Democrats are worried about the prospect of Donald Trump running again – and stealing the 2024 election. No wonder. We’ve recently learned a number of things about the 2020 cycle that suggests there was more afoot than just those who broke into the capitol building on January 6th, the day Congress was to certify the Electoral College.
That violence cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Disabuse yourself of the idea that the word “insurrection” doesn’t really apply because those who got into the Capitol – like the QAnon guy with the horns – were clueless and had no idea what to do next, other than put their feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. Whether by design or happenstance, this was just one piece of the puzzle, as evidenced by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interim report.
There were at least 5 moving parts.
First, you had efforts on the ground in various states including Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, to challenge the election results.
At the same time, you had President Trump getting advice from a lawyer he’d first seen on TV as to how he could block certification of the election.
Additionally, Trump was leaning on the Justice Department to release a letter that would have lent credibility to the efforts to overturn the Georgia result. Kinda like Nixon once trying to use the CIA to get the FBI to back off its watergate investigation.
From the new book, Peril by Costa and Woodward, we now also know that Trump was seeking to rely on lawyer John Eastman’s legal justification for VP Pence to reject votes from specific states. This changes the way we should look at the people who stormed the capitol on January 6, their role – whether they explicitly understood it or not – was to intimidate Pence while Pence was being pressured to follow Eastman’s legal advice that he could break with tradition and simply reject electoral votes from specific states.
And then the final step – which never came to pass. To have the House decide the outcome, where the GOP, despite having fewer members, had an edge because the process would be one vote per state delegation – 26-24.
In other words, Pence would reject the Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania votes where they were contested on the ground – and where the Justice Department had emboldened those states – relying on Eastman’s advice that he had the power. Pence would now reject certain states while ordering the House to determine the election as it is supposed to do only where no candidate gets a majority of electoral votes.
It could have worked! And now with Trump and his allies endorsing Secretaries of State in crucial battlegrounds, the concerns that it could happen again are all warranted.
But there is another scenario for 2024 that should concern Democrats. Donald Trump might just legitimately win.
Last Saturday night, I watched the latest Trump rally. It was his return to “First in the Nation” Iowa, for an event that attracted thousands on a balmy fall night at the state fairgrounds.
For Trump it was Festivus. Another night for the airing of grievances, most notably about how he argues the 2020 election was stolen. Nothing new there.
But what was noteworthy was the presence of Senator Chuck Grassley. The 88-year-old is running again.
Back when Grassley voted against Trump’s second impeachment, he had this to say:
“Undoubtedly, then-President Trump displayed poor leadership in his words and actions. I do not defend those actions and my vote should not be read as a defense of those actions… The reality is, he lost. He brought over 60 lawsuits and lost all but one of them. He was not able to challenge enough votes to overcome President Biden’s significant margins in key states. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal Vice President, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the electoral college count.”
But now, Grassley stood by Trump’s side, acknowledging that Trump has the support of 91 percent of Iowan Republican voters. It was a sign that no number of revelations from tell-all books by Stephanie Grisham and others have put a dent in Trump’s standing in the GOP.
And a survey released this week by Morning Consult/POLITICO showed that Trump dwarfs all of his would-be competitors. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of GOP voters say Mr. Trump should run again.
I’ve long said that so long as his health allows – and he is solvent and unindicted – if he wants the nomination, he will have it. Meanwhile, we are nine months into the Biden administration and by any fair assessment, things are not going well.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan, although overdue, was haphazard. The border is in crisis with the surge of illegal immigrants crossing the southwest border reaching its highest level in more than a decade – more than 1.5 million. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 67 percent disapprove of Biden’s border approach.
Inflation is now on the rise – in the last year. Gas has increased 42%. Eggs are up 35%. Bacon is up 28%. Children’s shoes are up 12%, a record-high gain dating back to the 1950s. Furniture costs have soared 11%, the most since 1951.
These price spikes come as a result of significant supply chain problems. And yet here was Chief of Staff Ron Klain revealing a tone-deaf perspective when he re-tweeted a Harvard economist’s claim that inflation and supply chain shortages are, quote, “High-class problems” to have.
And of course, COVID is still not under control – notwithstanding that President Biden is correct in mandating vaccination.
Finally, despite collecting 19 republican votes in the Senate, Biden still can’t claim credit for a 1.2 trillion-dollar infrastructure deal because he has not yet resolved differences between his party’s most progressive and moderate members.
Frankly, he has not projected strength on any of these issues. No wonder then that in this national climate, Terry McAuliffe is struggling to regain the Virginia gubernatorial mansion.
And if history repeats itself next year, Democrats will lose control of the house – and maybe the Senate too.
Yes, undeterred, Donald Trump might steal the 2024 election. Then again, he might just win it.
Quite simply, for Joe Biden and Democrats it’s no longer enough to just be an alternative to Donald Trump.
Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.