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What would a Trump 2024 candidacy mean for the Republican Party?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump is promising a, quote, "special announcement" tonight. It's widely expected to be that he is running in 2024. This is a tricky moment for Trump. Many prominent candidates he endorsed in the midterms lost. But recall that people have counted Trump out before. There were the sexual assault allegations.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

DONALD TRUMP: And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: I said it. I was wrong. And I apologize.

KELLY: Or there was the time he was impeached...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY PELOSI: The House of Representatives voted articles of impeachment against the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

KELLY: ...Or the time he was impeached again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK LEAHY: The question is on the article of impeachment.

KELLY: Donald Trump lost the presidency in 2020. He now faces multiple investigations, and other potential Republican candidates are not-so-furtively testing the waters. So what to watch for tonight? We're going to put that question to Ron Bonjean. He is a GOP strategist who spent much of his career working for Republicans in Congress. Hi there. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

RON BONJEAN: Thanks. It's great to be here.

KELLY: So we just heard a few of the moments when somebody might have put the odds against Trump and he bounced right back seemingly unscathed. So does this question feel different to you?

BONJEAN: It does feel different. It feels like it's - an election needed to happen in order for people to wake up, especially Republicans, to think, are we going to lose again in 2024? I mean, we have a former president that backed many lackluster candidates across the country that lost just last week. So I think the timing of his announcement is also kind of in the - also flawed. I mean, he's saying, please - you know, he's saying, I'm running for president. But all my candidates that I backed - most of them really took a dive. And, you know, he has had Teflon - he's been a Teflon Don before, as they've called him. But I think this time it's different. Many Republicans are now speaking out, saying, we need a change. We need a new voice.

KELLY: So let's look to tonight. Trump is expected to appear at Mar-a-Lago and announce something. We're not expecting a golden escalator like the last time he announced a run for president. What are we watching for? What are you watching for?

BONJEAN: Well, I'm looking for a new message. I think Republicans want to hear, and I think the country would want to hear, more about how can he help solve the nation's problems of rising inflation and crime and issues of concern that voters have across the country instead of looking backwards at the 2020 elections and talking about how he was stolen and robbed. We need to hear a solutions-based president that's talking about the future and talking about people other than himself. It's really important now. We're at a crucial point in our country. I think the election really taught all of us who thought it was going to be - many of us who thought it was going to be a landslide that things are still really close out there, that those messages that Republicans were pushing didn't really hit home...

KELLY: So...

BONJEAN: ...And that...

KELLY: You're listening for policy, for solutions, realistic...

BONJEAN: I'm looking for optimism and solutions. Yes.

KELLY: Are you expecting to hear those from Donald Trump tonight?

BONJEAN: Probably not. We are probably more than likely going to get the same types of messages about his leadership, about what he did as president, you know, and, I think, much less about the future. It's - I think it's starting to become tough to listen to for many Republicans out there that feel like we were supposed to have had a real shot at the United States Senate and actually land in it.

KELLY: So...

BONJEAN: We - you know, yes.

KELLY: Forgive me for cutting in, but we just have a few seconds left. How seriously do you see other Republicans as exploring a primary challenge to Trump if he does run?

BONJEAN: That is unclear at this point. The key is the 30, 40% of diehard MAGA Trump folks out there that continue to support him. Until - he may have to run and lose again for us to wake up and realize that we need a new voice and a new face of our party.

KELLY: Ron Bonjean, thank you.

BONJEAN: Thank you.

KELLY: That is GOP strategist Ron Bonjean. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Erika Ryan
Erika Ryan is a producer for All Things Considered. She joined NPR after spending 4 years at CNN, where she worked for various shows and CNN.com in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Ryan began her career in journalism as a print reporter covering arts and culture. She's a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and currently lives in Washington, D.C., with her dog, Millie.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.