Tom Bevan at RealClearScience
Last week when Donald Trump sat down at Mar-a-Lago, I planned to wait to the last minute to ask him about running again for President. But before he’d even taken his seat, Trump was touting his 2024 poll numbers.
In nearly every interview he’s done since he left office on Jan. 20, Trump has been asked whether he’ll run again. Each time he has hinted and hedged, teased and toyed with his answer, saying only that his supporters would be “very happy” with his decision. I chose to pose the question in a new way.
“Given your dominance in Republican primary polls, and given that President Biden’s approval ratings have fallen to 45% nationally and 31% in Iowa and 39% in Michigan,” I asked, “why wouldn’t you run?”
Trump offered a neutral answer. “I love the country, and I hate what happened,” he said, adding that since he left office things have “gone to hell. It’s been a terrible time.”
After that, the ex-president was on his way, lamenting all that had happened in Afghanistan. It led to another lengthy detour. It was a bit more difficult, but I tried again. “So,” I said, “I know you might do it, but give me one reason you might not do it.”
Trump seemed a little more direct this time and was almost fatalistic. “Well, one reason could be your health. You get a call from your doctor and that’s the end of that,” he said. “That stuff happens; you hope it doesn’t. A medical was just completed and I received a great result. There are so many possibilities. Politics is crazy. It is a big commitment of you, your children, your wife and your family.”
Trump couldn’t resist delivering his standard line that “people will be very happy with my decision,” adding that his new slogan is “Make America Great Again, Again.”
Trump expressed his doubts regarding 2024 during the 90 minute interview. However, he did not express any doubt whatsoever about 2020.
Support Conservative Voices!
Register to Receive the LatestGet political news, insights, and commentary directly delivered to your email inbox
“I feel very strongly that the election was rigged,” he said. “I don’t feel like I could’ve lost Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and I just needed a couple of them.”
American politics has made the issue of fairness in the election its third rail. Trump supporters and many others believe that Democrats used pandemic-induced changes to the rules, such as universal mail-in ballots, poll harvesting, and drop boxes to corrupt the system so much that they were able to win victories in battleground states.
It is hard to believe that Trump would be able to think such things, according both Democrats and the majority of media. They dismiss these claims as “The Big Lie,” citing a host of lawsuits and recounts that have produced no evidence of fraud on anything approaching the scale necessary to have changed the outcome of the 2020 election.
Trump can’t seem to get over a single idea. He could have won so many more votes in 2020 than 2016 and still lost the election.
“You win South Carolina big, Alabama by record numbers, then you lose Georgia?” he told me. “Doesn’t happen.”
Trump also spoke of his successes in traditional bellwethers states such as Ohio and Florida, where he received more votes than he did for 2016 nearly tripling the margin of victory to 1.2% from 3.3%. “So many of those metrics that, when you add them all up, it gives very little chance to the other side,” Trump said.
Trump said that John McLaughlin, the Republican pollster, told him before Trump’s election that he could win 64,000,000 votes in 2020. This would increase his 2016 total of just 1 million votes.
“I got 75 million votes and lost,” Trump said, before catching himself and adding, “Supposedly lost. I didn’t lose. You know, I’ve never conceded. It’s okay for Stacey Abrams to not concede, but if I don’t concede…”
Adding to Trump’s skepticism about the accuracy of the election returns was what he experienced on the campaign trail, where he perceived a massive enthusiasm gap in his favor.
“Don’t forget when Biden went out, he couldn’t fill his eight circles. They had to use the press to fill the circles because nobody was there,” Trump said. “And I go out and I’ll get 40,000 or 50,000 people, and then I hear I lost the state? It’s just not possible.”
Trump’s continuing claim that the 2020 election was rigged now presents him, and his party, with a quandary. According to a recent NPR/Marist survey, only one-fourth of Trump’s 2020 voters express a “great deal” or a “good amount” of trust that elections are fair. On the other hand, 72% of Trump voters have “not much” trust or “none at all” in the fairness of elections.
Republicans have embarked on a series of legislative measures in state capitals that they insist will restore Americans’ faith in the electoral system and which Democrats and sympathetic journalists have attacked as everything from “Jim Crow 2.0” to “the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War.” No one needs to guess where Trump comes down: He takes credit for leading the GOP push on voting procedures. “Georgia has a bill, Texas has a bill. Some are stronger than others,” he said. “That’s one of the good things that I have done by being vocal about this.”
Some members of his party don’t agree with this sentiment and hope that Trump will stop trying to influence the outcome in 2020. Instead they ask him to think ahead and assist Republicans in regaining their majority in the House of Representatives and Senate in 2022. Trump sees it as backwards.
“The 2020 election fraud is the biggest and its most energizing issue within the Republican Party,” Trump said, “and a large percentage of elected Republican leaders, including Congress, don’t understand that.”
Trump is better at understanding rank-and file Republican voters than any pundits nor politicians in Washington D.C. No matter whether he runs in 2024, Trump will continue to talk about 2020 and how important it is for election integrity.
“I used to say you can’t have a country without borders,” Trump said. Trump now adds an additional qualifier. “You also cannot have country with a corrupt election process. And we have a very corrupt election process.”
RealClearPolitics permission granted this syndicated version.
The views expressed by content partners and contributors are not necessarily those of The Political Insider.