Trump has the 2024 presidential field to himself — for now

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump is cheered by supporters as he announces third run for president, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Trump has the 2024 presidential field to himself — for now

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Now that former President Donald Trump has announced his third presidential campaign, he could be the only formally declared candidate for months.

President Joe Biden, who turns 80 on Sunday, has said he will make a decision on reelection early next year in consultation with his family.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), seen as Trump’s main rival for the GOP nomination, won’t be sworn in for his second term until next year. He hasn’t confirmed his plans but is unlikely to announce for a new job before then.

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Trump’s decision to get into the race before the end of 2022, despite serving a term as president, winning the nomination the last two cycles, and still leading in most polls, was partly intended to freeze the field.

Other Republicans may decide to forgo the race if they know they will be on the receiving end of Trump’s attacks. The former president has a long track record of throwing sharp elbows even at close allies who cross him politically, dinging DeSantis for disloyalty for reportedly weighing a White House bid after receiving Trump’s endorsement in 2018.

But after the midterm elections, in which several Trump-endorsed candidates underperformed and Republicans failed to make gains in the 50-50 Senate as DeSantis won by a landslide, the GOP presidential field is unlikely to remain stuck at one forever.

Republican operatives also told the Washington Examiner that Trump’s “anticlimactic” announcement speech, during which he was uncharacteristically reserved despite speaking for close to an hour, would deter prospective opponents.

“Trump’s material is old. His shtick is aging,” said Republican strategist John Feehery. “He doesn’t have the same buzz. He had become tiresome.”

There just aren’t many candidates who think they need to beat the Christmas rush to have a chance to win almost two years from now.

“I think it’s too early for anyone to jump in any 2024 race,” said Republican consultant Brad Todd. “The voters want a break after the 2022 race, and I think most presidential aspirants are willing to give them that.”

But that doesn’t mean non-Trump candidates aren’t going to start making their case. Former Vice President Mike Pence is on a media tour promoting his book So Help Me God. A major theme of both the book and his interviews is getting out from under Trump’s shadow.

Much of that involves telling his side of the story about Jan. 6, when he defied Trump and the Capitol rioters to preside over the certification of Biden’s 2020 victory.

“For four years, we had a close working relationship. It did not end well,” Pence wrote of his relationship with Trump. He added, “We parted amicably when our service to the nation drew to a close. In the months that followed, we spoke from time to time, but when the president returned to the rhetoric that he was using before that tragic day and began to publicly criticize those of us who defended the Constitution, I decided it would be best to go our separate ways.”

“If Mr. Trump defines narcissism, Mr. Pence defines integrity,” wrote longtime syndicated conservative columnist Cal Thomas.

“We need more seriousness, less noise, and leaders who are looking forward, not staring in the rearview mirror claiming victimhood,” tweeted former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after Trump’s announcement speech. Pompeo also has a book out, Never Give An Inch.

DeSantis has been acting as a spokesman for conservative causes nationally, though he mostly contrasts liberal policies with those he is pursuing in Florida.

“How is it that the state of Florida, the Monday before the election, we could declare a state of emergency for [Hurricane] Nicole, conduct an election, count, like, 7.7 million votes by midnight,” DeSantis said before taking a shot at Arizona and Nevada. “And these other states are still counting their votes.”

“Republicans can take months to decide what they want to do, really,” said a veteran GOP operative in Washington, D.C. “There will be no debates, no events, just the Georgia Senate runoff. And there is plenty of time to watch Trump and see how it goes.”

Some are already unimpressed with how the nascent campaign has unfolded so far.

“Nobody wants Donald Trump the victim,” Feehery said. “It’s just boring.”

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By contrast, Democrats are waiting on Biden to make their 2024 plans. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) appears to be the most prepared to run besides the incumbent but has said he won’t challenge Biden.

The midterm elections strengthened Biden’s case for reelection, as Democrats retained the Senate and nearly hung on to the House, with Republicans not clinching the majority for over a week following Election Day. Still, exit polls found 67% didn’t want Biden to run again in 2024, and 73% were angry or dissatisfied with the direction of the country.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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