The Corner

Politics & Policy

Why 2024 Republicans May Have to Decide Whether to Run Without Knowing Trump’s Intentions

Former president Donald Trump addresses a member of the news media after attending a border security briefing with Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Weslaco, Texas, June 30, 2021. (Brandon Bell/Pool via Reuters)

Rolling Stone sparked the latest round of Donald Trump 2024 speculation by reporting, citing an anonymous source, that he’s been telling dinner companions in recent months that he intends to run again. My former colleague Byron York notes that even if Trump had no intention of running again, he and those in his political orbit have every incentive to keep speculation alive as long as possible. Because once he announces he won’t run, the political world will move on from him.

Given Trump’s strength within the party, he can afford to announce a run for president in the fall of 2023, perhaps as late as November, and still be the front-runner on the day he announces. (In the 2016 cycle, the last competitive Republican primary, the earliest filing deadline was South Carolina on September 30, 2015. But the rest are November 6 or later.)

This leaves other 2024 Republican hopefuls with a difficult dilemma. Anybody who wants a future within the Republican Party would likely want to avoid having to be in a primary with Trump given that Trump will turn his base against any opponent by mercilessly attacking that person. It’s why Nikki Haley, for instance, has said she would not run were Trump to do so.

At the same time, any non-Trump candidate looking to launch a serious campaign will need many months to fundraise, hire staff, build an organization, and start to introduce themselves to voters in the early states. Nobody else has the luxury of waiting as long as Trump. That means that most likely, all other GOP hopefuls will have to dive into the race without knowing for sure whether Trump will decide to run.

All of this said, it’s possible that knowing this reality, Trump may decide to announce his candidacy sooner. Were he to announce he was running in, say, late 2022, it would probably dissuade many candidates from running, giving him a clearer path to the nomination.

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