His support for those who rioted in Washington, staging an insurrection at the Capitol as members of Congress attempted to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win, turned even some longtime Republican allies against him — but not enough. He closed his first term as the first president to be impeached twice, and although he was not convicted during his postpresidential Senate trial, seven Republicans voted against him.
Trump’s announcement also sets off an eerily familiar cycle of questions: How serious is Trump, really? Is this just an attempt to keep attention on himself, an opportunity to pull in much-needed money? Will there be any real resistance or competition from within a Republican Party that has largely and obsequiously bolstered him as its unequivocal leader?
The reality will likely freeze much of the potential Republican presidential field. For the generation of Republican politicians who have molded themselves into Trumpist followers, there may be more to lose than gain in announcing a presidential campaign against their leader.
Republicans like former vice president Mike Pence would have little space to run in a primary that includes Trump, even as the Pence–Trump relationship soured in its final days. Two women who will potentially run — former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem — have only hinted at a run should Trump decide not to. Sens. Tom Cotton, Rick Scott, Tim Scott and Ted Cruz; former secretary of state Mike Pompeo; and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are also considered potential 2024 presidential candidates, but may find limited support while running against a former president they’ve openly idolized. All but DeSantis have visited Iowa since the 2020 election.
The few Trump detractors in the party — people like Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, or Rep. Liz Cheney — may be able to ultimately present themselves as the alternative, but that path spectacularly failed to gain traction in 2016 or 2020.
The Republican National Committee — which will determine rules of engagement and any possible debates if there’s a primary — could very well remain under Trump’s control, via RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. Trump backed McDaniel for another two-year term.
It’s also unclear whether, even if Trump were to win the Republican nomination, the election would be a 2020 rematch with Joe Biden. There have long been questions as to whether the president will choose to run for a second term at age 82, although he has said publicly that he will. Trump would be 78 on Election Day 2024.
Trump is no stranger to teasing presidential bids that go nowhere. It’s something he was quite practiced at doing before his 2016 run. And even then, after his dramatic ride down the golden escalator at his eponymous Trump Tower to declare his candidacy in June 2015, many doubted he would follow through.
The same caveats apply this time, but with different considerations. Declaring himself a candidate, and even filing the official paperwork to be one, doesn’t mean Trump will be in the race once the primaries begin. There are practical benefits to going through those motions, though. Being an official candidate would allow Trump to raise money that could fund activities like the large rallies his ego craves and keep his political brand alive. His campaign raised more than $170 million in the weeks after Election Day as part of its effort to bankroll dubious legal challenges to the results in several states.
Only one president — Grover Cleveland — has ever served nonconsecutive terms, and his last one ended in 1897. The last former president to seriously try was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, who ran on his own Bull Moose Party line after losing the Republican nomination.
And though it’s rare for one-term presidents to run again, it’s common for losing nominees to consider or be considered for another run. Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry both were talked about as potential future candidates after their Electoral College losses, while Hillary Clinton’s name has been circulated by some loyalists since her 2016 loss to Trump. Republican Mitt Romney seriously contemplated a 2016 run after losing to Barack Obama in 2012.
For Trump, though, announcing the 2024 campaign essentially keeps something going that hasn’t stopped since summer 2015: the endless Trump campaign, which now has run for the better part of a decade.
Whatever happens at the election, though, the breed of toxic and damaging politics known as Trumpism will likely continue for the rest of our lives.