Media obsessed with Trump’s past as he contemplates his return

Former President Trump addresses the North Carolina Republican Party convention on June 5

The media focused on former President Trump’s past this week. But it is his future that fixes his opponents as well as his supporters.

There has been a furore in the media in recent days over whether Trump had COVID-19 during his first debate with President Biden ahead of the 2020 election.

The January 6 insurgency also returned to center stage, with the House select committee investigating the attack by battling with various Trump-era officials.

And there have been new stories about Trump’s business interests, particularly centered around his hotel near the White House in Washington.

Certainly, these are important stories. But the biggest story of all is what comes next.

The former president has shown no willingness to abandon the political scene. And, to the horror of his many detractors, some stars are lining up for a Trump comeback.

Trump’s efforts to marginalize Republicans who refused to comply continue to escalate.

On Wednesday, after Democrat Stacey Abrams announced she would try for a second time to become governor of Georgia, Trump issued a statement lambasting Abrams but also targeting incumbent Republican governor Brian Kemp.

Kemp’s sin, in Trump’s eyes, was his refusal to support Trump’s fictions that the Georgia presidential election was fraudulent. If Trump realizes his wish for Kemp to be defeated in a primary, there could be a more MAGA-friendly GOP governor closely involved in any future close election.

The Jan.6 committee also recently fought with key Trump aides, the most prominent example being Stephen Bannon, who has been charged with criminal contempt of Congress.

But no sanction Bannon faces looks likely to stop his efforts to install Trump supporters in school boards, election councils and other low-level positions across the country that help democracy work.

As Rolling Stone magazine noted, just hours before the news of Bannon’s indictment was announced, he told listeners to his podcast, “We are taking action. We take control of the school boards. We take control of the Republican Party with the strategy of the precinct committee. We take care of all the elections. “

Bannon’s push is part of a larger effort that worries not only Democrats, but democracy advocates in general. They see dangerous erosion as 19 states have passed laws making it harder for people to vote this year alone. Several of these states are also involved in the way elections are administered.

Earlier this year, Stanford scholar Larry Diamond, an expert on democratic standards, told this column that even with Trump’s departure, “much of one of the two political parties … is basically pursuing a hostile agenda. to democracy “.

Even setting these ominous predictions aside, the simple fact is that the Republican presidential nomination for 2024 appears to be Trump’s if he wants to.

Numerous polls have shown the former president to be the runaway favorite of Republican voters.

In a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll last month, Trump garnered 47% support when Republicans were offered several options as a potential flag bearer. The second, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, won just 10% of the vote. No one else has succeeded in making double digits.

Lucy Caldwell, an anti-Trump Republican strategist, said that although his influence had diminished to some extent, Trump “still holds the core of the party and can really shape the direction of the party.”

Others agree. Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist more sympathetic to Trump, said: “There is no force stronger than Donald Trump” among the Republican base.

“If he wants to be the nominee, he has the best chance,” O’Connell said.

If the GOP took this route, it would be a huge gamble.

Trump’s popularity with the grassroots GOP is countered by his wide unpopularity with the electorate at large.

In this week’s Economist-YouGov poll, Trump was viewed favorably by 80% of Republicans, but only 38% of the general population. Among all adults, nearly half – 48% – said they had a “very bad” opinion of the former president.

But to the delight of his supporters – and to the horror of his opponents – none of this means Trump cannot be ruled out becoming the first president since Grover Cleveland to serve, lose and then win again.

Trump has amassed a huge campaign bank account. Financial information covering the first half of this year showed he and his affiliate committees had $ 102 million in cash.

He has remained at the center of the national political conversation despite his suspension from Twitter and Facebook.

And he still has vocal advocates in the media, especially radio and cable news.

Then there’s the other huge, salient fact: Biden is, for now, mired in trouble, with a job approval rating that has drifted downward.

Of course, a lot will happen in the three years leading up to the 2024 election. But Biden, who will be 81 by then, will also have worked under the burden of the presidency for four years. For their part, the Republicans hope to have chances with whoever will ultimately be their candidate.

The focus on Trump’s past is, of course, in part due to his position in the GOP and his prospects as a potential future candidate. And his apparent obsession with the 2020 election and the almost daily spread of grievances about it keeps his supporters motivated and helps him stay on stage.

Trump could let off steam on the past. But he too has his eyes on the future.

The Memo is a column published by Niall Stanage.

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