scorecardDemocrats are already bracing for the likelihood of another showdown with Donald Trump in 2024: 'I don't know if we're prepared'
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Democrats are already bracing for the likelihood of another showdown with Donald Trump in 2024: 'I don't know if we're prepared'

Kayla Epstein   

Democrats are already bracing for the likelihood of another showdown with Donald Trump in 2024: 'I don't know if we're prepared'
PoliticsPolitics4 min read
  • Donald Trump is playing coy about running again in 2024, but Democrats consider him the frontrunner.
  • Democratic strategists say they're not sure the party is prepared for another race against Trump.

Democrats are anticipating a third showdown with Donald Trump in the 2024 election.

Though the next presidential election is still two years away, with a midterm in between, Democratic strategists still see Trump as the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 nomination, even if he has yet to declare his candidacy. Those party insiders told Insider that while a third Trump run isn't guaranteed, they fear he'd beat any Republicans who challenged him in a primary— and that Democrats would have a tough time clinching victory again.

"If Trump runs, I think he wins the nomination," said Doug Thornell, managing director at SKDKnickerbocker and a longtime Democratic communications strategist. "I just don't see any other Republican flirting with a run in '24 begin able to dethrone him."

Should Trump run again, Democrats would have the benefit of fighting the devil they knew, but Chuck Rocha, president of political consulting firm Solidarity Strategies, cautioned that they shouldn't necessarily use the same playbook as before.

"I don't know if we're prepared, but I think we learned from our past mistakes," said Rocha. "We would engage the Latinos earlier, we would have a working-class message for blue-collar folks who are feeling frustrated by the government."

Biden's rocky first year

Biden currently has the unenviable task of steering the US out of the protracted coronavirus crisis, and the ensuing economic havoc caused by two years of global disruption, after running on the promise that he had the experience to solve such crises. On top of that, he must now lead the global response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

A little over a year into Biden's term about 42% of voters approve of the job that he's doing and 52% disapprove, according to FiveThirtyEight's tracker. Despite economic growth, a low unemployment rate, increased hiring, and wage growth, Americans remain very concerned about inflation, which has raised the cost of everyday goods like groceries and gasoline. Meanwhile, Democratic insiders acknowledge that the party has failed to effectively communicate its economic wins to voters thus far and that failing to hammer out a message soon could cost them in the midterms. These major issues could linger on for the next two years, and depending on how the public is feeling, could send change-hungry voters Republicans' way.

Trump, who initially won the White House with a combination of racist rhetoric and economic grievances, would have plenty of discontent to exploit should he seek a second term. He also benefits from a conservative base that remains unusually welded to him.

China Dickerson, a Democratic strategist based in South Carolina, said that should Biden face off against Trump again, Biden's victory would not be a sure thing.

"Maybe Biden would beat him," Dickerson said. But she cautioned, "I think the turnout would be even lower, and because turnout would be lower we'd have a problem."

Dickerson cited a boost in Republican turnout in two 2021 gubernatorial races, which delivered the Virginia governor's mansion to Republican Glenn Youngkin, and nearly cost New Jersey Democrat Phil Murphy his job.

Waiting in the wings

A Trump nomination or candidacy is not a certainty. The former president would be 78 in 2024, and while he's making endorsements in the 2022 midterms, he's played coy about his intentions in 2024. Meanwhile, other Republican hopefuls are quietly gearing up for a 2024 run.

Democratic strategists had their eye on a handful of established Republicans and rising stars, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has positioned himself to the right of Trump on issues like vaccinations and is currently taking up more of the post-Trump spotlight than any of his contemporaries. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Marco Rubio of Florida, were also cited as potential 2024 candidates to watch.

Dickerson, however, had a different perspective, saying that voters wanted a more moderate and relatively drama-free candidate, rather than a firebrand in Trump's mold. She cited Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 Republican nominee, as an example.

"If I were a GOP strategist, I would suggest someone like Nikki Haley," the former governor of South Carolina and Trump's former UN ambassador, said Dickerson. "Nikki Haley is one; palatable, and two; can be argued to be moderate."

Dickerson added that Sen. Tim Scott, also of South Carolina, could be a viable 2024 candidate for Republicans. "He doesn't cause too much fuss, and to be honest I think Democrats and Republicans are looking for folks who are a little less entertaining," Dickerson said.

Dickerson urged Democrats to "be careful in assuming that the person you hate the most is the person that is going to run because you're not prepared to run against the person that's viable."

Both Dickerson and Thornell said even if Trump didn't run again, Democrats should be ready for a difficult battle in 2024 against whomever Republicans pick.

"We anticipate every presidential general election to be a dogfight," Thornell said.