- Donald Trump keeps hinting at another run for president.
- GOP insiders aren’t counting him out, including Trump skeptics.
- But Trump may have to stop talking about 2020, and bank on running against someone besides Biden.
It’s January 20, 2025. Donald Trump places his hand on a Bible. He’s standing at the US Capitol that, four years earlier, a mob of his supporters attacked in his name.
Trump recites the oath of office. He grins and flashes a thumbs-up. He’s president of the United States. Again.
It’s a scenario that Trump-skeptical Republicans wish and pray won’t happen, but still concede is a possibility.
“He has surprised everyone before,” said Alex Conant, who managed communications for Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. “I don’t think anyone should write him off. I don’t think Democrats are writing him off.”
The prospect of another Trump win is “disturbing,” said Tim Miller, who was communications director for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and is a Trump critic.
“It’s scary,” he said. “It’s way more likely than people think.”
Despite Trump’s constant flirtations with another presidential campaign, it’s still an open question as to whether he’ll run at all. His political baggage could fill a cargo hold: Trump is twice impeached, accused of inciting the US Capitol attack, faces grave legal jeopardy in multiple jurisdictions, and along the way, has bludgeoned many top Republicans — up to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — with personal attacks. The list goes on.
Yet Trump maintains a loyal, enthusiastic base that unsettles even some of the most traditional Republicans in Congress. Since leaving the White House, he has maintained a robust political operation and continues to conduct campaign-style rallies across the country. The broad consensus is that if Trump runs for president in 2024, he’ll definitely lock up the GOP nomination. What would happen after that is decidedly less certain.
To get a sense of how Republicans view Trump’s future, Insider asked seven experts from previous presidential campaigns to imagine a world in which Trump runs again in 2024 — and wins. Here’s what they had to say.
Shut up about 2020
Charlie Black, founding member of Prime Policy Group who was a campaign advisor for former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign, is clear: He predicts neither Trump, President Joe Biden, nor Vice President Kamala Harris will be their respective parties’ nominees in 2024.
But when pressed on a hypothetical scenario that would Trump both running again and winning the winning stop, Black said Trump talking about the 2020 election. Trump frequently says the election was “stolen” from him, though no evidence has surfaced to support claims of widespread voter fraud.
“One reason he could lose the nomination to someone else if he ran is his maniacal focus that he stole the election,” Black said. “Politics is about the future and never about the past, and he doesn’t get that.”
Other strategists also had their doubts about the prospects of President Trump 2.0.
Sarah Isgur, who was deputy campaign manager for businesswoman Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential race, also pointed to Trump’s obsession over the 2020 elections as a liability, saying voters were more concerned about issues such as inflation.
Asked whether Trump could win if he stopped talking about 2020, she replied, “Can Trump turn into a unicorn?”
Make even more inroads among voters of color
Trump — or any Republican who runs for the White House — should travel down inroads the former president made among voters of color, said Jeff Roe, who managed Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 2021 campaign in Virginia as well as Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Hispanics, in particular, are becoming more conservative, said Roe, who now runs the consulting firm Axiom Strategies that represents GOP candidates all around the US.
While most of color decidedly supported Biden during the 2020 election and fueled his victory, Trump did improve his showing to 2016. In all, 26% of Trump’s support during the last presidential election came from nonwhite voters. A report by the Democratic data firm Catalist found there was about an 8 percentage-point swing toward Trump in 2020 compared to 2016.
“With that growth it’s a real opportunity for Republicans,” Roe said.
Explain why he thinks he can win
Can Trump possibly convince voters that he can beat the current president, given that he lost to him before — in a record-high turnout election? Even Conant said it was “unlikely” Trump could win again.
“He has to find people who don’t yet like him to vote for him, but everyone has made up their mind on Donald Trump,” said Conant, who’s now founding partner at the public affairs firm Firehouse Strategies.
Some GOP insiders said Trump would be able to attack Biden’s record if the current president’s poll numbers continued to crater. But Mike DuHaime, CEO of MAD Global Strategy Group who advised former Gov. Chris Christie’s 2016 presidential campaign, said even that would prove a challenge.
“Biden is seen as personally likable,” DuHaime said. “That goes a long way when it comes to voting.”
Plus, when a candidate challenges an incumbent, he or she needs to be able to make the election a referendum on the current president, he said.
“Biden is very beatable, but Trump would have a harder time than anyone else because then the race becomes about Trump,” DuHaime said. “You want the race to be about the incumbent, especially if they are unpopular.”
This all presumes that Biden will seek a second term. The president, who is 79 years old and would be 82 on Inauguration Day 2025, has indicated he will run again and that Harris will again be his running mate. But more than a year may pass before Biden formally decides and files for re-election.
Terry Sullivan, who managed Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 campaign, said Trump would have an easy time winning the presidency again if he were to run, especially in a rematch against Biden.
“His entire campaign was based on: ‘I’m not Donald Trump. I’m going to be the responsible person. We are not going to be the laughingstock of the world. I’m going to get COVID under control. I’ m going to stop stocking division,” he said.
A year later, Sullivan said, Biden had failed to deliver on those promises, including invoking what he saw as divisive rhetoric on voting rights legislation and the filibuster.
“He compares anyone who disagrees with him on voting rights to a hate-mongering slave holder and the filibuster is now suddenly racist,” Sullivan said. “He is so afraid of his base that he is focused on doing what he needs to do to keep them in line.”
His advice to Trump for winning: “Don’t die.”
Trump is 75 years old. He would be 78 years old on Inauguration Day 2025.
One 2019 white paper from the American Federation for Aging Research projected that after Inauguration 2021, Trump would live another 11.4 years. That would be just enough time to complete a full term starting in 2025, but the study would need to update its projections based on Trump’s current health state on that particular year.
Trump’s chances in 2024 aren’t just about the former president himself, but who the Democratic nominee is, agreed four of the strategists Insider interviewed, including Isgur.
Despite Biden’s indication he’s running, rumors have been swirling among Democrats that Biden won’t seek a second term.
There have even been whispers about Hillary Clinton running again — a scenario that at least two GOP insiders said would be favorable for Trump.
To win, “Trump would have to have the same thing he had happen in 2016, where the Democrats nominate the worst possible candidate,” Black said. “It has to be someone worse than Hillary because he has way more baggage and will have way more baggage.”
DuHaime had a similar take. When asked how Trump would win in 2024, he replied, “Maybe run against Hillary again.”
“Hillary lost as much as Trump won,” he said.
To all voters in a general election, Trump would likely have to alter his style and control his appeal campaign message on the stump. But Sullivan said he thought it was fruitless for Republicans to hold out hope that would happen.
“Apparently they haven’t watched this movie before,” he said.
Trump’s path to victory is “pretty simple,” concluded Miller.
“It’s through a GOP primary where he is not challenged that hard and then circumstances work in his favor in a general election,” he said, “whether economic circumstance or the candidate.”