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Donald Trump eyes early launch to 2024 White House run, casting shadow over midterms

July 18, 2022 Updated Mon., July 18, 2022 at 11:23 a.m.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump walks on stage during a "Save America" rally at Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Former President Donald Trump held a "Save America" rally in Anchorage where he campaigned with U.S. House candidate former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka.    (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/TNS)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump walks on stage during a "Save America" rally at Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Former President Donald Trump held a "Save America" rally in Anchorage where he campaigned with U.S. House candidate former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka.   (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Tim Balk New York Daily News

He’s threatening to make American politics grate again.

After his push to overturn the 2020 election results, former President Donald Trump is exiled from social media, scorned by a chunk of the Republican Party and wounded by recent testimony to Congress that included vivid descriptions of his volcanic White House rages.

None of that appears likely to stop him from running again for the presidency in 2024.

He has recently been laying the groundwork for an extraordinarily early campaign launch, one that could freeze portions of the GOP’s presidential field but could also frustrate his own party as it seeks to recover from the licking it took in 2020.

In an interview with New York magazine published Thursday, Trump indicated that he is weighing when to formally jump into the race, but that he has determined he will enter the campaign at some point.

“I would say my big decision will be whether I go before or after,” Trump, 76, told the magazine, apparently referencing the November midterms. “I just think that there are certain assets to before.”

Trump said he believes other potential Republican candidates would be scared off by his announcement. Reports on the likelihood of a premidterm Trump launch have varied, though some have put the odds as high.

White House hopefuls typically declare their candidacies within a year of Election Day. But a summer entry could pay dividends for a politician inclined to put himself before his party.

“There are a number of other candidates who are circling here,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist from Kentucky. “Getting into the race kind of puts everybody else on the spot.”

Potential primary challengers to Trump include his vice president, Mike Pence; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s former governor.

Trump’s unwillingness to accept the 2020 results after President Joe Biden beat him by 74 electoral votes and more than 7 million ballots in the popular vote — and his role in inspiring the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — have weakened his already shaky standing among many Americans.

And some Republicans see Trump as a destabilizing force who could upend their midterm plans to take back the House and the Senate.

“If the former president were to make some type of announcement before the midterm elections this fall, it would be incredibly distracting and unsettling for so many important races,” said Bill Palatucci, a Republican National Committee member from New Jersey. “It would be completely selfish.”

Palatucci blames Trump for Republican losses in a pair of Georgia Senate races in January 2021 that cost the party control of the chamber. “The former president needs to find a way to be constructive for the party,” he said. “So far he’s only found a way to be a detriment.”

A spokeswoman for Trump, Liz Harrington, did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this story.

Parties historically perform well in midterm elections after losing the White House, and Biden’s inability to contain inflation has sapped his approval rating and strengthened the GOP’s hand.

But after a Supreme Court transformed by Trump erased the half-century-old constitutional right to abortion three weeks ago, liberals appear increasingly fired up about the midterms. And a Trump entry would allow Democrats to target a favored antagonist.

A New York Times/Siena College poll conducted this month found 41% of voters wanted Democrats to retain control of Congress, while 40% supported a Republican takeover.

FiveThirtyEight, a poll aggregator, still gives Republicans an 87% chance of winning the House. But it pegs the Senate as a coin flip after Democrats surged since the spring.

Jay Townsend, a New York political consultant who advises candidates from both parties, said Trump will make Republicans’ work at the midterms “much harder.”

“He’s going to be a distraction to candidates,” Townsend said. “The minute he walks into a room, he sucks all of the oxygen out of the air.”

Townsend argued Trump will face a tough road in the primary even if he gets an early start, saying the businessman who lost the popular vote in the last two presidential elections is “not going to scare anybody away” and is “badly damaged.”

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, delivered devastating testimony last month to the House panel investigating Jan. 6. She described Trump shattering a porcelain dish in one White House tantrum, and said he tried to loosen security checks at his Jan. 6 rally ahead of the Capitol attack.

In March, a federal judge in California ruled that Trump’s effort to reverse his presidential election loss likely amounted to a crime. And on Tuesday, Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, accused Trump of phoning a witness in the House probe, raising questions about witness tampering.

Doug Heye, a consultant and former Republican National Committee communications director, said that Trump’s headlines “are terrible, his relevance is slipping and other Republicans are gaining.”

Still, opinion polls show Trump dominating the hypothetical GOP field, and suggest a rematch between him and Biden could leave voters in both parties biting their nails. The Siena survey showed Biden in front of Trump by 3 percentage points.

Biden, 79, and under growing pressure from Democrats to pass the torch in 2024, publicly plans to run for reelection. He has said he would be “very fortunate” to take on Trump again, a position that can find support on both sides of the aisle.

“The best case scenario for Republican strategy in this midterm is to keep fully focused on Biden, inflation, cost of gas,” Jennings said, adding that Republicans could face a certain paradox in 2024.

“I think Trump is the least likely Republican to win the White House,” Jennings said. “He is the most likely Republican to be the nominee.”

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