On the other hand, Trump losing the nomination could prove just as brutal—alienating a good portion of the 47% who still favor a Trump run. Any type of wholesale defection by Trump cultists stands to cripple any GOP nominee, even if they do manage to woo some anti-Trump independents back into the Republican fold.
At the moment, one of those two scenarios appears highly likely to happen—either Trump proves just strong enough to win the GOP’s ’24 nomination, or he proves just strong enough to hobble whoever manages to prevail in the Republican primary.
The easiest and perhaps most likely way for Trump to exact revenge on the GOP if he doesn’t win the nomination is by making a third-party run of some sort.
“The threat is simple: Unless the rest of the party goes along with him, he will burn the whole house down by leading ‘his people’ out of the GOP,” former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr wrote Tuesday in a New York Post op-ed.
Asked about that possibility Sunday on ABC’s This Week, former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan proved too characteristically daft to imagine it.
“Then he gives the left the country,” Ryan said of Trump running third party, “And I think he would not want to be blamed for doing that.
If Trump doesn’t win the GOP primary due to being dejected by the party, his singular goal will be to burn down the Republican Party. Trump won’t give a damn whether he gifts the country to Democrats for another cycle. The only thing Trump will care about is proving that Republicans can’t win without him.
Now whether Trump will have the organizational wherewithal to actually mount a third-party bid in all 50 states is an entirely different question. But he very well may be able to play spoiler without having to compete in the sense of a traditional presidential campaign. Perhaps, for instance, Trump doesn’t compete in every state but rather in half a dozen states where he can most damage the Republican nominee. Or maybe instead of petitioning to be on every state’s ballot, he mounts a campaign as a write-in candidate.
Though Reed Galen, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, doubted whether Trump would be up to mounting a formal bid across the country, he ultimately concluded the perennial loser would find a way to kneecap the GOP anyway.
“The bottom line is, if he is not the nominee, he will do whatever it is he thinks he needs to, to make sure that the eventual Republican nominee loses,” Galen told Semafor.
That sounds about right. Whether or not Trump has a chance of actually winning, he will devote the whole of his being to making damn sure the Republican Party loses.
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