Donald Trump has said he is holding off on announcing a 2024 presidential campaign until after next year’s midterm elections – leaving other potential candidates in limbo as they wait to see whether they would have to run in a primary against him to seek the White House themselves.
In an interview with Fox News, the former president insisted that whenever he announces it, his decision on whether or not to seek another term would have momentous consequences for other Republicans.
“I think a lot of people will be very happy, frankly, with the decision, and probably will announce that after the midterms,” he told the network. “It doesn’t mean I will. It’s probably appropriate, but a lot of people are waiting for that decision to be made.”
Mr Trump, who has given several rallies this year despite not having a campaign to run, reportedly had to be talked out of announcing a re-election bid this summer by advisers who warned him that should he throw his hat in the ring too soon, he would risk “owning” any Republican shortfall in the 2022 midterms – and potentially throw the party off-message as it seeks to tie Joe Biden to the violent withdrawal from Afghanistan and other problems.
Among those warning that the former president’s fixation on the fictional theft of the 2020 election poses serious political danger to the public is Chris Christie, a 2016 presidential opponent who later joined Trump’s inner circle before being unceremoniously fired from his transition team.
Speaking at a Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas on Saturday, Mr Christie warned that “Every minute that we spend talking about 2020 – while we’re wasting time doing that, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are laying ruin to this country – we better focus on that and take our eyes off the rearview mirror and start looking through the windshield again.”
There are signs that Mr Trump may have recieved the message. While he endorsed Glenn Youngkin for governor of Virginia, a campaign Mr Youngkin won last week, the former president was uncharacteristically absent from the campaign, holding no rallies and giving no specific interviews about Mr Youngkin’s virtues. Some Republicans opposed to Mr Trump’s ongoing influence have pointed to this as proof that the party does not need him in charge to win elections.
In his discussion with Fox News, Mr Trump boasted of one of the most visible effects of his holding off a decision: that until it’s clear whether or not he is standing, mainstream Republicans with national profiles will have to wait and see whether they would be running against him should they
“A lot of great people who are thinking about running are waiting for that decision, because they’re not going to run if I run.
“We have a lot, they’re all very well named. But almost all of them said if I run, they’ll never run. And that’s nice, primarily because it shows a great degree of loyalty and respect.”
Issues of “loyalty” are paramount when it comes to the former president’s relationship with his party. His relationship with Mike Pence by all accounts took a nosedive when the then-vice president decided he could not unilaterally overturn the result of the 2020 election in Mr Trump’s favour, a decision that reportedly led Mr Trump to tell him “I don’t want to be your friend anymore”.
Tellingly, Mr Pence, who is among those thought to be laying the ground for a 2024 campaign, is not generally mentioned by Mr Trump as a potential running mate. In the Fox News interview, Mr Trump was asked whether he would consider Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “He’s a good man,” replied the ex-president, “but we have a lot of great people. He’s been good.”
Of another Republican star, Nikki Haley, the former president said “every once in a while [she] goes off the rails, and she comes back, which is nice. She said she’d never run if I ran, which I think is a good sign of respect.”
Meanwhile, a new book reports that when leaving Washington, DC for the final time as president after his attempts to cling to power failed, he told RNC chair Ronna McDaniel that he was planning to form a party of his own and thus doom the Republicans to electoral oblivion because of their failure to keep him in office. Both Ms McDaniel and Mr Trump deny the story.
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