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Last week, during a 51-minute interview on “The John Fredericks Show,” a radio program broadcast throughout Virginia, former President Donald J. Trump dodged half a dozen chances to say whether he plans to run for president again in 2024. to become. .
Fredericks, who in addition to his radio appearance also chaired Trump’s campaigns in Virginia, began questions with “If you get inaugurated as president again in 2025” and “I think you’re going to run and win in 2024.” He asked, “How many seats do Republicans need to win in 2022 to inspire you to run in 2024?”
This was not hard journalism.
Yet it got to the heart of the biggest question in Republican politics: When will Mr. Trump announce his plans for 2024?
For months, the best working theory had been that he would wait as long as possible, both to freeze the rest of the potential Republican field for 2024 and to keep as much focus on himself, his endorsements, and political statements as possible.
Meanwhile, the former president has not found a new outlet for his political attention. There’s no library in the works or an old project like President Barack Obama’s nonprofit Organizing for Action (which itself shut down in 2018 after it fell into obscurity). Mr. Trump is still very invested in his own false claims about the 2020 election, pushing local Republican officials to check their ballots and voting machines, while shouting out the false notion that every election Democrats win is a hoax.
All of that puts him on the same page as much of the current Republican electorate.
“If Donald Trump runs in ’24, I think he’ll clear the field, be the nominee and I think he’ll handily win over Biden or Harris,” said Indiana Representative Jim Banks, who serves as chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. has hosted nearly every potential non-Trump candidate this year to speak with his group of more than 150 Republican members of the House.
Mr. Banks is hardly agnostic on the subject of Mr. Trump. His Capitol Hill office is filled with Trump memorabilia, including a framed front page of The Washington Post from the day after the former president’s first Senate acquittal of impeachment charges, autographed by Mr. Trump himself. In January, he voted against accepting the election results, and in July he was one of two Republicans who refused to seat Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. He has on his staff the son of Tucker Carlson, one of the most vocal pro-Trump hosts on Fox News.
In our conversation Monday afternoon, Mr. Banks, who said he was in weekly contact with Mr. Trump, said he had not discussed directly whether or when the former president could begin a 2024 campaign. He was not told by Mr. Trump, as Representative Jim Jordan said last week in an exchange recorded by a hidden camera, that the former president was “about ready” to announce a new campaign.
All that leaves the field of potential Republican presidential candidates frozen. Those taking steps that could lead to a run in 2024 include Govs. Ron DeSantis from Florida and Kristi Noem from South Dakota; Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; and former Trump cabinet members Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley. They each owe different levels of political allegiance to Mr Trump; polls show that none of them would pose a major threat to Mr Trump’s hold on the party, even if they tried.
At the same time, Democrats, concerned about President Biden’s sagging position in public opinion polls following the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan, would generally be excited to turn what will be a challenging midterm election next year into a referendum on Mr. Trump. to make. The president’s party almost always loses dozens of seats in the House during the midterms; Democrats took 41 seats in 2018 and Republicans took 63 seats in 2010.
Right now, there are signs that Republicans across the country have more energy. They’re flooding school board meetings to talk about how racing is taught in classrooms, and in some parts of the country, they’re filling candidates’ training rooms at a rate not seen since 2009.
A potential third Trump campaign, which began more than three years before the next presidential election and 18 months before the next Iowa primaries, could focus all of his party’s energy on itself and away from the right-wing cultural issues that other Republicans see as political winners. see .
“He is creating excitement among the Republican party that no one else can match,” said Mr. Banks.
Still, Mr. Banks had no public advice for Mr. Trump on when or if he should start a new campaign. Mr. Trump would help Republicans nominee or non-candidate in the meantime, Mr. Banks said, before adding that Republicans’ chances of winning back the White House would not diminish whether Mr. Trump, or someone else, the nominee was .
“He’s smart enough to know the right timing better than I do,” said Mr. Banks on a possible launch of a Trump campaign. “I watch the same news and all the rallies that you are. I speculate he’s headed that way.”
The State of the Recall in California
California is in the final week of voting for Governor Gavin Newsom’s recall election on Sept. 14. You’re sure to see plenty of political news in California between now and next Tuesday: President Biden is planning a campaign freeze for Mr. Newsom, a fellow Democrat, White House officials said, as part of a party-wide rush to encourage Californians to withdraw. return the ballots that every registered voter in the state has received by mail.
In a state that bore Biden 29 percentage points last year, even a narrow victory for Newsom would send shockwaves through Democratic politics. If Mr. Newsom is recalled and replaced by a Republican, expect a never-ending garb of clothes and accusations among liberals similar to the reaction to Mr. Trump’s 2016 victory.
If a Republican took control of the governor’s office in America’s largest state — home to the largest population of Democratic voters — that person would still face Democratic supermajorities in the state legislature, but would be in the position to appoint state judges, control the bully’s pulpit, and possibly name a replacement for a United States senator, who may shift control of the 50-50 chamber.
Whatever happens to Republicans, the California recall is the equivalent of found money. They either win a stunning surprise, get close and scare the Democrats off in a soul-searching period, or lose by a comfortable margin, in which case they will see Mr. Newsom to run for his political life a year before an expected re-election campaign in 2022.
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