WASHINGTON — Defeated presidents usually go away — at least for a long while. Not Donald Trump.
Trump returns to the electoral battlefield Saturday as the marquee speaker at the North Carolina Republican Party’s state convention. He plans to follow up with several more rallies in June and July to keep his unique political base engaged in the 2022 midterms and give him the option of seeking the presidency again in 2024.
“If the president feels like he’s in a good position, I think there’s a good chance that he does it,” Trump adviser Jason Miller said in a telephone interview. “For the more immediate impact, there’s the issue of turning out Trump voters for the midterm elections.”
And, Miller added, “President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.”
The set of advisers around Trump now is a familiar mix of his top 2020 campaign aides and others who have moved in and out of his orbit over time. They include Miller, Susie Wiles, Bill Stepien, Justin Clark, Corey Lewandowski and Brad Parscale.
While his schedule isn’t set yet, according to Trump’s camp, his coming stops are likely to include efforts to help Ohio congressional candidate Max Miller, a former White House aide looking to win a primary against Rep. Anthony Gonzales, who voted to impeach Trump this year; Jody Hice, who is trying to unseat fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger as Georgia secretary of state after Raffensperger defied Trump and validated the state’s electoral votes; and Alabama Senate candidate Mo Brooks, according to Trump’s camp.
Trump’s ongoing influence with Republican voters helps explain why most GOP officeholders stick so closely to him. Republicans spared him a conviction in the Senate after the House impeached him for stoking the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, House GOP leaders have made it clear that they view his engagement as essential to their hopes of retaking the chamber, and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., was deposed as Republican Conference Chair this year over her repeated rebukes of Trump.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released May 21 showed that just 28 percent of Republicans think Trump shouldn’t run for president in 2024, while 63 percent of Republicans say the last election was stolen from him. At the same time, Trump’s approval ratings among the broader public are anemic. He was at 32 percent approval and 55 percent disapproval in an NBC News survey of adults in late April.
Those numbers suggest that Trump could be in a strong position to win a Republican primary but lose the general election in 3½ years. A former Trump campaign operative made that case while discussing Trump’s ambitions.
He “will have a hard time building an infrastructure to win the general election,” said the operative, who insisted on anonymity so he could speak without incurring Trump’s wrath. “He could win the primary on his name alone. … The problem is building a coalition of people among the light-leaning Republicans and independents.”
Trump alienated many voters with harsh, divisive talk during his presidency and, more recently, with his false proclamations that the election was rigged.
“He would completely have to make a pivot of 180 degrees on his rhetoric,” the operative said. “He would have to change and ask forgiveness.”
Trump also faces legal jeopardy, which could waylay a third bid for the presidency.
Only one president, Grover Cleveland, has ever lost a re-election bid and come back to reclaim the White House. In modern times, one-term presidents have worried more about rehabilitating their legacies by taking on nonpartisan causes — Democrat Jimmy Carter by building housing for the poor and George H.W. Bush by raising money for disaster aid, for example — than about trying to shape national elections. But Trump retains a hold on the Republican electorate that is hard to…