By Taariq Ahmed
Edited by Annika Lilja
Although the 2024 Presidential Election is still more than two years away and America is still contemplating the last election itself, there is a substantial amount of political analysis and discussion about the next election already taking place right now. As public opinion of both Biden and Trump fluctuate and the chances of a 2020 rematch hang in the balance, there is a seemingly complicated landscape within both the Democratic and Republican parties regarding 2024. To clear it all up, here is a breakdown of the early 2024 coverage we’ve seen so far, using poll numbers, expert opinions and in-depth research. In this article, we'll focus on the Republican Party.
On the Republican side of things, former president Donald Trump is the main point of focus. “Look, the lay of the land is everyone is waiting to see what Trump decides to do,” Senator Ted Cruz said during an interview with Fox News. “And he's going to decide on whatever time frame he desires.” The real decision, according to Trump himself, is the timing of the official announcement; should it be before or after the November midterms? Trump, similar to Biden, is the current favorite for his party, repeatedly shown by Republican primary polls. The New York Times/Siena College poll from the last article showed 49% of Republican voters claimed they would vote for Trump if the Republican primary were held today. Although that number isn’t a majority, Trump only needs a plurality to secure the nomination, and in the poll, Trump placed significantly ahead of the other potential candidates. “Make no mistake- Trump is still the big fish in Republican politics,” Domenico Montanaro of National Public Radio writes. “Scores of GOP candidates continue to channel him and seek his endorsement. He remains the most popular figure in the party and the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, if he wants it.” Without a doubt, Trump is still dominating the headlines and his presence in the party is more obvious than ever, especially as the vast majority (93%) of his midterm endorsements make their way to general elections in November. However, there are a few other sides to the discussion that should be mentioned as well.
At the moment, Trump is currently tied up in multiple legal investigations, including the Jan. 6 investigation, the White House records probe, the Georgia criminal investigation, and the New York state attorney general investigation. Although nothing is certain yet, the possibility of a Trump indictment is a conversation that many are actively having. Still, as the investigations dominate national headlines, political experts are watching the polls to see how they will impact the former president’s political standing. In terms of the impact the investigations are making, Zoha Qamar of FiveThirtyEight writes, “public opinion is split starkly along partisan lines,” citing a Politico/Morning Consult poll that showed “81 percent of Democratic registered voters said the search [referring to the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence] was based on evidence that Trump had committed a crime, while only 16 percent of Republicans agreed.” But how does this all relate to 2024? Well, these polls also harvest information on Trump’s favorability for 2024. The same Politico/MC poll showed that after the FBI search, a record high number of Republicans claimed they would vote for Trump in a 2024 primary.
So what happens if Trump chooses not to run at all? Just like with the Democrats, unofficial speculation-based shortlists (and longlists) of other potential Republican candidates are being floated by the media. Those among the lists include; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former vice president Mike Pence, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and many others as well. Though many are familiar names with their own bases of support and background experience, the possibility of these potential candidates running against Trump in 2024 is unlikely (for example, although Pence appears to be making moves toward a 2024 run, running against his former boss would prove very difficult.) And importantly, potential candidates such as Nikki Haley have directly said they will not challenge a Trump 2024 run. Still, considering everything going on with Trump, they cannot be ruled out at all. And of the candidates, there is one that many believe could actually defeat Trump head-to-head; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Let’s look at the polls; in the Times/Siena poll from earlier, 25% of Republican voters claimed they would vote for DeSantis if the primary were held right now, only second to Trump (49%). Although DeSantis routinely lands second place behind Trump in most polls, there have been a few exceptions in smaller-capacity polls; DeSantis defeated Trump in a statewide poll by the University of New Hampshire and in straw polls at two separate conservative summits. In terms of fundraising, Max Greenwood of The Hill writes, “The rising Republican star has amassed more than $100 million for his reelection campaign, a sum more on par with that of top-tier presidential contenders than a candidate for governor.” And one last point to consider; DeSantis has been considered “tougher than Trump” by right-skewing media outlets such as Fox News, and “more dangerous than Trump” by left-skewing media outlets such as MSNBC, because unlike Trump, DeSantis lacks any “baggage,” or conflict/controversy in his personal and professional life (an especially important point in light of the Trump investigations). However, all of this only makes a true impact if DeSantis actually chooses to run in 2024, which according to DeSantis, is not a matter of priority. “I’m doing 2022,” DeSantis said in a statement on Fox News. “I’ve got a campaign coming up [DeSantis is running for reelection in the midterms], people have asked me about that [a potential 2024 bid] probably about a thousand times. Basically, I’m keeping my eye on the ball here in Florida.” Ultimately, the bottom line is these political analyses and discussions are just analyses and discussions for the time being; absolutely nothing is set in stone yet. Only time will completely answer our questions.