A 2024 What If

Timeline: Monday morning July 31.

Sometimes I drive myself a little crazy with “what if” scenarios. Today I want to go over one that the current polling numbers say is impossible. Think of all the presidents that never were that the polls said were inevitable. Buckle up, but keep an open mind.

Monday’s morning New York Times featured a Times/Sienna College Republican preference poll conducted between July 24 and 27 that had Donald Trump running away at 54%, Ron DeSantis was a very distant second at 17% and no other candidate broke 3%. I too find it difficult to envision anyone other than Trump being the GOP’s 2024 standard bearer…unless.

The unless is two things. Everyone is mortal so, remote as it may be, Trump could die between now and the convention. I have never discounted the possibility that he would drop out. Who drops with that type of lead. Honestly, I don’t see anyone overtaking him. But it is still the dropping out that is the root of my scenario.

Much like the 2016 campaign, the gambit was never about winning. In 2016 what started as basically a publicity stunt morphed into a real campaign when Trump discovered he could make money by running.

The 2024 effort is basically the same with the added incentive of if he wins, he could self-pardon (which has never been tested in court but Trump feels he has a friendly venue in the Supreme Court where that case would eventually land). Still Trump has always been about the money. Trump is a terrible businessman. Basically, he is rich because he inherited a ton of money and has broken even and then only after several bailouts and what was called cheating where I grew up.

Over the past few days, the news has been full of reports that Trump’s legal bills are well into eight figures and that is just for the first six months of 2024. Keep in mind that it certainly appears that more new indictments are coming. Like most things Trump does, he is paying them largely with OP money. Now some of those people, at least the deep pocketed ones, are balking.

I have long compared the Trump operation to an organized criminal enterprise. With each passing week I feel more strongly about that. Another part of the reason Trump’s legal bills are so high is that he is paying for the legal fees of a lot of his underlings. Just like a mob boss takes care of his boys to insure they will stay loyal. The attorneys realize who ultimately controls whether the check gets issued or not so their real loyalty is to Trump and it’s his behind they are really trying to protect.

So, here is my scenario. The funding dries up and Trump drops out. DeSantis is dropping faster than a bowling ball thrown in a lake. So, he will not be around to pick up the pieces. We would then have a mad scramble and I do not discount the possibility of one or more additional candidates throwing their hats into the ring, especially if this transpires before Iowa. I know I’m bias but I simple don’t see a good candidate emerging on the GOP side. But the emerging nominee will have less baggage (in fact he -and it will be a male- may well be unknown to most of the electorate and national press) and therefore has a better chance of beating Joe Biden. However, I don’t see a better alternative for America and American democracy emerging. Trump might be vanquished but Trumpism still dominated the Republican primary electorate.

So here is the bottom line: in my mythical scenario Biden faces a Mr. X who has a better chance of winning the general than Trump. While Trump looks like a loser in the general, he is not a guaranteed loser. Do we want to bet the future of democracy on a Biden-Trump rematch? This was mostly an exercise in what ifs; the reality is that we have little if any control over what will happen but it makes for good political conversation.

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