Donald Trump’s whisperers are saying he may soon announce his plans to run for President in 2024, and Democrats are keeping their fingers crossed that he does. Since his surprising victory in 2016, Mr. Trump has been the main cause of Democratic electoral success.
All the usual signs say this should be an excellent election year for Republicans, perhaps an historic one. Inflation is 8.6 percent, gasoline is $4.50 a gallon, mothers can’t get baby formula, crime is rising, 401(k) values are falling, and rogue nations are on the march around the world.
The polls show some 75 percent of the public thinks the country is moving in the wrong direction. President Biden’s job approval rating is under 38 percent in the Real Clear Politics composite index, and 33 percent in the latest Siena/New York Times survey. That’s Mariana Trench depth for presidents, and it typically signals a midterm rout for the party in power.
This all means that if the record of Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress is the dominant issue in November, the GOP should regain control of the House and Senate. To put it more starkly, less than four months before Election Day it would take surprising events or political malpractice for the GOP to lose.
Enter Mr. Trump, who may announce his presidential candidacy before the midterms, which we can’t recall a major candidate doing. The former President’s advisers say he may do this so soon because he doesn’t like the attention other potential candidates are getting.
That’s especially true of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who seems poised to win his re-election campaign by “a lot,” as Mr. Trump might say. Mr. Trump would like to pre-empt the field, freeze GOP donors, and show his dominance over the GOP in 2022 with an eye on 2024.
That would thrill Democrats, who are eager to change the subject from inflation and the Biden record. They timed their Jan. 6 committee hearings for mid-2022 to remind everyone about Mr. Trump’s behavior and wrap him around GOP candidates.
That won’t matter in safe GOP districts, but it could work in the swing House districts and states where Democrats won their majority in 2018 as suburban voters wanted a check on Mr. Trump’s chaotic governance. If the main issue in November is GOP fealty to Mr. Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen, Democrats might have a chance to hold Congress. Republicans would have to play defense rather than focus on the Biden-Nancy Pelosi-Chuck Schumer record.
This is what cost the GOP the two Georgia Senate seats in January 2021 as Mr. Trump dampened GOP turnout by telling voters the presidential race was stolen. The two incumbent GOP Senators should have been making the case to check Mr. Biden and the left. Mr. Trump is in danger of repeating the Georgia mistake by focusing almost entirely on the last election rather than this one.
Mr. Trump’s meddling in primaries has already hurt GOP chances of taking back the Senate. His vendetta against Doug Ducey kept the Arizona Governor from running for the Senate, though Mr. Ducey would have been the strongest candidate against Sen. Mark Kelly.
Mr. Trump’s preferred candidates in key states are struggling or close in the polls despite the favorable GOP trends. Mehmet Oz is trailing left-wing Democrat John Fetterman in Pennsylvania. Herschel Walker is a rookie candidate showing his inexperience in Georgia. and Rep. Ted Budd is barely ahead in North Carolina. As in 2010, Democrats could prevail against a slate of weak GOP candidates.
It’s possible that voter unhappiness with the Democrats may be so strong that it swamps any concern with Mr. Trump, who after all will not be on the ballot. Glenn Youngkin was able to win the statehouse in Virginia in part because Mr. Trump largely stayed out of the race.
But that was a rare exception, and Mr. Trump typically can’t help himself. He wants to be the center of attention all the time, and the media are all too happy to oblige. All the more now when his preoccupation is overcoming the stigma of his defeat in 2020 by sticking to his stolen-election line. If Republicans fall short of the gains they expect in Congress, he’ll blame them. If they do well, he’ll claim credit.
Which brings us back to the Siena/New York Times poll. For all of its bad news for Mr. Biden, he still beats Mr. Trump 44%-41 percent in a theoretical 2024 presidential rematch. What does it say that Joe Biden, the least popular President in modern times, still beats Donald Trump?
– The Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2022
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