Late last week, RedState’s Mike Miller reported on Donald Trump’s upcoming CPAC speech, which would be his first big move since leaving office in late January. With the former president banned from all mainline social media (and for some reason not using Parler still), he’s sunk into the background, not as a figure, but as far as what he’s thinking and planning on a given day. As president, you always knew where Trump stood on something. Now, things have become much more nebulous.
And while that big speech won’t happen until later this week, the big points of the speech have leaked per Axios. Let’s just say that singing Kumbaya isn’t in the plans.
🚨 🚨 Scoop: Trump to claim total control of GOP / plans years-long payback campaign…https://t.co/eh7rO1h3OF
— Jim VandeHei (@JimVandeHei) February 22, 2021
In his first post-presidential appearance, Donald Trump plans to send the message next weekend that he is Republicans’ “presumptive 2024 nominee” with a vise grip on the party’s base, top Trump allies tell Axios.
What to watch: A longtime adviser called Trump’s speech a “show of force,” and said the message will be: “I may not have Twitter or the Oval Office, but I’m still in charge.” Payback is his chief obsession.
Axios has learned that Trump advisers will meet with him at Mar-a-Lago this week to plan his next political moves, and to set up the machinery for kingmaking in the 2022 midterms.
This will surprise absolutely no one who has followed Trump the last five years. He’s long positioned himself as a fierce anti-establishment figure, and there was no chance that he was going to sit idly by after 2020 and not try to influence matters going forward. How deep that will go, i.e. will he run in 2024, has yet to be determined. What is clear is that he is going to use the presumption that he will be the 2024 nominee if he wants to be to force his will on any number of Republican politicians that he disapproves of.
The real question here isn’t what Trump will do, but how the counter elements of the GOP will react. As I’ve said before, there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle this situation. Nikki Haley, for example, hasn’t handled her push to supersede Trump well. You are not going to schoolmarm and lecture the former president away. Rather, there will have to be a grand bargain struck. If pride doesn’t allow that, then the party will likely just fracture further.
Axios goes on to say that Trump is not going to commit to a 2024 run in this speech, but that he will be setting up a formal vetting process to focus on 2022 candidates. He also wants to make clear that he’s in control whether his opponents like it or not.
Part of me thinks playing kingmaker may actually be Trump’s ultimate goal over the next four years. While I’d certainly not rule out a 2024 run for him, I think he enjoys the intra-party battle just as much. It allows him to stay on top without a fraction of the effort and political risk required to mount another presidential campaign. It’s also a lot cheaper, given how much money being president cost Trump.
What we can be ensured of is that Trump’s speech will be a fiery indictment of “the swamp.” He’s not going to just disappear. Party leadership can recognize that and figure out a way to work together, or the party itself can crumble. Whether McConnell, Cheney, etc. think it’s fair or not, Trump and the power he wields with Republican voters will have an effect going forward.