With Gov. Ron DeSantis becoming a legitimate contender for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination, there is a growing concern that Donald Trump could run as a third-party candidate if only to exact revenge on the party for rejecting him.
In his column for the Wall Street Journal, former George W. Bush speechwriter William McGurn claimed that the former president is both the leading contender for the nomination and a dark cloud looming over the future of the GOP if he doesn't get what he wants.
Noting that Trump in 2016 refused to make a pledge to not run as a third party candidate, now, after two bruising elections -- one of which he lost -- the possibility that he will leave the party and then challenge the eventual GOP and Democratic nominees is growing.
As McGurn put it, the former president is "a greater threat today. And it speaks to the unique challenge faced by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2024."
"Not only does Mr. DeSantis have to beat Mr. Trump in the primaries, he has to do it in a way that won’t provoke the former president into stalking off and running as a third-party candidate in the general election," he wrote before adding, "Mr. Trump faces no such inhibition. He’s already launched a few broadsides in the governor’s direction and tried out some nicknames, although none have stuck. Mr. Trump remains the man to beat, but at the moment Mr. DeSantis appears the Republican likeliest to beat him."
According to the conservative columnist, Republican Party officials recognize the risk and are treading carefully and will have to come face to face with his leaving if he struggles in the early primaries.
Then they will face two prospects, both of which would be crippling to GOP hopes in 2024.
"The longer he stays in, of course, the harder it would be to get on state ballots as a third party. But if defeating Mr. DeSantis became his real aim, he might not even need a third party. He could simply discourage his supporters from voting for Mr. DeSantis, forcing the governor to have to run against Messrs. Trump and Biden at the same time," he wrote before posing the question: "Will Donald Trump try to ensure that no Republican wins the White House if the party doesn’t nominate him?”
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