President Trump Donald Trump Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor’s race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after ‘ridiculous,’ ‘awful’ GOP election bill filibuster MORE is openly flirting with the possibility of running for president again in 2024, complicating the path of Republicans who hope to launch their own bids next cycle.
Trump, who will travel to Georgia on Saturday to campaign for two GOP senators facing runoff elections next month, explicitly alluded to the possibility this week in remarks to supporters at a White House holiday party, while continuing to deny his defeat to President-elect Joe Biden Joe Biden Baltimore police chief calls for more ‘boots on the ground’ to handle crime wave Biden to deliver remarks at Sen. John Warner’s funeral Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump MORE .
Given the president's ironclad grip on Republican voters, even the flirtation with a run could freeze some GOP hopefuls in place given the risk of a battle with Trump.
"Trump is the 800 pound gorilla in the Republican Party right now. For the time being, everyone else is going to make room for him," said Alex Conant, a GOP strategist and former communications director for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio Marco Antonio Rubio Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have ‘training issues’ if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Rising violent crime poses new challenge for White House MORE 's 2016 presidential campaign.
"I think if you're somebody who is considering a 2024 presidential bid, in many ways you need to wait and see what Trump does because that will clearly impact what sort of campaign you run, if you run one at all," he added.
Trump has told people that he is running again in 2024, according to one person close to the White House, but his allies have doubts as to whether he will go through with it.
There have been reports that Trump may even announce plans to run in 2024 on the same day as Biden's inauguration. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday that she is unaware of any such plans and hasn't spoken to Trump about whether he plans to run again.
One source close to the Trump campaign said that Trump, who would be 78 in 2024, could "dance" with the idea of running for some time to attract media coverage and help his business pursuits, but predicted that he would not seek another term.
Only one former president, Grover Cleveland, has served two nonconsecutive terms as president. While other one-term presidents unsuccessfully ran for another term after leaving office, like Martin Van Buren, recent one-term presidents have not done so.
But recent one-term presidents also have not emerged from an electoral defeat with the strength of Trump. While he lost the popular vote handily and Biden won more than 70 more electoral votes, the margins in the three states that effectively decided the contest — Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin — was a total of about 50,000 votes.
Biden won the most total votes of any candidate running for president in history. Trump's total was the second most.
It is possible that Trump's sway with Republicans will falter after he exits the White House. He will no longer have the presidential bully pulpit, nor the wheel of the federal government.
He will retain his Twitter account and it remains to be seen how much he will continue to drive news coverage.
Republicans are watching the president's next moves closely, acutely aware of the clout he holds in the party and his penchant for attacking anyone whom he perceives as a political rival.
"It's a matter of playing the long game," a person close to one potential 2024 contender said. "No one is second guessing their plans yet, but we might have to be a little more subtle about how we approach things – see what Trump does."
A handful of potential 2024 hopefuls, including Rubio and Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Tom Cotton Tom Bryant Cotton Senate Republicans: Newly proposed ATF rules could pave way for national gun registry Jon Stewart shows late-night conformity cabal how political comedy is done The Hill’s Morning Report – After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? MORE (R-Ark.), have traveled to Georgia in recent weeks to stump for Sens. Kelly Loeffler Kelly Loeffler Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Herschel Walker skips Georgia’s GOP convention Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock MORE (R-Ga.) and David Perdue David Perdue Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Georgia Republican secretary of state hits Loeffler as ‘weak,’ ‘fake Trumper’ MORE (R-Ga.) ahead of the state's Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections in an effort seen by many political observers as an early test of influence among GOP voters.
There are some potential contenders who aren't likely to be put off by the prospect of another Trump candidacy.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who has long been viewed as a future presidential hopeful, hasn't shied away from criticizing Trump and has called for the GOP to turn away from the president's combative approach to politics.
At the same time, it's not entirely clear a centrist Republican such as Hogan could win a GOP presidential primary in the post-Trump era.
Those Republicans who may want to compete to be Trump's successor have a tougher road ahead as long as Trump himself might run for the White House.
"Pretty much every other person flirting with a run right now, the rationale is 'I'm the best person to pick up where Trump left off,' " one Republican operative told The Hill. "Their candidacy is premised on Trump not running again, except for Larry Hogan, and maybe a couple others."
The president's flirtation with a 2024 campaign "freezes the field and lets Trump and the Trump family toy with them" in the meantime, the operative said.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll released last month found that 53 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters would back Trump if the 2024 GOP primary were held today, while 12 percent would support Mike Pence Michael (Mike) Richard Pence If you care about the US, root for China to score a win in space Pence heckled with calls of ‘traitor’ at conservative conference The Hill’s Morning Report – ObamaCare here to stay MORE . All other candidates received under 10 percent.
In addition to his broad popularity among the Republican electorate, Trump has one other key advantage: money.
Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC), along with a number of affiliated groups, have pulled in some $207.5 million in the month since Election Day. That includes money raised by Trump's new political action committee Save America, a leadership PAC that the president can use to fund any future political activities.
The leadership PAC effectively gives Trump a way to retain influence in Republican politics after he leaves office. Not only will Trump be able to use the money to help other candidates — especially those who remain loyal to him and his brand of populism — he will also be able to pay for crucial campaign tools, like consulting services and polling, that could help him keep his finger on the pulse of the GOP.
Trump alluded to the possibility he could run again in 2024 during a holiday party at the White House this week, according to video that was captured by one of the attendees and posted online.
"It's been an amazing four years, we're trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I will see you in four years," Trump told the crowd.
It is unclear how Trump will use his time once he leaves the White House. There has been talk of him potentially starting his own media company, and his allies expect him to vocally weigh in on Biden's moves in the White House from another perch.
"Trump's appeal is uniquely based on his ability to capture media attention. By dominating the coverage, he constantly drives the conversation towards the issues that benefit him," Conant said, noting that every tweet after Inauguration Day will carry "less news value" because it does not have the power of the presidency.
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