President Trump has replaced campaign manager Brad Parscale earlier this week with Bill Stepien, to shake things up for before the election in November. Parscale is now in a position focused on digital outreach, with hopes that a new campaign manager will raise Trump’s poll numbers. This is a clear indication from the Trump team that they need to make changes to their strategy to see a viable path to a second term. But many are left wondering what the future of the Republican Party will be if he loses? The answer is complicated.
Trump’s Relationship with Polls
Everyone remembers that Trump was behind in the polls in 2016, making the electoral college victory against Hillary Clinton unexpected. Naturally, Trump’s surrogates have been skeptical (at least publicly) of the current poll numbers, which have sometimes given Vice President Joe Biden a double-digit lead over Trump. In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, Trump trails Biden by 15 points. Although questions could be raised regarding these numbers, the difference between now and 2016 is that Trump was usually down anarrower margin as it drew closer to Election day. The factors are Trump’s handling of COVID-19 and the current tensions surrounding race and police brutality. A revitalized economy used to be Trump’s main success for his Presidency, and COVID-19 has made it increasingly difficult for him to use the economy as a reflection of his work as President. Some see Biden as a return to normalcy, whether or not that would hold.
If Trump loses, then what?
For Republicans, not all hope is lost if Trump loses. However, Republicans risk fading into the background under a Biden presidency if they do not put in the effort now and in the future. Trump’s base, especially the politically active ones, are only motivated by Trump himself, and it is highly likely they will fizzle out as volunteers for Republicans once he leaves office. Congressional Republican campaigns need to be mobilizing grassroots efforts as much as possible, to assure a barricade for a far-left policy that could pass with a Democratic congress and a Biden administration. If Republicans lose the Executive Branch, they need to hold the Senate and win back the House.
The Big Tent
Ideologically, there is going to be a distinct divide in the Republican Party in the post-Trump era. The faction of populists will be pitted against the libertarians and the establishment Republicans that were there before 2016. Populists will be pushing for an “America First” agenda, which will likely include nationalist trade policy and tighter immigration laws. This faction will also express a greater desire for a political strongman type of leadership as opposed to wanting to shrink the size of government. The 2024 Presidential election will probably include a vast pool of candidates from the varying factions of the party, potentially ranging from Nikki Haley to Larry Hogan to Josh Hawley.
The possibility of a Trump second term is getting slimmer every day. Even though Biden seems not to have much voter enthusiasm, the “Settle for Biden” movement is growing slowly but surely. If Republicans want to stay afloat, they need to start thinking long term about the future of their party. Biden will be a vessel for the left, and the Republicans cannot be lazy in their efforts to combat it on all levels of government.