I expected to discuss all sorts of things with political scientists in Chicago last week, but I’ll be honest: when it comes to current politics, people were mostly talking about the 2024 presidential nominations, especially the Republicans. And the people I spoke to were split in two: about half thought former President Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee, and the other half threw up their hands and said they had no idea. of what would happen. I am part of this second group. The argument that Trump locked in the nomination is pretty straightforward. No, we don’t know for sure that it will be racing in 2024, but it is definitely racing for 2024 right now. In other words, he does everything that presidential candidates do – organize rallies, campaign, fundraise and, in his own way, build a political platform. Sure, the platform starts and ends with complaining that people are being unfair to Donald Trump, but that’s about all he’s done as president anyway. It’s usually a winning combination. Yes, a significant group of party actors, including many elected officials, seem to oppose him – at least in theory. But only a very small subset of those who informally tell reporters that Trump is a disaster for the party are willing to say so publicly. There’s no reason to think they’ll be any better at coordinating against him than they were in 2016, or any better at convincing Republican voters to follow their lead. That’s not all. In 2016, Trump’s great vulnerability was that he had no apparent commitment to the normal Republican political agenda. That shouldn’t be a problem for him after four years in the White House. The first time, Christian conservatives were skeptical; now they are among his staunchest supporters. The most noticeable difference he had with Republican orthodoxy in the White House was on foreign policy, and in 2024, many more party actors are on his side — and few voters care at all. way. So why wouldn’t he win? I can’t speak for anyone who has taken this position. But to me, it’s less of a big thing and more of many, many small ones. To start: I was wrong about 2016, and while I think I understand what happened, I would hesitate before making confident predictions about Republican nominating politics again. Beyond ? I will note that even if Republican voters, by all accounts, like Trump, that doesn’t mean a whole lot; most voters like politicians from their own party once they get to know them. There’s simply no way to know how strong their attachment to Trump is – how strong a voter’s attachment to a politician is – until it’s put to the test. . We will learn a little more about this when the primaries resume in the coming weeks. If Trump-endorsed candidates do poorly, the fear of opposing him may dissipate. Then there is Trump himself. Yes, he certainly seems to want to be president again. But the idea that he is invincible among Republicans is far from proven. His nomination in 2016 was a narrow one, aided by all sorts of weird happenings – including a healthy dose of luck. He also has an electoral record now, and that’s not exactly impressive; after all, he lost re-election and Republicans lost the House (in 2018) and the Senate (in 2020) while he was in office. His anger at the loss of the presidency and his false allegations of fraud were widely credited with losing two Senate seats in Georgia. Republicans may trust Trump more in politics than before, but they should have even less confidence that he will now be a team player. This could mean more opposition from party actors than last time. That leaves the question of whether voters would listen if party actors tried to oppose Trump. They certainly didn’t in 2016. Would it be different this time around? It may depend on the party actors; if Fox News hosts and talk radio turned on Trump (or, perhaps, just strongly supported another candidate), I could imagine that mattered. And that’s without going into the possibility of Trump’s various legal entanglements catching up with him. Or that he is less interested in becoming president again than in extracting money from Republican donors, a process that could be disrupted if he officially declares his candidacy. At the moment, the nomination seems extremely valuable, given President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. But that could change, and if it does, Trump could avoid the risk of a loss worse than 2020. Plus, we’re still nearly two years away from the first caucus or primary. At this point in the 1992 election cycle, incumbent President George HW Bush was so overwhelmingly popular that most top Democrats dropped out of the race; at the time of the New Hampshire primary, Bush was so unpopular that a fringe candidate won 37% of the vote against him. None of this is to say Trump won’t be the nominee. It’s just a case of uncertainty. Perhaps Trump’s triumph against all odds (and most expert opinion) in 2016 really means the party is his for as long as he wants. Or maybe it means the party, the process, or both are just a lot less predictable than I and others once believed. What is true? Sorry. I have no idea.