Here's why Trump should want lots of people to run against him in the 2024 primary
Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2022 Student Action Summit. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Though former President Donald Trump has not officially declared his candidacy for 2024 yet, it is widely expected he will run to reclaim his old office. One problem he may have to face in the process is challengers for the nomination, and he appears to be aware of this — New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman revealed that Trump is privately blasting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, thought to have presidential ambitions, as "fat" and "whiny."

However, wrote Philip Bump for The Washington Post on Monday, Trump might actually benefit from DeSantis running to challenge him in 2024 — and a couple of dozen others along with him.

"Trump wants to box people out, for them to see him as so dominant that there’s no point in entering the race. He wants, in essence, for the 2024 primary to unfold the way the 2020 one did: a clear field that allowed him to glide toward the general election," wrote Bump. "Our poll indicates that this is not the path forward for Trump. Instead, head-to-head primary polling — the utility of which at this point is functionally equivalent to asking your cat what it thinks — has Trump leading the field but south of 50 percent of support."

"The grip that Trump has maintained on the GOP in the past six years obscures how loose it was back in 2016," wrote Bump. "People are very cognizant that he was elected that year with less than 50 percent of the vote; he famously got fewer raw votes than did Hillary Clinton in the November general election. But less remembered is that he also got less than 50 percent of the vote in the primaries, becoming the first elected president to get less than 50 percent of the vote in each contest in the modern presidential primary era."

The upshot of this, wrote Bump, is that Trump's best strategy is to bring on a bunch of challengers, have them split the anti-Trump vote, and cruise to victory with a plurality.

"Trump sitting at 50 percent support as 2024 slowly nears isn’t necessarily bad ... if no other candidate gets a majority of the vote," wrote Bump. "That he has a robust, energetic base that makes up less than half of the electorate is more helpful in a crowded field than a narrow one ... What our poll suggests, then, is that if he wants to run again, Trump should encourage as many people to run as possible. Keep a big field and leverage that energetic base that others are unlikely to be able to match. He can win in 2024 the way he won in 2016: by the skin of his teeth."