Republican consultants say that if former President Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot in 2024, it could spell a turnout catastrophe for the GOP next year.
While President Trump is the leading Republican presidential candidate by a long shot according to opinion polls, mounting legal issues could potentially keep him off the ballot. The former president has been indicted multiple times on state and federal charges for a range of issues.
“The conventional wisdom is there’s concern that if Trump’s not the nominee, his coalition will take their ball and go home,” Matt Dole, a Republican strategist in Ohio, told The Hill. “Folks are interested in how that plays out, and so I think right now, they would be happy if Trump’s the nominee—in Ohio, it’s not true across the country—because then his coalition will turn out in November,” he added.
Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and a former aide in the U.S. Senate, said that the GOP would suffer if President Trump is derailed by federal and state criminal prosecutions.
“If somehow he’s not the nominee, it will hurt turnout,” he told The Hill. “He’s got a unique coalition. He brings a lot of nontraditional voters to the Republican Party.” Mr. Darling said it will be difficult for the GOP to win Ohio and other Midwestern states if those Trump voters don’t show up.
Trump Holds Comfortable Lead
A recent poll released by I&I/TIPP shows the former president is far ahead of the pack, leading Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the No. 2 pick, by about 45 percentage points. A New York Times/Siena poll taken earlier in August shows that President Trump is ahead of Mr. DeSantis by about 24 percent nationally.
As a result, Mr. Darling said the former commander-in-chief has a “lock” on the GOP nomination, noting that “the only way he loses if he’s prevented from being on the ballot.”
Highlighting the possible turnout woes for Republicans, David Paleologos, the head of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, told The Hill that about 40 percent of GOP voters who feel confident about who they will cast their ballots for in 2024 are firmly behind the former president.
“Conservatively, it looks like 4 out of 10,” he said. “I haven’t seen many polls where he below 40 [percent].”
“The Trump voters, even from our polling, have pretty much said: ‘It’s Trump or bust,’” Mr. Paleologos said. “There’s a percentage of voters who won’t even vote Republican if he doesn’t get the nomination.”
The GOP worries come about a day after Vice President Kamala Harris told MSNBC over the weekend that she, too, is concerned about voter turnout. Citing election integrity laws that were passed in a range of states over the past two years, she said, “I’m worried about it because I also know that there has been a lot of effort and laws that have been passed to try and make it more difficult for people to vote.”
The former president faces three criminal trials in New York City, Washington, and Miami.
A district attorney in Georgia’s Fulton County is expected to bring more charges against him related to his efforts after the 2020 election.
At the same time, President Trump has rejected requests to make a pledge to back the eventual Republican nominee for president if he doesn’t secure the nomination. That move drew the ire of Mr. DeSantis, who signed the loyalty oath to the Republican National Committee earlier this week, which GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has mandated for candidates if they want to appear at the first GOP debate later this month in Milwaukee.
“I wouldn’t sign the pledge,” the former president told Newsmax. “Why would I sign a pledge? There are people on there that I wouldn’t have.”
He added: “I can name three or four people that I wouldn’t support for president. So right there, there’s a problem.”
It’s not clear if President Trump will attend the first debate, scheduled for Aug. 23.
“I mean, these are, you know, very capable people, very good people but why would you do that when you’re leading by so much?” asked President Trump about attending the debate. He then made reference to former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon having skipped out on debates.
For the first debate, reports indicate that Mr. DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum will attend the debate. Former Vice President Mike Pence said last Friday that he also will sign the pledge.
As for Mr. DeSantis, he was asked by reporters in Iowa how he will to close the gap with President Trump.
“You work hard,” he said. “We’ve now done 38 of the 99 counties. We did six counties yesterday.”
Article cross-posted from our premium news partners at The Epoch Times.