Trump took hold of the 2016 primaries, his party went through a period of public breast-beating, with many Republican­s proclaimin­g he should not be their leader. Nothing like that will happen next time.

The Hill recently reported that “Senate Republican­s, with a few exceptions, are hoping that former President Trump does not announce his intention to run again for president.” But not a single one would go on record saying so. Instead, as CNN reports, elected Republican­s “are expressing to no reservatio­ns about the prospect of Trump topping the ticket again.”

Even if Republican voters harbor doubts — a recent Pew Research Center poll found that only 44% of them want Trump to run again — just about every GOP politician will either dodge the question or endorse the idea of him running.

That creates its own snowball effect: The more Republican­s show they won’t stand in his way, the more others will fear stepping out of line, and the more Trump will be convinced he’ll have the whole party behind him if he runs. Which he will.

He’d have no primary opposition. A dozen Republican­s may run for president in 2024 if Trump doesn't, including senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Marco Rubio of Florida; governors such as Ron Desantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of

Texas, and Kristi Noem of South Dakota; and former Trump officials Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley. But every one of them knows they wouldn’t stand a chance with him in the race.

President Joe Biden will almost inevitably look beatable. While most presidents win re-election unless they’re undone by something dramatic like a recession, in our polarized age incumbents will usually appear vulnerable. Even though they went on to win fairly easily, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all had lackluster approval ratings in the beginning of their reelection years. No matter how well things go for Biden, his ratings will probably never get much higher than 50%, if that. And if Democrats lose Congress in the 2022 midterms, Trump will look at him and see weakness.

Trump thinks he can steal the election. This is the most disturbing factor of all, because he could be right. Trump's efforts to steal the election in 2020 were mostly improvisat­ional and ad hoc. That will not be the case in 2024.

Across the country, Republican­s are pushing out profession­al election administra­tors and replacing them with Trumpist conspiracy theorists who say the 2020 election was stolen. Trump loyalists who propagate the Big Lie are running for secretary of state so they can control the voting system. “We're trying to get America First secretarie­s of state elected throughout the country,” declares a Nevada candidate who says he was recruited by the Trump operation to run for that office.

These are true believers, people who are convinced that if Democrats win an election it’s proof that it was illegitima­te and the results must be changed — and they could have the power to make it happen.

Congress could take steps to make it harder for Trump loyalists to steal the election by passing election reform and a revised Electoral Count Act, which sets the process Trump tried to subvert on Jan. 6. But they’d have to set aside the filibuster to do it, which doesn't look like it will happen.

Put this all together, and when Trump looks out from Mar-a-lago, here's what he'll see: No Republican of any importance will stand against him. He can ride to the nomination without even trying. Biden will be vulnerable. Even if he loses, his people are ready and willing to help him steal the election. He’ll have his revenge, and everyone will know he’s a winner again.

It's a combinatio­n Trump may find impossible to resist. And this time, it really could mean the end of American democracy.

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