For an alternate viewpoint, see “Point: Republicans Falling into the Same 2016 Trump Trap.”
Those afraid that the 2024 GOP presidential contest will become a repeat of 2016 need not worry. The race is radically different this year; it will not play out the same.
First, former president Donald Trump is greatly diminished compared to 2015, when he first glided down his escalator in front of all those paid “volunteers.”
Second, the rest of next year’s budding GOP candidates are well-acquainted with the former president’s playbook and will know how to fight him.
Third, the “unstoppable” sheen that Trump once had has vanished after losses in every major election from 2018 onward. He must now labor under the worst label any politician can have: Loser.
Instead of a repeat of 2016, 2024 looks more like a continuation of what we saw in 2020: Trump cannot compete anywhere new, and he cannot put any new voters or states in play. In short, he’s playing a losing game of being able to attract only voters who had previously supported him.
While he can still persuade many GOP donors to send their hard-earned dollars to his campaign, his political message now falters more than it inspires. Plus, the party has produced a few non-Trump grievance candidates, so voters still attracted to that style of messaging now have options they didn’t have in 2016.
More GOP primary voters will cast strategic votes in the 2024 primary because they know we need a stronger general election candidate than Trump. And now the balance of the Republican field can’t be snuck up on, as so many of them were back in 2016.
Trump is a one-trick pony. His trick is a good one, but, simply put, his opponents know what’s coming.
(A word of advice to them: Don’t go easy on Trump out of fear that his voters won’t return to you in the fall. None of them will ultimately vote for Biden.)
Finally, Trump’s opponents know the American people have rejected him, not once but three times: In 2018, when the GOP lost the House; in 2020, when it lost the presidency and the Senate twice (on election night and again on runoff day in Georgia); and once again last year. Trump’s invincibility cloak is tattered, torn and useless.
This is driving the entry of so many new candidates and so much new funding.
And don’t forget the myriad legal issues Trump faces in multiple jurisdictions from local, state and federal prosecutors. Unlike the civil trial he legally skipped recently in New York, he would need to actually attend any criminal trial, say in Fulton County, Georgia, or in federal court. Besides sapping his time, this would forcefully reiterate to the country in general, and to Republican primary voters in particular, that Trump is damaged goods, on the decline and — most important — the only GOP nominee who could lose to President Biden.
In 2016, Trump barely beat Hillary Clinton, the most compromised Democratic nominee in modern history. In 2020 he lost decisively to the second most compromised Democrat nominee. Let’s hope the other candidates in the Republican field act accordingly and that GOP voters realize our 2024 nomination needs to be stronger and more decisive.