Former President Trump met with a muted response from many Republicans when he launched his 2024 White House bid at Mar-A-Lago this month.
But his campaign is drawing excitement, and even some glee, from Democrats.
Members of President Biden’s party are openly rooting for Trump to be the Republican nominee in 2024, believing him to be just too flawed to win a general election.
They claim that the situation today is markedly different than in 2016, not least because voters now know what they are getting with Trump in office. And Democrats are eager to have such an invincible opponent in an election likely to be challenging for their party.
“I’m hoping for Trump’s nomination because I think he’s the easiest candidate to beat,” former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) told “The Briefing with Steve Scully” on SiriusXM this week.
Dean, a 2004 presidential candidate and subsequent chairman of the Democratic National Committee, noted that he had warned his party in 2016 that Trump could win the presidency.
Now he insisted: “People are tired of this. They’re tired of the inflammatory stuff, they’re tired of the division, they’re tired of the lies. If Trump gets the nomination, I think we have a pretty good chance of turning some more states than we did last time.”
Late. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently told The New York Times that while he believed a Trump candidacy would be “an absolute horror show” for the health of American democracy, it would “probably be a good thing” for those who want the Republicans to lose in 2024.
Democratic strategist Mark Longabaugh told this column that Trump is “infinitely weaker than he was.”
“You can always get burned making some of these predictions, but I just think he seems like a bit of a spent force,” Longabaugh said. “There’s a whole lot of dynamics that are very different from 2016.”
Even some on the right believe the Democrats have a point.
An editorial from The Wall Street Journal the day before Trump’s campaign launch blasted his chances in 2024, lamenting that after the 2020 election, “the country showed that it wants to move on, but Mr. Trump refuses—perhaps because he can’t admit to himself that he was a loser.”
The Journal’s editorial argued that if Trump continued his campaign, “Republican voters will have to decide whether to nominate the man most likely to produce a loss in the GOP and total power to the progressive left.”
Democrats and Trump-skeptic Republicans believe the GOP has other candidates who could either be more persuasive to voters in the middle in a general election — or at least bring less baggage into the race than Trump.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is as confrontational as Trump, but not dogged by the same degree of indiscipline or legal trouble — and he just won re-election in his normally competitive state by 19 points.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was elected in a Democratic-leaning state in 2021, just a year after Biden carried it by 10 points over Trump.
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants and the leading female candidate for the GOP in 2024, would offer a much more inclusive face of the party.
Of course, Democrats — and pundits — have underestimated Trump before, most notably in 2016.
His candidacy was treated as a self-promotional gambit or a joke in many places. The Huffington Post at one point ostentatiously announced that it would move coverage of his bid to the “Entertainment” section of its website. Various Democrats stated that Trump had no chance of winning.
Everyone knows how it turned out.
Now, however, the argument that Trump is the weakest link has gained several new threads.
First, although the former president retains the fervent support of his base, he is unpopular with the public at large.
An Economist-YouGov poll conducted from 13-15 A November poll showed that Trump was viewed favorably by 77 percent of Republican voters, but by only 41 percent of the general population. Fifty-two percent of all adults had an unfavorable view of him — notably higher than the other potential GOP challengers the poll tested.
Second, the defeat of high-profile Trump-backed candidates in the midterms has strengthened the case of those who believe the former president is an electoral liability.
Senate and gubernatorial candidates endorsed by Trump, including Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters and Kari Lake in Arizona, and Don Bolduc in New Hampshire all lost. The fate of another prominent supporter, former football star Herschel Walker, will be decided in Georgia’s Senate runoff on Dec. 6.
Then there is Trump’s relationship to the gnawing legacy of January 6, 2021, the darkest day in recent American history. Even the Journal’s reliably conservative editorial page acknowledged that “the deadly riot will forever tarnish his legacy.”
The Capitol rebellion is just one of the factors contributing to Trump’s sea of legal troubles.
Attorney General Merrick Garland recently appointed a special counsel, Jack Smith, to take over the investigation into events surrounding January 6, as well as the separate investigation into sensitive documents found at Mar-a-Lago.
One of these investigations could result in criminal charges against Trump.
An investigation in Georgia looking into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 outcome in that state could also be damaging. Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is moving forward with a massive civil lawsuit targeting the Trump Organization.
Put it all together — and add in voters who have simply grown tired of Trump-driven chaos — and it’s easy to see why Democrats and some Republicans have trouble seeing a path for the former president to win the White House back.
“I think we all want Donald Trump to run again,” former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) recently told Gray Television.
“Trump has significant downsides that make it very difficult for him to win a majority of the popular vote,” Republican pollster Glen Bolger told this column.
Despite all this, however, Trump remains the leading candidate in polls of the potential GOP 2024 field.
It looks like the Democrats may get their way — and then they’ll find out if they should have been careful what they wished for again.
The memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.