) — With Donald Trump launching his 2024 presidential bid, many within the Republican Party appear to have an appetite for change and seem ready to put the former president behind them.
“I don’t know how he gets the ticket by playing the same game,” said Chris Cuomo, a host for NewsNation.
Cuomo spoke with someone Thursday night who says he knows the game (and Trump) very well: Paul Manafort.
Manafort served as Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman. He was convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and later received a pardon from Trump.
Manafort said that Trump wanted to announce his 2024 presidential bid before the midterm elections and that there was already information that he was going to enter the race.
“I mean, the ad was just putting a period at the end of the sentence. People say, ‘Well, I should have waited.’ Why?” Manafort questioned.
The Hill’s Nial Stannage says that when it comes to the midterms, Trump has had a miserable cycle. Stannage pointed to the losses of high-profile Trump-backed candidates, including Mehmet Oz, Doug Mastriano, Blake Masters and Tudor Dixon.
“Exit polls showed that 58 percent of voters had an unfavorable impression of Trump, far outpacing the 39 percent who viewed him favorably,” Stannage wrote. “Trump once hoped to ride the tailwind of successful midterm elections. Instead, the Republican Party is debating the extent to which it is an electoral millstone around the party’s neck.”
As for the outcome of the midterms, Manafort said it boils down to Republicans not coming together when Democrats did.
With attention focused on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a possible presidential candidate and some pushing for a change in the Republican Party, Manafort weighed his former boss’s chances of returning to the White House.
DeSantis’ possible candidacy shows “that the Republicans have a strong bench. They are not just a one-candidate party. I think Democrats should fear that, not welcome it,” Manafort said.
Manafort said he doesn’t view people talking about other politicians who may be qualified to be president besides Trump as a bad thing.
“DeSantis has a great record. I mean, he’s part of the future of the Republican Party. He is a smart guy. He has options, and I think he’s doing the right thing now to sit on the sidelines and let the game come to him. He may get to you, he may not. It’s what he’s getting around,” Manafort said. “But if he gets in the ring, he knows it’s going to be a fight. He knows it won’t just be a spelling bee… it would be an interesting fight.”
But what does it mean for Trump to talk about other possible presidential candidates?
“He beat 15 guys last time, so he’s not worried about the numbers,” Manafort said, later adding: “But the point is, Trump will be able to compete with a record. If he doesn’t agree with his record, that is, the American people will have a chance to say it again.”
“He believes that the Biden administration and the problems facing the Biden administration, many of which he believes the Biden administration caused, contrast very well with his record as president,” Manafort said of Trump. “He thinks that will give him the best chance to win in 2024. And to the people who will say: ‘Well, it’s time to turn the page, that we need the leader to focus on the future, not the past.’ I recognize that political strategy. I mean, I get it, but the reality is that we have a guy that has a track record that he can point to, that can be the future. And that’s what his campaign will be about.”
Manafort says primaries only make political parties stronger and Trump is likely to face challenges.
“The primary will allow the party to blow off steam and in the process of doing so, it will allow whoever wins to emerge stronger, not weaker,” Manafort said.
Manafort said he’s not sure if he’ll get involved in Trump’s 2024 campaign, but said he’ll speak up on certain issues Trump is discussing.