(CNN)Earlier this week, amid a rambling attack on the validity of the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump said this: “Interesting that today a poll came out indicating I’m far in the lead for the Republican Presidential Primary and the General Election in 2024.”
And then there’s this on Trump’s future political ambitions from Politico on Thursday morning:
“Trump is confiding in allies that he intends to run again in 2024 with one contingency: that he still has a good bill of health, according to two sources close to the former president. That means Trump is going to hang over the Republican Party despite its attempts to rebrand during his exile and its blockade of a Trump-centric investigation into January’s insurrection.”
In short: As of today, Trump plans to run for president in 2024. Which would be an utter disaster for Republicans — and, what’s worse, one they almost certainly can’t prevent.
A new Quinnipiac University national poll illustrates this waiting catastrophe well.
In the survey, two-thirds of Republicans (66%) said they would like to see Trump run for president again, while just 30% would prefer he not. Numbers like that — albeit several years before the GOP presidential primary begins in earnest — suggest there remains significant appetite for Trump within the GOP and broadly confirm what lots of other data has shown: That the 45th president would start a 2024 Republican primary as the clear front-runner.
Which is a BIG problem for Republicans because of this number: 66% of the general electorate does NOT want to see Trump run for president again in 2024. And yes, that number includes the two-thirds of Republicans who want Trump to run! Just 6% of Democrats say they would like to see Trump run again in 2024, while just 1 in 4 independents (27%) say the same.
The story is the same when you look at Trump’s favorable numbers in the same poll. While 84% of Republicans say they have a favorable opinion of the former president, his overall favorable rating is a meager 37%, with 4% of Democrats and just 35% of independents feeling favorably toward him.
It does not take a mathematician or a political science professor to see what these numbers mean: Trump is nearly unbeatable in a Republican primary and damn near unelectable in a general election.
The honest truth that every smart Republican knows is that the only way the party escapes this box canyon is if Trump voluntarily decides not to run again or, because of his growing legal and financial entanglements, is prevented from running.
Which is possible!
Despite being proclaimed by his personal physician in 2015 as the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” Trump is 74 years old. He will turn 78 in 2024. While that’s the age of current President Joe Biden, it’s possible that Trump simply decides that at that age he doesn’t want to go through the rigors of another campaign. Possible, but knowing Trump and his desire for the spotlight, unlikely.
What’s also in play of course is that Trump and his eponymous company face serious legal jeopardy tied to a number of ongoing investigations into his finances. As CNN reported on Wednesday night:
“Manhattan prosecutors pursuing a criminal case against former President Donald Trump, his company and its executives have told at least one witness to prepare for grand jury testimony, according to a person familiar with the matter — a signal that the lengthy investigation is moving into an advanced stage.”
But if neither of those scenarios come to pass and Trump runs, the hard truth for Republicans — both those who have their own 2024 ambitions and those who simply want to see a Republican back in the White House — is that they likely can’t stop him from winning the nomination. And if he is the Republican nominee, every single credible poll suggests he would start a general election at a decided disadvantage.
To lean on a well-worn — but extremely accurate — cliché to explain the current morass facing the Republican Party: You made your bed. Now you have to lie in it.