(CNN)Mitt Romney is no fan of Donald Trump. In fact, the Utah Republican senator may be the single most prominent critic of the 45th President within the GOP.
Mitt Romney is also a political realist. Which is why he said this of Trump at a New York Times “Dealbook” event earlier this week:
“He has by far the largest voice and a big impact in my party. I don’t know if he’s planning to run in 2024 or not, but if he does, I’m pretty sure he would win the nomination.”
Romney is right. Exactly right.
For all of the hand-wringing among people like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) and Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney about the need to excise Trump from the future of the Republican Party, the truth — as told by poll after poll of GOP voters — is that the overwhelming majority of them want the billionaire businessman to stick around.
Need proof? A recent Quinnipiac University national poll shows that three-quarters of Republicans (75%) want Trump to “play a prominent role” in the GOP going forward.
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“President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party,” tweeted Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a leader of the House Freedom Caucus and one of Trump’s most loyal supporters, on Wednesday.
The simple truth that Romney exposes is that, like it or not, Trump would be an overwhelming favorite to win the 2024 Republican nomination if he chose to run.
Those trying to be Trump 2.0 (Missouri’s Josh Hawley, Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley) would either drop their own candidacies or watch their chances dim significantly.
Those trying to move the party totally beyond Trump (Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, Maryland’s Larry Hogan) will have to demonstrate that there is anything close to a majority coalition within the GOP that supports their post-/anti-Trump views.
Meanwhile, Trump has 100% name identification, all the fundraising cash he would ever need and the majority of the party base with him.
The Point: Trump’s political future is the simplest part of his life going forward. His many financial and legal entanglements are much more complex — and pose far greater risks to him.