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June 15, 2021

Byron York: Dealing with Trump

Recently, former President Donald Trump and people around him have been dropping more and more hints that he will run for president in 2024.

“I look forward to doing an announcement at the right time,” Trump told conservative talk show host Candace Owens. “As you know, it’s very early. But I think people are going to be very, very happy when I make a certain announcement.” Trump added that “for campaign finance reasons” he cannot make an announcement now. “Otherwise, I think I’d give you an answer that you’d be very happy with,” Trump continued. “So we’re looking at that very, very seriously. All I’d say is: Stay tuned.”

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows offered more details in a recent interview with Fox Business. Asked specifically whether, if Trump decides to run for president, he would announce before the 2022 midterms, Meadows said, “If I had to lay a wager on whether he announces for president before 2022, I would place money on that bet,” Meadows said. “And I can tell you based on my conversations with him, he would be an overwhelming success to make sure that he cleared the field where there would be no legitimate primary.”

Finally, Axios reported that “sources who’ve spoken to the former president in recent weeks say he’s missing being at the center of the political universe and may not be able to resist running again.”

One thing is certain: TrumpWorld is hitting on all cylinders when it comes to teasing a 2024 run. But stay skeptical. The former president is a showman from way back, and just because he is working hard to keep interest in his political plans high does not mean that he will actually pull the trigger and run for the White House again.

For one thing, Trump will be 78 years old in 2024. If you think Joe Biden, who is 78 now, is too old to begin a presidential term that will not end until he is 82 — then the same will apply to Trump.

For another thing, there is a robust field of Republicans preparing to run. Ron DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Kristi Noem and several other possible candidates — put them together and that is a strong group of contenders, all of whom will run on some theme of incorporating Trump’s achievements into a new kind of Republican platform.

Meadows’ remark that Trump will “make sure that he cleared the field” to prevent any sort of “legitimate primary” indicates that Trump believes he has to scare all those candidates out of running. But not all will be easily scared. Many will suspect Trump is bluffing to keep interest in himself — and donations to his political organization — sky-high. They’ll want to be in a strong position when Trump finally has to concede he’s not running.

Finally — and most important — there are the voters. It’s guaranteed that Trump will lead all polls of the GOP field. He’s the most famous Republican on the planet. But the Republican Party will be divided between those voters who will support Trump under absolutely any circumstances and those voters who appreciate Trump’s accomplishments in office and the changes he brought to the GOP, but at the same time believe it is time for something new. (The NeverTrump faction inside the GOP will, as usual, attract an inordinate share of media attention but remain tiny.)

Time moves on. By and large, voters don’t want to return to a candidate who lost the election the last time. Indeed, that is one of the reasons Trump continues to push the notion that he did not lose the election — because why should the party re-nominate a candidate who lost? But with the Biden administration in office, the political ground has already shifted. Republican leaders are pouring their energy into opposing the Democratic president. They’ll focus their attention on midterm elections in 2022 and then choosing a new presidential nominee in 2024. That’s how the system works.

Former President Trump, out of office, is likely to remain influential, but also likely to stay on the sidelines. There are some political realities that even Donald Trump can’t change.

This content originally appeared on the Washington Examiner at washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/byron-yorks-daily-memo-dealing-with-trump.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

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