Former President Trump is plowing ahead with his 2024 campaign launch next week despite the pleas of even some of his closest advisers, who point to risks for both Trump and the Republican Party as a whole.
For Trump, a formal declaration of his candidacy would cut off support from the Republican National Committee (RNC) in paying his legal bills, complicate how he can fundraise and risk inviting potential GOP challengers to move up their own plans if an announcement lands with a thud.
Other Republicans are particularly concerned about how an early Trump announcement might cost them in Georgia, where control of the Senate could be on the line in a runoff election next month. If Trump has already declared he is running for president again, lawmakers and party strategists worry that it will become a major motivator for Democrats to turn out and vote in a state Trump narrowly lost in 2020.
Some in the GOP are openly calling for the party to move on from Trump entirely in the wake of this week’s midterm elections.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who handily won reelection on Tuesday, called the prospect of Trump jumping into the 2024 race so early a “silly decision.”
“He stands to potentially muck up the opportunity for [Herschel] Walker to win in Georgia in his runoff,” Sununu said in a SiriusXM interview on Friday.
“I think what the former president doesn’t understand is if he announces … he’s not going to keep anyone out of the race,” he continued. “But no one else is going to announce until summer or fall for a whole variety of fundraising reasons and all of this. So it’s going to be a very awkward thing with only him in the race. No one’s going to really care. It’s just going to be weird.”
Trump on Monday teased an announcement for next week about his future plans, clearly hoping to build on momentum from a big night for Republicans in the midterms. But the anticipated red wave never materialized, with some of Trump’s highest profile endorsements suffering key losses.
Jason Miller, a top adviser to Trump who worked on his 2016 and 2020 campaigns, put to rest on Friday any speculation that the former president might be second-guessing the decision in light of the results.
“President Trump is going to announce on Tuesday that he’s running for president. And it’s going to be a very professional, very buttoned-up announcement,” Miller told former Trump White House official Stephen Bannon on the latter’s radio show.
The former president and his allies urging him to jump into the race see some benefits to an early announcement.
Doing so would lay down a marker for other Republicans to either pledge their loyalty to Trump for 2024, or risk being ostracized by the MAGA wing of the party. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a member of House leadership, has already publicly backed Trump for 2024.
It would also potentially clear the field of prospective candidates such as Nikki Haley, Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, who said in April 2021 she would not run for president if Trump were in the race.
There are some in Trump’s orbit who also believe the former president wants to declare his candidacy before a potential indictment comes down over his mishandling of classified information after he left the White House. If he is actively running for president, the Justice Department would face some difficult decisions about how to proceed with bringing charges, though Trump’s allies are sure to claim that any indictment is politically motivated regardless.
Trump in an interview over the summer denied investigations into his conduct were motivating a possible third White House bid.
Still, there are numerous risks to Trump launching his campaign essentially two full years before the presidential election.
Campaign finance laws would restrict how Trump could use the money he raised through his Save America PAC, and it would cap donations he could accumulate over such a long time period.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel says the party can no longer pay Trump’s legal bills if he’s a declared candidate.
Multiple Republican strategists and some former Trump campaign officials doubted that an early announcement would clear the field of potential primary challengers, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) among the potential candidates who are unlikely to be deterred by Trump’s announcement.
“That’s part of the problem for his candidacy is the earlier he does it is the more time he gives a Glenn Youngkin or a Ron DeSantis to bide their time, see where the opening is and see where he is around late second quarter,” a former Trump campaign adviser said.
Trump has gone particularly hard after DeSantis in recent days, complaining that the Florida governor was not gracious enough for Trump’s help in his 2018 campaign, threatening to release damaging information about DeSantis in a 2024 primary and mocking him as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
But the attacks have largely backfired. DeSantis has not engaged, and many conservatives have rallied around the Florida governor after his landslide victory on Tuesday.
Perhaps the greatest concern around an early Trump announcement, however, lies in Georgia, where many Republicans fear a repeat of two years ago.
“If I’m advising any contender — DeSantis, Trump, whomever — nobody announces 2024 until we get through Dec. 6,” former Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News, adding that Trump should put any announcement “on pause.”
The former president, who fuels turnout not just for Republicans but for Democrats and independents who oppose him, lost Georgia narrowly in 2020, becoming the first Republican since 1992 to fail to carry the state.
Trump then spent the weeks before a January 2021 Senate runoff spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election and sowing doubt about whether Georgia voters could trust that their ballots would count. Democrats ultimately won both Senate runoffs, clinching control of the chamber.
A handful of GOP voices have gone as far as to say the party should move on from Trump completely, including Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, billionaire donor Ken Griffin and Rep.-elect Mike Lawler (N.Y.), who defeated House Democrats’ campaign chief.
“Anytime you are focused on the future, you can’t so much go to the past. I think people are really excited about the opportunity to address the challenges that we’re facing as a country,” Lawler said on CNN. “And I think more focus needs to be on the issues and the substance of those issues than on personalities.”
But those concerns have clearly not convinced Trump, who has been itching to declare a third White House campaign for months but has held off at the urging of advisers and party leaders.
The former president has in recent days insisted the midterms were a success for him personally, pointing to the dozens of candidates he endorsed who won their races for the House, Senate and other offices.
Miller, who two days ago said “priorities A, B and C” needed to be focusing on the Georgia runoff, on Friday said Trump told him of his plans: “’There doesn’t need to be any question. Of course I’m running. I’m going to do this, and I want to make sure people know that I’m fired up and we’ve got to get the country back on track.’”