Any politically sane person wants the president to be reelected. But if he is or isn’t, the Republican Party is going to change.
If he is reelected he will be an automatic lame duck under constant siege. The Left and the Democrats will be so upset by his reelection that their efforts over the past three years may seem tame compared to their future actions. Party functionaries and 2024 Republican candidates will start jockeying for position and asking for a presidential endorsement.
Like George Bush the Elder in 1988, some may try to put subtle distance between themselves and the president. If history is an indicator, the 2022 midterms may not go well for the Republicans and they may lose the Senate. Though, that happened in 1986 to Reagan and Bush still won in 1988.
The ideological fight will be, as it is to some extent now, between a populist base and a moderate Republican establishment. Potential presidential candidates will pick a side. Those who want early money will suck up to the establishment. Those who are looking to replicate Trump’s praire fire in the primaries will go populist. The battle will start in earnest right after November 2022.
If the president loses reelection all bets are off. The conflict will start immediately and a lot of fingers will be pointed. Some, who think like Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, publicly not a supporter of the president, will get primary opponents at the earliest opportunity. But Sasse himself is safe. He’ll win reelection this year. Others who are thought to have sold out the president will be up for a populist guillotine.
A lot of it will resemble 1965, after the Goldwater clobbering the Republicans took. Though, again using historical data, the Republicans should take back the House in 2022. There will be a litmus test for Republican candidates and lo be to the Republican who fails it regarding their 2020 full throated support for President Trump.
And watching over it all, win or lose in 2020, will be Donald Trump. He may try to pull a Grover Cleveland and make a successful rebound to the White House by running in 2024. But the knives would be out in the party. The base would love it unless somebody starts to emerge from the 2024 pack. A prospective run by a Kristi Noem or another star could make Trump think again. His best move would be to retire. However, Donald Trump doesn’t like to lose and if he does it will stick in his craw and fester.
Regardless of the scenario, the Republican Party will be different soon. That may not be to everyone’s liking. Nevertheless, history tends to roll on by its own empirical rules. People can change history, they can even direct it, but they can’t stop it.