What Now? MAGA Now -- With a Leader Who Is Bold but Not Vulnerable to Easy Caricature

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Will Donald Trump want to run again in 2024?  Possible.  But I suspect any suggestion to that effect from him will trigger a wave of investigations of him personally, his family, and his business in such a way that it would be impossible for him to mount any kind of meaningful campaign. The press would line up against him with every conceivable outrageous story from the moment he hinted at an intention to run.

He may do so nonetheless because unpredictability is his stock-in-trade.

But, with the most recent information about the Biden family issues, Pres. Trump might, in fact, be shielded from meaningful scrutiny by a Biden Administration out of fear of the Democrats that once Joe Biden is out of the White House in 2024 if Pres. Trump was to be returned, the “payback” for having targeted Pres. Trump and his family — again — would likely be “biblical” in nature.  There would be no re-election concerns to worry about, and the House will almost certainly be in GOP hands so impeachment would not be a concern.

However remote that prospect may be in the minds of the Democrats over the next four years, there are certainly cooler heads in the Democrat party leadership who understand the possible consequences — however remote — that would befall them all in 2024 if a Biden DOJ aggressively pursued Pres. Trump and his family with criminal investigation from 2021 to 2024.

But let’s set aside for the moment the possibility Pres. Trump might once again declare himself a candidate for President, and take a look at what 2021-2023 might look like before the GOP primary season starts to get underway in the spring and summer of 2023.

Donald Trump is likely in a position to play “King-Maker.”   He can do great damage on Twitter to anyone who seeks to enter the GOP Primary because there is a diverse MAGA constituency who were drawn to him by virtue of his outsider status, and have remained loyal to him to this day.  That group is not strictly GOP, but it will be needed by any GOP candidate who wants to win the GOP nomination.

Given his public persona over the last 35 years, I think there is a less than zero chance that he will follow the example of former Pres. Bush, and retire to Mar-A-Lago for post-Presidential rest and retirement out of the spotlight.  He certainly has scores to settle, and he’s publicly stated his intention to work against the re-election of one or more GOP Senators who he believes failed to support his efforts.  That will likely be his focus over the next 18-24 months.

I’m certain he’ll have no problem determining from Mar-A-Lago who did not make an active show of support during the election season, or during the post-Nov. 3 struggle to find a path to a second term.  Those are the “markers” by which Pres. Trump keeps score, and the Republicans in Congress know it.

NeverTrumpers and the Trump agnostics — particularly those in the Senate — have no path to the GOP nomination in 2024.  NeverTrumpers don’t even have a party.  To the extent there is a pre-Trump GOP establishment still remaining, it will be excommunicated as soon as it tries to assert itself as a “voice” within the national party.  The Trump agnostics — and I regret to include some like John Cornyn and Rob Portman in the group — will be tolerated because they can hold their Senate seats and vote for a GOP Senate majority leader. But I think their days of being influential on a national basis are behind them.

There are several Trump supporters among GOP Senators and Governors, but in my opinion, the one national GOP figure who did the most for himself over the past four years given where he started, and where he finds himself today, is also the smartest and most politically savvy GOP figure — Ted Cruz.

Cruz was the candidate of the Evangelical Conservatives going into the 2016 GOP primary contests.  As it turned out, that is an important constituency in the GOP, but it is not enough to base a winning campaign on. Cruz managed to get outflanked by Pres. Trump on his left and right in the early primaries — which is no small thing to have had happen.  Much of the GOP primary field consisted of tired retreads who were never going to inspire the GOP electorate desperate for Republicans to make good on the promises made by GOP politicians for 28 years. As much as opposing the modern Democrat Party of Barack Obama, the GOP electorate of 2016 wanted a candidate who would “break some dishes” in the GOP Establishment “China Shop”.  Pres. Trump promised them that, and he delivered — creating more than just a little unhappiness among that same Establishment.

Ted Cruz has internalized the dynamic of the MAGA coalition that Pres. Trump CREATED. It is a new GOP, and it has the potential to be an expanding GOP.  While Ted Cruz has no shortage of vehement detractors in the media and the Democrat Party, he isn’t close to being the polarizing figure that Pres. Trump was from the day he announced his Presidency.  For more than three decades, Donald Trump has been a “love him or hate him” figure in the media and politics.  He’s long been derided for not being very smart — which is comical coming from critics after he managed to destroy the best and brightest (supposedly) from both sides of the aisle in 2016. And among his biggest faults is a willingness to speak off-the-cuff on issues that have multiple potential downsides, allowing the media to focus on one specific downside and ignore the substance of his comments.

I think we’ll see in the next 2-3 years that Ted Cruz will follow the script of issues laid out by the Trump Presidency.  He’ll follow the template that has animated the MAGA base to get behind Pres. Trump with such fierceness and loyalty. He’ll do so in a way that does not allow the media to caricature him.

But more than that, I think we’ll begin to see examples of just how much smarter and faster on his feet Ted Cruz is than any media or Democrat opponent who wants to challenge him in a battle of ideas.

Ted Cruz was my preferred candidate in the 2016 primary season.  But I’m convinced that Ted Cruz in 2024 — if Pres. Trump doesn’t run and throws his support behind a Cruz candidacy — will be a far superior candidate than he was in 2016. Cruz will prove to be that ultimate wrecking ball to the modern Democrat socialist coalition that the Sanders’ wing of the party is trying to construct.