If there’s one thing Donald Trump hates, it’s not being the center of attention. And what better way to put the focus back on him than to repeat the formula that worked so well in 2015: run for president.
According to multiple reports, Trump is considering announcing his campaign for re-election fairly soon. The New York Times has placed the odds as soon as this month, while the Washington Post puts the announcement in September. Because Trump has zero impulse control, the timing is anyone’s guess. While he is banned from Twitter, he can always take to his own (failing) social platform and blast out an announcement on a whim without even telling any of his aides.
While Trump’s monumental ego is always a prime motivating factor for his decisions, there are a few others that play into his apparent decision to run for president again. One is to regain the grip that he’s had on the GOP. Over the past several months, Trump’s control over the party has been slipping. Polls have indicated that as much as Republicans love him, they’d also prefer for him not to run again.
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Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is clearly positioning himself as the 2024 alternative to Trump, with all the authoritarian impulses but without the baggage. Indeed, Trump’s fundraising actually trailed DeSantis’ in the first half of this year, an ominous sign for the money-grubbing ex-president. Just to make it clear who’s the boss, DeSantis made a point of refusing to ask Trump for his endorsement for re-election as governor this year–a slap in the face, since Trump’s endorsement four years ago put DeSantis over the top.
At the same time as DeSantis is making inroads with the GOP faithful, Fox News is tilting its coverage away from Trump. After serving as the propaganda organ for Trump for years, Fox’s daytime on-air talent has been suggesting it’s time to move on from Trump. (The primetime lineup, led by Tucker Carlson, hasn’t changed its tune.)
If Trump does announce his candidacy, that will force the party to reckon with the forces that Trump can unleash. The party’s response in the past has been to cower and concede. DeSantis isn’t one to cower, but at age 43, he’s young enough to wait another cycle if he thinks taking on Trump is a losing battle.
The other reason why Trump would want to run again is a legal one. He’s in significant legal jeopardy for his interference with the 2020 election and his efforts to overturn the results. Trump must think that he can seize the narrative on the campaign trail and make the legal case against him look like a political vendetta, at least to his followers.
The biggest drawback to an early announcement is the other factor that usually drives Trump: money. Right now, Trump can rake money in and not have to worry about the restrictions that apply to a declared candidate.
Of course, if Trump were to make his announcement prior to the midterms, it would be a huge gift to the Democrats. Suddenly, the election would be a referendum on Trump, not on Biden. Nothing would drive Democratic turnout than to make Trump the opponent and to tie every Republican on the ballot to him.
It’s exactly that scenario that drives Republicans to despair.
“Of all the selfish things he does every minute of every day, it would probably be the most,” a Republican strategist told the Post. “Everything we are doing that is not talking about the economy is going to be a disaster.”
Trump’s candidacy would also be a reminder that the GOP is the party of insurrection and authoritarianism. Republicans have never come to terms with Trump’s attack on democracy, preferring to simply move on as if it never happened. His candidacy would be an unpleasant reminder that the ugliness that Trump brought to the country is still part and parcel of the party, no matter how much Republicans would like to pretend otherwise.