Opinion

Do Democrats need Trump in 2024?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

Former President Donald Trump last week confirmed what pretty much everyone long suspected: He's running for the White House again in 2024. Political analysts said Trump was trying to get a jump on potential rivals for the GOP presidential nomination by launching his campaign before anyone else. The news came after many Republicans blamed Trump for the party's underwhelming performance in the midterm elections because several of his high-profile, hand-picked candidates lost what GOP critics said were races that more moderate Republicans could have won.

A Trump adviser told Reuters the Trump team is "giddy" about the possibility of a rematch against President Biden. But Democrats were energized by Trump's announcement, too. Biden was quiet about Trump's candidacy this week, but in March he said he would "be very fortunate if I had that same man running against me" in 2024. Democrats raked in a lot of votes in the midterms by warning that Republican candidates who still deny that Trump really lost the 2020 election posed a threat to democracy. Do Democrats really want, or need, Trump to be on the ballot in 2024?

Yes, Trump is the perfect bogeyman for Democrats

"Promoting the more extreme and weaker GOP candidates" was a winning strategy for Democrats in the midterms, says Jim Geraghty in the National Review. Democrats this year "spent at least $53 million to promote 13 extreme, fringe, and election-denying Republican candidates in GOP primaries." Six of them won the GOP nomination, and every one of those candidates went down in flames in the general election.

That's why liberals are "subtly and not-so-subtly seeking to help Trump win the GOP presidential nomination — even though they think that if he wins in 2024, it would be the end of American democracy." An increasing number of Republicans worry they can't win in 2024 with Trump; Democrats worry they're sunk without him. "The stunning thing is that we've been in this exact situation before." In 2016, liberals and Democrats convinced "themselves that they should promote and tout Trump" on the theory he couldn't win and was "too incompetent to hurt their interests" even if he did. Democrats' strategy backfired then. Will it this time?

Democrats can count on Trump to bring them together

"No one in American politics brings Democrats – and fed-up conservatives – together quite like former President Donald Trump," says Gregory Krieg at CNN. As soon as Trump declared his candidacy on Tuesday, "the Democratic multiverse expressed outrage." And Biden, national Democrats, progressive groups, and the campaign of Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, who faces a December runoff against Republican Herschel Walker in the last undecided Senate race, gave a preview of the 2024 campaign, attacking Trump for "coddling extremists," "attacking women's rights," and "inciting a violent mob" the last time he was in the White House.

Warnock and his Senate colleagues "coalesced around a push to parlay Democratic outrage at Trump into support" for Warnock in his runoff against Walker, where a win would increase the Democrats' Senate majority to 51-49. They, other Democrats, and abortion rights groups capitalized on the moment with a message that will be central to their effort to hold onto the Senate and the White House in 2024: "Send cash." Trump is a Democratic fundraiser's best weapon.

But do Democrats really want Trump back?

Trump "is like a migraine that won't go away," says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an editorial. The former president "might be the most beatable Republican in the foreseeable 2024 lineup." He'll be campaigning "without a lot of the advantages he enjoyed before." Rupert Murdoch's media juggernaut, including Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, "has pulled its support and begun openly criticizing Trump." Congressional leaders are keeping Trump at arm's length. And his "legal woes are mounting," including investigations about his "role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection" and his alleged mishandling of government secrets the FBI found at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. 

But do Democrats really "want him back"? "Trump's history of lies and democracy-denying authoritarianism" could trip him up as he tries to get back into the White House. "But Trump's history of success, despite his seemingly insurmountable liabilities, suggests that only fools would count him out for 2024."

The left should kick its Trump habit

"Democrats, truth be told, are now in a weird codependent relationship with Mr. Trump," says Ruy Teixeira in The Wall Street Journal. "They know — and they are correct in thinking this — that the craziness associated with him is their most effective point of attack against the Republican Party and its candidates." The danger for the Democrats is that they are so quick to "go back to the well on the evils of Mr. Trump, his nefarious supporters, and their election denialism" that they are getting "lazy."

Democrats have no shortage of "weaknesses," but they aren't bothering to do anything "to overcome them." A pre-election Impact Research for Third Way poll found that "respondents preferred Republicans over Democrats by 18 points on the economy and inflation and by 20 points or more on crime and immigration." More of the poll participants (55 percent) found Democrats "too extreme" than Republicans (54 percent). And Democrats face a daunting Senate map in 2024, "defending 23 of the 33 seats in play," many of them in "red and purple states." If Republicans nominate a better candidate, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, along with "saner, more competent Senate candidates," Democrats will wish they had addressed their problems instead of "counting on Mr. Trump to bail them out."

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