Shribman: Pure political will could be Trump’s greatest asset

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No American president of our time – perhaps ever any American president, with the possible exception of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt – has affected the environment of their successors in such a dramatic way as Donald J. Trump shaped the world. Joe Biden’s policy.

President Washington, whose retirement imposed a two-term limit on the post that lasted a century and a half, and Roosevelt, whose shadow over William Howard Taft was an enduring presence, have decided not to seek further presidential terms. successive.

Trump is a lingering presence in the Biden years, harassing his successor and laying the groundwork for a third presidential campaign. Just a few days ago he said in Orlando: “We won the first time, and the second time we won even more. And it looks like we might have to think about it, very hard, a third time. “

No one – maybe even Trump – knows whether the 45th president will try to become the 47th president, becoming the only chief executive besides Grover Cleveland to serve non-consecutive terms, the only president since TR to enter politics presidential election after leaving the White House, and joining Andrew Jackson, Cleveland, William Jennings Bryan, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon as winners of three presidential nominations. No one said Trump was a conventional figure.

But then again, he changed the nature of his party as much as Jackson, both Roosevelts and Ronald Reagan.

Here’s proof: A generation ago, Conservatives believed Reagan shaped the GOP for decades. Today, hardly anyone identifies as a Reagan Tory; the Republican Party is a Trump party. And another particle of evidence: A Pew Research Center poll this fall found that two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they want Trump to remain a major political figure, with more than two in five saying he ‘they want him to show up again in 2024.

“That may change depending on whether or not he has criminal charges and what emerges from the Jan. 6 investigation,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, in Virginia. In the last few days. , it became clear that many top Fox News commentators begged Trump’s White House to step in to stop the rampage on Capitol Hill.

Trump may be the same man who has been in the American tabloids, reality TV and Manhattan penthouse social circles for decades, but one piece of his profile has changed. The 2016 Edison Research Election Day exit poll of 24,557 Americans found that only 8% of voters believed Trump had “the right experience” to be president. This would no longer be the case if he were to run in 2024.

His White House experience is now his biggest calling card, at least for his supporters. It also has the opposite effect for its detractors; they’re determined to make sure he doesn’t return to the White House. Trump unites both Democrats and Republicans.

If a third round in the White House is his hope, Trump is following a return path forged by Nixon, who lost the 1960 election by a small margin, was defeated in the 1962 California gubernatorial race, then – State by State, political contest by political contest – laid the groundwork in 1966 for his successful presidential candidacy of 1968. He appeared on behalf of 86 GOP candidates, creating a brand new political brand “New Nixon” then. that he was working for republican unity.

Trump’s involvement in the 2022 local, state, and national elections – including 10 gubernatorial races and several contests in Congress – is designed to solidify his support even as he creates divisions among Republicans.

“It was essential that Nixon win the nomination and the 1968 election,” said Dwight Chapin, then a 25-year-old Nixon forward man, later his personal assistant and finally deputy assistant to the president during the Watergate era. . “It was essential to remove the label of ‘loser’ that he acquired in 1960 and 1962.”

On election night, Nixon called out dozens of successful candidates, reminding them of how excited crowds were when he visited their campaigns. Trump has claimed responsibility for Glenn Youngkin’s election as governor of Virginia, although he did not campaign for him in person.

Trump has a will to power unmatched in recent American political life, with the exception of Nixon. And while Nixon won against Hubert Humphrey, who was a popular figure in 1960s America, Trump could run against Biden, whose politics may be popular (63%, according to a Washington Post / ABC News poll. ) but which itself is not (43 percent approval, according to the latest Wall Street Journal poll, which puts a rematch in 2024 between Trump and Biden tied).

“Nixon had political jobs which allowed him to say he had the right training for the presidency,” said David Greenberg, Rutgers University historian and author of “Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image,” said an interview. “Trump had none of these. The performance of the economy when he was president had nothing to do with the experience in his casinos and hotels. What he does have is some willpower. Although he sometimes succeeded in an ugly or reckless way, he did. “

He succeeded in another way. The Wall Street Journal poll shows the public approves the job Trump did as president between 2017 and 2021 by 7 percentage points more than they approve of the job Biden is doing now.

This is not to say that he will not meet resistance to the renomination. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this year created the Champion American Values ​​PAC to “protect American values ​​and help Republicans regain majorities” in Congress and build support for state legislatures.

He’s showing up in front of GOP audiences across the country. The recent book published by former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey suggests he may attempt another presidential campaign in 2024.

And a disastrous performance by Trump-backed candidates in next year’s midterm election could erode his power among Republicans. But today, Trump’s profile in exile and Biden’s lagging poll numbers have created a political landscape that mirrors that of the first twin political states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He is frozen in place.

A 1972 graduate of Swampscott High School, David M. Shribman is the former editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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