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Then-President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, then-President Donald Trump speaks during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as president in Washington.
Evan Vucci, Associated Press

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Can anyone beat Trump for the GOP nomination in 2024?

To beat Trump would require a candidate who could unite a coalition of never-Trumpers, independents and the shrinking percentage of Republicans who like Trump but would prefer a new nominee

Former President Donald Trump remains the favored candidate to win the Republican nomination in 2024 should he run, and he’s confident it’s his if he wants it.

“If I do run, I think that I’ll do extremely well,” Trump told Yahoo Finance in an interview earlier this month. “I’m not only looking at polls, I’m looking at the enthusiasm.”

Trump has come out ahead in recent polls of potential 2024 contenders, including a Politico-Morning Consult poll released Oct. 13 that found 47% of Republican voters would vote for Trump if the primary was held today. That put Trump far ahead of his nearest competitors, former Vice President Mike Pence, at 13%, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, at 12%. Trump said he’s not concerned about any potential challengers.

“I think most people would drop out, I think (DeSantis) would drop out, and if I faced him I’d beat him like I’d beat everyone else, frankly,” Trump said.

Some polls this year have found a significant segment of Republican voters want someone else as their nominee in 2024, though. A poll earlier this year by Trump’s 2020 pollster Fabrizio and Lee found about half of all Republicans would prefer a different nominee, while a Pew Research survey released earlier this month found 52% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents want someone new.

However, polling that separates Republicans and independents shows a much less favorable landscape for would-be Trump challengers. A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows among Republicans, 78% would like to see Trump run again, up from 66% in May. Among independents, 35% want Trump to run again.

“While a majority of Americans say, ‘been there, done that’ about Trump, and half feel he has damaged the underpinnings of democracy, support for the former president within the GOP has grown,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement.

To beat Trump for the nomination now as far as the party is constituted would require a candidate who could unite a coalition of never-Trumpers, independents and the shrinking percentage of Republicans who like Trump but would prefer a new nominee, while also chipping away at Trump’s supporters and trying to woo back former Republicans who left the party, for good measure.

“I think it’s going to need to be someone who expresses loyalty to Trump in some fashion, or at least praises Trump, or is comfortable with saying, ‘Trump did good things for the Republican Party, Trump did good things as president, here’s how I want to further Donald Trump’s agenda or legacy,’” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at University of New Hampshire.

Trump challengers must thread the needle of being Trump-friendly, recognizing 85% of Republicans believe the former president has mainly had a positive impact on the party, per Quinnipiac, while also convincing voters they’d be a better pick.

Arguing they’d be more electable or more effective in office than Trump might be a smart strategy against a potential candidate known for his tweets and impulse. Trump was never popular as a politician, losing the popular vote twice and spending all four years in office with a negative approval rating. Still, Republicans have to recognize they’re operating in Trump’s party.

“The party is not going back to the way it was,” Scala said. “It’s not going to be Mitt Romney’s party again. Even if it’s not Donald Trump’s, there’s got to be someone who can appeal to white working class voters the way that Trump did, because that’s part of your base now.”

Former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah thinks the Republican Party needs a fresh face in 2024. Farah, who resigned in December 2020 after Trump wouldn’t concede the election, published a Washington Examiner editorial Sunday about the party’s “deep bench of credible, experienced potential candidates” she believes are positioned to run following Trump’s loss.

“Trump turned out new voters and is a fundraising machine — he also lost the last election, both in the electoral college and by roughly seven million popular votes,” Farah wrote. “I’m old enough to remember that the GOP didn’t line up behind Mitt Romney ahead of 2016 after his 2012 presidential loss or behind John McCain in 2012 following his 2008 loss. There has always been a sense among Republicans that nothing is given; you have to earn it. Losing isn’t earning it.”

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