What will happen if Trump is the Republican nominee in 2024? Depending on who you ask, either Trump will win easily or he is unelectable. Some will point to legal issues and say he can’t possibly run an effective presidential campaign while dealing with as many as four trials simultaneously. Others will point to his poll numbers as proof that his legal issues won’t have any impact on him.
One thing is for sure: the ball is in Trump’s court, and that has Republican strategists worried. According to a recent report from The Hill, Republican strategists are concerned about what might happen if Trump, despite his current lead in the polls, doesn’t end up as the GOP nominee in 2024. The concern is based on the belief that without Trump as the nominee, a considerable portion of his base of die-hard supporters, which is estimated at between 25% to 35% of the party’s base, will opt to “take their ball and go home.”
“The conventional wisdom is there’s concern that if Trump’s not the nominee, his coalition will take their ball and go home,” said Matt Dole, a Republican strategist based in Ohio, told The Hill. “Folks are interested in how that plays out, and so I think right now, they would be happy if Trump’s the nominee — in Ohio, it’s not true across the country — because then his coalition will turn out in November.”
While Trump’s handpicking of candidates is widely believed to have been responsible for the GOP winning fewer seats in the House than expected, Trump voters were nevertheless crucial to the GOP winning back the majority, according to a Pew Research Center analysis published last month. This has some worried that if Trump is not the nominee, the fallout could be devastating for the GOP.
“If somehow he’s not the nominee, it will hurt turnout,” Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide, explained. “He’s got a unique coalition. He brings a lot of nontraditional voters to the Republican Party, and it will be difficult to win a state like Ohio” and other Midwestern states “if you lose all those Trump voters or make them disaffected voters, and they don’t show up.”
Darling believes Trump is already a “lock” for the nomination, and the only way he can lose is if he’s prevented from being on the ballot.
“I would say there’s two scenarios, either Trump’s the nominee and we just go with it and whatever, or Trump’s not the nominee and then we have a nominee that Trump’s going to be trashing,” Bob Clegg, an Ohio-based Republican strategist, predicts.
There is, however, a third possibility. If Trump’s legal issues thwart his candidacy, most Republican candidates, including the most viable Trump-alternative contender, Ron DeSantis, have promised or hinted that they would pardon Trump. This means that it would be in Trump’s best interest to support the GOP nominee and rally his base behind whoever it is.
The question is, would Trump be smart enough to do that, or would he tell his supporters to stand down to “prove” that he was the only Republican who could win in 2024?
As always with Trump, he is the wild card whose actions can’t be predicted. But if his legal issues do undermine his getting the nomination, his only hope of reigning in the corrupt Department of Justice is for another Republican to win the presidency.