A team of opinion researchers last week presented results from surveys in five swing states that indicated that President Trump would do well in a race against President Biden.
According to the surveys, Mr. Trump would win Georgia by 3 points, Pennsylvania by 3 points, Arizona by 8 points, Wisconsin by 10 (which seems like a lot), and Michigan by 12 (which seems ridiculous). Not surprisingly, his supporters widely viewed the results as confirmation that Mr. Trump should run again.
A few cautionary points are in order.
First, Mr. Biden is almost certainly not going to be running in 2024. He barely managed to run in 2020, and it is unlikely that the minimal effort he can handle will be sufficient 35 months from now. That’s especially true given the physical and intellectual deterioration that may take place between now and November 2024.
So, the survey results assessed a contest that is unlikely to ever happen.
It is equally unlikely that Vice President Kamala Harris will be the Democratic nominee in 2024. Her time in office has not been an unbroken string of successes, and she is clearly out of her depth even in the current job. Moreover, between the fatal and disastrous exit from Afghanistan and the persistent supply chain problems, it is also unlikely that any nominee will rise from this Cabinet.
It is much more likely that the Democratic nominee in 2024 will be someone like Gavin Newsom or Roy Cooper, or Amy Klobuchar or even Mitch Landrieu. Someone who can pass for a moderate, or raise cash, or who can bring other characteristics to the contest.
Additionally, if Mr. Trump is the nominee, the Democrats likely will have a third-party candidate ready to go who will be explicitly designed to split off suburban Republicans.
We have no survey data indicating what Hispanics or Blacks – who, like everyone else, had no love for Mr. Biden – would do in the event of a contest between Mr. Trump and a Democrat to be named later. At a minimum, the Democrats will try to place a Hispanic on the ticket to stem their bleeding among those voters. Finally, from this distance, there is no way to know what the national context will be in November 2024. It might be better for Mr. Trump; it might be worse. For example, what is the effect on the election if Twitter or Facebook allow Mr. Trump to reengage on both platforms? What if there is a war in Taiwan? Or Ukraine?
Keep in mind, as recently as March 2020, everyone assumed Mr. Trump would cruise to reelection. Then events intervened.
There is also no telling what Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, which are likely after the 2022 elections, will do to muddy the electoral waters. The Biden administration desperately needs a foil. The congressional Republicans may be perfect for the role. The immediate history is not inspiring; Presidents Clinton and Obama won relatively easy reelection contests (1996, 2012) after the Republicans seized control of Congress in the previous midterms.
At a minimum, Mr. Trump should consider not endorsing any more candidates. He receives no credit for the good choices (Sens. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee) and takes the blame for the troublesome ones (former Pennsylvania candidate Sean Parnell). Given the nature of elections, some portion of candidates who have received the endorsement will lose or, worse, embarrass themselves and Mr. Trump.
Winning would bring its challenges, not least of which would be immediate lame-duck status (the 25th Amendment precludes being elected president more than twice) and the recrudescence of the first term struggles with policy development, staffing, and clarity and unity of purpose.
Finally, governments in exile can be a bit of a bubble. Sometimes judgment is clouded by nostalgia and desire, and, consequently, assessments of legitimate risks are routinely omitted.
If Mr. Trump runs again, he needs to be clear-eyed about why, and how, and the path not just to victory but to a successful second term.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
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