(NewsNation) — Donald Trump’s announcement that he is running for president again prompted a rash of reaction, including from Democrats who used it to fundraise and Republicans who called for an ushering in of new leadership.
Trump, the former president who was twice impeached and refused to concede the 2020 election, will make a third run for the White House at a time when other top leaders in the party appear ready to move on. High profile candidates endorsed by Trump failed to deliver in the midterms, a fact Sen. Mitch McConnell alluded to post-election when he told reporters candidate quality clearly mattered.
Most talked about has been the timing of Trump’s announcement, which came just one week after the midterms. Media outlets reported that advisers tried to persuade the former president to delay his announcement until at least after the Senate runoff in Georgia.
Speaking Wednesday on “CUOMO,” Bill O’Reilly said Trump needed to announce this early to cut into Ron DeSantis’ momentum. The Florida governor is seen as a potential leading contender for the GOP nomination.
“It’s like a sports game,” O’Reilly said. “The governor of Florida is making big strides and is now a credible candidate for the presidency, and Donald Trump had to try to blunt that as soon as possible.”
In Trump’s and possibly DeSantis’ quest for the Oval Office, history could end up repeating itself, O’Reilly said. In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate against incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft, splitting the GOP vote. As a result, Demcrat Woodrow Wilson won with just 41% of the popular vote.
“What ultimately happened is that Taft and Teddy destroyed each other — which could absolutely happen here to the Republican Party — and then Woodrow Wilson, a very weak candidate, walked into the presidency,” O’Reilly said. “History repeating itself.”
No matter the timing of Trump’s or anyone else’s announcement, a major question for the Republican Party over the next two years will be whether intraparty divisions can be resolved. While Rep. Kevin McCarthy and McConnell both won their respective leadership elections this week, 31 lawmakers voted against McCarthy to lead the conference, and at least three senators called for the Senate elections to be postponed until after the Georgia runoff.
The infighting turned out to be a problem for Republicans yet again, according to NewsNation political editor Chris Stirewalt. Independent voters broke for Democrats by 3 percentage points nationally, according to AP Vote Cast.
“I have never seen such bad behavior in a party. This is going back to 2012 or before, where they’re at each other’s throats constantly, and it stops being about the issues,” Stirewalt said Wednesday on “CUOMO.” “It tells me that Republicans aren’t yet ready to listen to what those independent voters were saying last week: ‘Do a good job and we’ll reward you.'”
Among three straight disappoint election cycles for Republicans, one person has proven to be a common denominator: Trump.
“You can allocate the blame in a lot of different ways, but Trump has been the center of it. Trump has been a real drag for Republicans,” Stirewalt said. “Now what he needs to do is convince Republicans ‘it’s not true, I didn’t lose the 2020 election, and somehow this (2022) miss is Mitch McConnell’s fault.’ There are some who will believe him, but he’s in a very different position.”
It amounted to a better-than-expected night for Democrats, who managed to pick up at least six House seats to offset gains made the GOP. The wins also included contests where Democrats supported the Republican candidate in the primary.
The ploy was scrutinized by members of the party and media alike, but Democratic strategist James Carville says it paid off.
“This is democracy, and when you run a campaign, you do what you can to win the campaign. There’s nothing illegal, there’s nothing wrong it,” Carville said Wednesday on “CUOMO.” “I thought it was a very effective strategy, and I would have employed it had I been in the same position.”
Trump’s announcement came 720 days before Election Day, which is much further out than former President Barack Obama’s (582 days) and George W. Bush’s (567 days) reelection announcements.
“He’s not in office. So he has more time,” said Trump’s lawyer, Christina Bobb. “Because … when you’re in office, you also have to do the job of the president.”
Purdue University political science professor Martin Sweet said, “The tactical advantage is really one of trying to freeze the field.”
“If he steps in, there’s a number of other prospective candidates who have said, ‘if Trump is a candidate, I won’t run,’” Sweet said.
There’s also the question of the Justice Department’s probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents. Some in Trump’s orbit believe that running will help shield him against potential indictment, but there is no legal statute that would prevent the Justice Department from moving forward — or prevent Trump from continuing to run if he is charged.
“This should not freeze any of the DOJ investigations of him,” Sweet said. “Any of the civil claims that we’ve seen already were about actions that happen before he entered public office, and all of those things would still go forward.”