November 5, 2021 | OPINION | By Zoraiz Zafar | Illustration by Sierra Romero

If there is one thing that can be deciphered from former President Trump’s ramblings since his departure from the White House, it’s that he will probably run for the presidency again come 2024. Once he formally announces his campaign, many ambitious Republican contenders are likely to wave the white flag and coalesce behind the unchallenged leader of the GOP. But could Trump face a serious challenge from within his party? And if so, by whom?

This question was quite prevalent in the buildup to the 2020 presidential election, with many high-profile Republicans speculating that the then-incumbent president would have to contend with strong primary opponents. 

However, the reality was starkly different as Trump easily overpowered his challengers, winning every primary contest with over 90% of the votes. Yet, the story of 2024 could end up very differently because of one key factor: the power of incumbency. 

As a non-incumbent, Trump would not get a walkover as he did in the last election cycle. Not only would D.C. Republicans be inclined to mount a primary challenge, but the GOP base seems less enthusiastic about another Trump run. 

Recent polling shows that if Trump were to run in an open primary, he would receive the support of only 41% Republican-leaning voters. Nonetheless, the same polls show that though Trump may be less popular among Republicans, Trumpism still rules the party. So, realistically speaking, who could challenge Donald Trump in 2024?

The most potent challenger could be one of Trump’s political appointees, Nikki Haley. The former Ambassador to the UN and former Governor of South Carolina is making major power moves as the race for the GOP-nod heats up. 

Haley sets herself apart from the rest of the field by not tying her political horoscope to that of Trump. Though she would potentially struggle with the white Midwestern electorate, she has a significant appeal among the more modern and wealthy segments of the party, giving her a likely fundraising boost that could prove to be crucial as the 2024 race kicks off. 

Another former ally of Trump who could prove to be a threat in the primaries is none other than Mike Pence. The public fallout that the former Vice President had with Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot means that the latter is unlikely to pick the former as a running mate again. 

Furthermore, Pence’s several visits to Iowa since leaving office suggest that he is ready to embark on a political expedition of his own. But just like Haley, Pence would struggle to make large-enough inroads into the core Trump constituency: white working-class voters.

Lastly, there is the potential of Trump being challenged by his old foe Mitt Romney. The 2012 Republican presidential nominee has been rather outspoken in his criticism of both of Trump’s presidential runs. 

Since assuming the office of U.S. Senator from Utah, Romney has voted to convict Trump twice, first in 2020 and then in 2021. Yet, as Romney himself has acknowledged, getting the Republican electorate to turn on the man who has led their party for the last six years is a task easier said than done.

Though current polls and the political abilities of potential challengers indicate a competitive primary season within the Republican Party, the power of Trumpism is likely to overcome any and every presidential hopeful. And if things go according to plan on the Democratic side, we might just see a presidential rematch for the first time in over seven decades.

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