President Trump received 74 million votes in November, the most of any Republican in the history of the country by a country mile. The problem, of course, is that the other guy got 81 million votes while edging Trump in key states, including Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, to take the Electoral College.
But Trump was in the rare position of being well placed to run again in 2024 and squashing the competition in the same manner he did in 2016. He certainly would have had two things heavily in his favor: (A) Blotting out all other candidates – including President-elect Biden (or Vice President-elect Kamala Harris if Biden declined to seek a second term) – in terms of overwhelming media coverage; and (B) Most of his 2020 supporters sticking with him. To that end, a recent Fox News poll showed that 79 percent of Trump supporters wanted him to run again in 2024, which is the equivalent of about 58 million votes out of the gate.
None of Trump’s likely challengers has a fraction of the support Trump had. Outside of the shouting, the primary would have been over before it started.
That prospect ended on Jan. 6 when Trump supporters overran D.C. law enforcement in taking over the U.S. Capitol. The feeling, shared by Republicans and Democrats, was that we had just witnessed one of the most nauseating, shameful, sad, dark moments in this country’s modern history. A police officer was killed after being attacked by a rioter with a fire extinguisher. A female military member lost her life after being shot in the Capitol building. In all, four people died during the siege, and more than a dozen officers were injured.
For some who work for the president, enough was enough. Resignations have been coming in fast and furious. Recently-resigned former Attorney General Bill Barr characterized the president’s conduct to the Associated Press as “a betrayal of his office and supporters.”
“Orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable,” Barr added.
Even the Wall Street Journal, not a bastion of liberal sentiment, has called for the president’s resignation despite there being less than two weeks before Biden’s inauguration.
So where do the president’s 74 million voters turn if Trump doesn’t run again? Many loathe the swamp, including Republicans, whom they consider just as much a part of the problem as Democrats. Many believed Trump did the best job as any president in history (pre-COVID): A roaring economy, rising wages, record-low unemployment, criminal justice reform, bringing U.S. troops back home, taking out terrorists while destroying the ISIS caliphate, the end of the ObamaCare individual mandate, stronger borders, improved trade deals highlighted by the USMCA and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Remove Trump’s behavior, and his record is as impressive as any first-term president since Reagan.
But that all goes away now. Trump’s legacy now also includes his handling of COVID, which was constantly politicized and didn’t exactly inspire confidence in his administration. Still, because of Operation Warp Speed, the vaccine is getting into Americans’ arms faster than almost anyone – including Dr. Anthony Fauci – believed was possible.
That could have been the final chapter of Trump’s legacy. Instead, the last image many Americans will be left with was captured in these headlines:
New York Times: “TRUMP INCITES MOB”
San Francisco Chronicle: “INSURRECTION”
INSURRECTION AT THE U.S CAPITOL.
– San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) January 7, 2021
Washington Post: “TRUMP MOB STORMS CAPITOL”
The front page of Thursday’s Washington Post:
Trump mob storms Capitol
President incites crowd to acts of insurrection, violence pic.twitter.com/4H8YVYO3jW
– The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) January 7, 2021
Trump had everything going for him heading into the 2016 election: He dominated media coverage. He was truly an outsider. He was fearless. He knew how to use social media like no politician we’ve ever seen.
Now Trump can’t even get into his social media accounts after being suspended.
And media coverage – including much from the right – isn’t sympathetic to him anymore.
As for who picks up Trump’s voters, look no further than Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), one of the very few active politicians whom the president’s supporters would happily embrace as a younger heir apparent.
Trump 2024 was a very real possibility – as was actually winning in a rematch. That ended Wednesday in deadly chaos at the Capitol.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill and a Fox News contributor.