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Why Are Republicans Split on Trump Running in 2024?

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

A new survey shows that Republican and conservatives voters have mixed attitudes about former President Donald Trump possibly running for office again in 2024. There appears to be a rift between people on the right, who overwhelmingly approve of Trump continuing to be the leader of the party when it concerns presidential aspirations in the next few years.

The CNN poll found that “Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say, 63% to 37%, that Trump should be the leader of the Republican Party.”

However, the survey also found that conservatives are “about evenly split over whether having the defeated former President back on the ticket in 2024 would be an advantage.”

About 51% of respondents said the GOP would have a better chance of winning the 2024 presidential election if Trump is the nominee, while 49% said the party would do better with a different candidate. The survey showed:

A 72% majority of conservatives say Trump should head the party, compared to 49% among the smaller bloc of moderates in the party. And 71% of self-identified Republicans want Trump to lead the party, compared with 51% of Republican-leaning independents who say the same.

First, it is important to acknowledge that this is a CNN poll, so a pinch of salt would be appropriate here. However, there are indications that the findings are not inaccurate. Remember the straw poll taken at the Western Conservative Summit showed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis slightly edging out Trump among participants indicating which candidate they would like to be nominated?

There does seem to be a split in how conservatives and Republicans are viewing the upcoming presidential election. On the one hand, some are excited at the prospect of seeing Trump make a return to the Oval Office. This is especially true of those who believe the 2020 election was stolen.

Those who favor another Trump run seem to believe he can replicate the success he had in 2016 – especially considering how poorly the Democrats are governing at the moment. Even though the former president will be 78 years old, they believe he will still have the alacrity that our current president seems to lack.

Conversely, I’ve seen many on the right express appreciation for Trump but feel that it is time for someone else to bear the conservative banner. They believe the former president should still be an influential force on the right, but would lead better from outside the White House. It is one of the reasons why Gov. DeSantis has gotten so much traction.

Even though the governor has insisted that he is not seeking higher office (yeah, right), people on the right see him as someone who could handily defeat the Democrats’ candidate in 2024. Indeed, some have referred to him as Trump 2.0, someone who has all of Trump’s strengths without his weaknesses. His pugilistic attitude towards the media and his refusal to bow to the will of the left has endeared him to the conservative base more than anyone except the former president.

If Trump decides not to run, DeSantis will be the frontrunner. But it is also worth noting that even if Trump were to take another swing at the presidency, there is a decent chance he would select DeSantis as his running mate.

Of these two scenarios, if I had to pick one, I’d side with the 49% who would like to see someone else seek the presidency. This is not because I think Trump couldn’t win – but I think the Republican Party is more likely to win a decisive victory, if they run a Trump-like candidate without the baggage that the former president has.

If Trump were to run in 2024, it could ignite the “Orange Man Bad” base to turn out in full force to vote against him. It is possible that the Democrats may not have fouled things up enough by then that those who supported Biden wouldn’t be willing to just let Trump win again. These are people who were voting against Trump more than they were voting for Biden.

However, if Republicans run someone who promotes the America First agenda and is willing to take the fight to the left without carrying Trump’s foibles, they will not energize the folks whose politics are entirely based on hating the former president. We could have someone who knows how to navigate politics without alienating certain blocs of voters.

In this scenario, Trump would not fade into the background. In fact, we all know he isn’t capable of such a thing. He would still be a powerful influencer on the right. He could still be a kingmaker and standard-bearer for the conservative movement. This would in no way diminish his prevalence. Strategically, it just makes sense.

Trump has not yet indicated whether he has decided to run again. But it’s only a matter of time before we know what the landscape will look like in the Republican Party going forward.