What’s next for Donald Trump?

Early Returns

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You can't shake a stick right now without hitting someone who thinks that outgoing President Donald Trump will dominate Republican politics while President-elect Joe Biden is in office, and will surely be nominated again in 2024. Trump himself appears ready to announce his next candidacy as soon as he stops pretending that he won this time around.

On one hand … sure, it's plausible. Republicans, paranoid that their strongest supporters will turn on them, are already going to great lengths to avoid angering Trump — with some of the most visible party members repeating his false claims about fraud. It's easy to see a collective-action problem forming, in which all of the potential 2024 candidates fear turning against Trump for so long that they wind up giving him the nomination, even as a lot of party actors are very much aware that he's been rejected by the electorate (twice, in fact, if you count the overall vote in 2016).

On the other hand? I'm with Josh Chafetz, who says that it's "equally plausible that he really fades."

The key players here are within Republican-aligned media. If Fox News and conservative talk-show hosts treat Trump as the Rightful President for the next four years, it's going to be very difficult for other party actors to do otherwise. They'll constantly be in the position that the Georgia special elections have put them in now: If they criticize Trump, he could simply tell his supporters to go home, and only a few would have to listen to him to cost Republicans any chance of winning.

But if the media simply move on? Then Trump is just a guy with a Twitter feed. Yes, right now a high percentage of Republican voters approves of his presidency. But that's almost certainly less impressive than it seems. After all, most partisans approve of and will vote for anyone on the party ticket. And while surely there's a lot more enthusiasm for Trump than for whoever the candidate is for county assessor or board of equalization, we've just seen a demonstration of how easily such loyalties can shift — with all those former Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters voting in record numbers for Biden.

Moreover, three years — the time from now to the first 2024 nomination events — is a long time. In November 2008, it sure seemed like Sarah Palin had the enthusiastic and loyal support of many Republicans; by 2011, she was a washed-up reality-TV star. And three years for a 70-something former president with potential financial and legal troubles might seem even longer.

But more than that, it's quite possible, and perhaps even likely, that unless the partisan media outlets really play Trump up, he'll find that he's more of a replaceable fad for Republican voters than a lifelong passion. And whether they do is up to them, not him.

1. Erin Mayo-Adam at the Monkey Cage on how Arizona (which has now been called for Biden) shifted to the Democrats.

2. Mark Schmitt on fixing the government.

3. Jennifer Graciano on modernizing Congress.

4. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Michael R. Strain on the future Republican economic agenda.

5. A dose of pessimism from Amy Walter.

6. Greg Sargent on Biden's immigration policy.

7. Fred Kaplan on Biden's foreign policy.

8. And James Poniewozik on cancelling the Trump show.

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