by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Will Donald Trump run for the White House again in 2024? The possibility looks likely to roil Washington over the next few years—complicating life for other Republican hopefuls and creating a confounding set of challenges for the GOP’s political-operative class.
But for all of the 45th President’s norm-breaking, there’s nothing unprecedented about a former holder of that office angling for a return engagement. Unfortunately for Trump, it’s also a trick that only one evicted White House tenant has ever pulled off: Grover Cleveland, who lost his lease in 1888 despite winning the popular vote. As the First Couple prepared to vacate the premises, the President’s wife, Frances Cleveland, reportedly told the household staff “to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house,” pending their return. Sure enough, in 1892, that’s just what happened.
Other comeback attempts, alas, weren’t so successful. …
… Theodore Roosevelt
Roosevelt chose not to run again after his second term, instead supporting his friend William Howard Taft. Four years later, feeling his successor had failed to pursue Roosevelt’s progressive goals, Teddy tried to win back the GOP nomination. When that didn’t work, he ran as a candidate of the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party. The divided vote helped elect Woodrow Wilson. The friendship didn’t last, either.
Ford, who had taken over after Richard Nixon’s resignation, lost a close one to Jimmy Carter in 1976. He thought about entering the ring in 1980, then flirted with accepting the vice-presidential nomination under Ronald Reagan, something that would have been truly unprecedented. And maybe it was unprecedented for a reason: As the political class chattered about a Reagan/Ford “co-presidency,” Reagan soured on him. He picked George H.W. Bush instead.