Last week, radio host Wayne Allyn Root asked Donald Trump about the idea, floated here and there, that he should run for Congress in 2022, with the goal of helping Republicans retake the majority and replacing Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House.
Trump responded enthusiastically. “Very interesting,” he said. Compared to suggestions that he run for the Senate, Trump acknowledged, “Your idea may be better.”
None of that is a firm declaration of intent, mind you, but it’s more than enough to get our speculative juices flowing.
For Trump, a run for the House would have several benefits.
First, he could almost certainly find a district in which he would win handily. Republicans—especially rural Republicans—adore him. The vast majority of Republican primary voters want Trump to remain the dominant figure in the party. Moreover, Trump likes to win. Running for the House in 2022 would be the easiest, quickest way for him to get back into national politics and to resume his winning streak.
Second, Trump undoubtedly wants the midterm elections to be nationalized and to vindicate him personally. If he was a candidate for the House in 2022, presumably every House race would become a referendum on Trump. If Republicans took the House majority, as many forecasters currently predict, then Trump could claim the nation had chosen Trumpism over Bidenism or whatever species of socialism the Democrats are peddling. He would thus be in an ideal position to run again for the presidency in 2024.
Third, control of the House would give Republicans a platform from which to deliver a ceaseless series of attacks on Biden Administration policies. Since it’s increasingly obvious that the media won’t be asking uncomfortable questions of our new progressive overlords, it behooves Republicans to wrest back control of at least one House of Congress, so that they will have the PR wherewithal and subpoena power to expose the contours of Democratic misrule.
Lastly, a Trump run for the House, and implicitly for the speakership, next year would give him one critical advantage: it would pit him against one of the few American politicians, Nancy Pelosi, who is as unpopular as he is.
According to RealClearPolitics, Trump and Pelosi are both “underwater,” and by almost exactly the same amount, in terms of favorability: negative 13 or 14 points. This is far more attractive political ground than Trump was fighting on in 2020, for instance, when he faced an adversary who was broadly popular and (somewhat incredibly) still is. Right now, Joe Biden is up 12 points in favorability.
(He’s plus 80 points in irritability, but that’s another story.)
Why are Pelosi’s numbers so poor? It’s not hard to figure. She’s an imperious crone. She’s exactly the kind of enemy one would pick, in fact, if one could pick one’s enemies—and in 2022, Donald Trump would have that luxury.
It looks like a run for the House speakership in 2022 is a slam dunk for Trump, but it’s worth reflecting on a few of the flaws in this audacious plan.
For one, nationalizing—and Trumpifying—the 2022 midterms risks bolstering Democratic-progressive turnout bigly. Trump has shown an astounding ability to turn out legions of conservatives and Republicans, some of them first-time or infrequent voters. Unfortunately, he has shown an even greater talent for motivating Democrats and independents of almost every stripe to show up at the polls (or cast a mail-in ballot) to vote against Trumpism.
Let’s face it: 81 million Americans didn’t vote for “Sleepy Joe” in 2020. They voted, by and large, to reject and repudiate Donald J. Trump. Quite a few of them would be game for a repeat performance.
The danger would be, therefore, that a Trump run for the House would nationalize and energize the contest just enough to get tens of millions of Trump-haters back to the polls, but not enough to get Trumpers to vote en masse, not for Trump himself, but for milquetoast moderate Republican House candidates who might or might not be enthusiastic Trump backers.
In short, a Trump run for the House and the speakership might well succeed in putting Trump in the House, but it might backfire on a grander scale and lead to massive Democratic victories in 2022, including an expanded House majority, an expanded Senate majority, the elimination of the filibuster, the packing of the Supreme Court, the liquidation of the bourgeoisie, etc.
These are not idle concerns. To the extent the GOP is identified with Trump and Trumpism, Republicans must acknowledge that the association carries with it considerable risks and potential downsides.
Who would ultimately win a Trump-Pelosi rumble for the speakership? Since public attitudes to both figures are largely “baked in,” presumably the vote would come down to the state of the economy, the country, and public opinion in the fall of 2022—an imponderable, to say the least, in June 2021.
As for the real possibility of electoral Armageddon for Republicans, that might or might not faze Trump, but there is one last consideration that could prove decisive for him: a run for the House, after one has served as president of the United States, is almost unheard of (John Quincy Adams being the sole exception to the rule). It would involve a degree of lèse–majesté. Would Trump, the alpha male par excellence, submit to such a debasement? Would he do so, especially at the age of 76, when there are other Republicans, like Ron DeSantis, who would happily fight in the political trenches on Trumpism’s behalf, while the elder statesman pontificates from the sidelines? That remains to be seen.
In all, the idea that Trump should run for the House and the speakership in 2022 is not as fanciful as it sounds. Trump, and Republicans in general, would be foolish to dismiss it out of hand.
A House run would be an “outside the box” play. But if Donald Trump has proved anything over the last six years, it’s that the old political rules no longer apply.