After assuming presidency back in early 2021 following Donald Trump’s four turbulent years in office, Joe Biden reassured the demoralized Western allies, saying “America is back”. To which a skeptical European leader reportedly responded: “For how long?” Last week, after Trump announced yet another bid for the top office in the November 2024 presidential election, that question has gained more criticality for an increasingly-unstable world blighted by war, hunger, climate catastrophes and bloc politics.
With two years to go until next elections, a lot can alter political landscape and work against Trump or in his favor. As of now, it appears that his presidential ambitions haven’t garnered the kind of media attention and voter excitement like they did the first time around in the summer of 2015. Timing could be a factor, as Trump’s Republicans under-performed in the mid-term elections earlier this month. Besides, the fact that Trump remains banned on mainstream social media also blunts his message and appeal.
Trump still likes to pitch himself as an anti-establishment outsider, but it is clear that the public will be evaluating a different Trump going forward. His four years in office created a record or trail of governance, which the voters will be in a better position to compare against President Biden’s four years in office by late 2024. The Trump presidency was a chaotic affair, with high cabinet turnover, incessant infighting, vicious media leaks, personal attacks on rivals, and, of course, two impeachment attempts by Congress.
The public will also be a better judge of how much responsibility Trump personally has for the events that took place on January 6 th , 2021, when violent mobs stormed the US Capitol and tried to disrupt peaceful transition of power. The former president did not do himself any favor when he refused to accept his clear defeat by Biden in November 2020 and thereafter openly engaged in tactics that shook the foundations of American democracy, bringing shame to the superpower’s international prestige and aura.
Most significant, it appears that Trump’s Republican Party is getting tired of his divisive politics. In recent days, several prominent party leaders and donors have started denouncing Trump and his role in the Republican losses in the mid-terms. He is also getting strong competition from other Conservative stars like Ron Desantis. A large part of Republican voters may still be behind Trump, but in an electorate divided in the middle, a party needs independents and moderates to go across the finish line.
What may also work against Trump’s prospects in the public’s court is that a number of investigations are active against him, ranging from his tax affairs to his handling of classified documents. America remains deeply polarized and Trump remains popular in a significant part of the electorate, but the above- mentioned issues may have created a kind of Trump fatigue in the minds of the public at large.
If the upcoming Republican presidential primaries (a process through which the party will nominate its presidential candidate against the Democrats) became a crowded field of about a dozen candidates, Trump is expected to sail through to the nomination, just as he did in 2015-16 primaries. But if there are just a half dozen strong candidates, Trump may find it difficult to become the frontrunner this time around.
If Trump lost the Republican nomination, there is a possibility of him launching a third-party bid. That is something which his party’s leadership would never want, as it would divide their voter-base and make it a walk in the park for Biden to get re-elected and the Democrats to win back the House of Representatives. Whether the Republican establishment would be willing to cut another deal with Trump remains to be seen.
Having said that, Trump could become a formidable candidate if he ran a positive campaign and focused on his first-term achievements, e.g. tax cuts, de-regulation, trade with China, diplomacy with North Korea, Abraham Accords in the Middle East. If the economy lost steam and inflation remained high in the coming year, Trump will try to pitch himself as the candidate that will boost growth, as he did in pre-Covid era.
Additionally, if Russia’s Ukraine invasion escalated further into a war with NATO in mainland Europe, Trump’s claim that Russia would’ve never taken such adventures on his watch may gain more currency. Besides, Biden’s own gaffe-prone public appearances may also provide a gift to his opposition. Still, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. Over the next couple of years, the capitals in Europe and Asia-Pacific will surely be keeping a close eye on this race. Let’s see how things develop in the future.