In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s second acquittal in an impeachment trial, his supporters celebrated confirmed dominance of the Republican party. But as they did so an influential voice warned: “Mr Trump may run again, but he won’t win another national election.”
The Wall Street Journal also said moves other than a run for the Republican nomination in 2024, for example a “revenge campaign tour” or third-party run, would only “divide the centre-right and elect Democrats”.
The judgment came in an editorial from a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch, a dominant voice on the American right. It echoed moves by Murdoch, the Journal and his other powerful media outlet, Fox News, last November, in the immediate aftermath of an election Trump still refuses to admit he lost.
On Saturday, seven Senate Republicans joined Democrats in voting to convict Trump on a charge of insurrection arising from the Capitol riot – 10 short of the two-thirds majority needed.
Many Republicans, most notably minority leader Mitch McConnell, excoriated Trump’s behaviour but said they voted to acquit because the trial was unconstitutional. Scholars dispute that, and the Senate voted twice to proceed.
Trump issued a triumphant statement, promising supporters he would “continue our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people”.
And on its news pages on Monday, under the headline “Pro-Trump Candidates Launch Early Senate, Governor Bids”, the Journal looked at early moves in key states ahead of the 2022 midterms. The story detailed nascent pro-Trump campaigns in Ohio, Virginia, Arkansas and elsewhere.
But on the opinion page, under the headline “Trump’s Non-Vindication”, the Journal’s editors added the paper’s voice to warnings from senior Republicans that Trump’s hold on the rank-and-file may not translate to another successful White House run – even though Democrats in Congress could not bar him from future office.
“For four years,” the editorial board claimed, “Mr Trump’s conduct stayed largely within constitutional bounds – no matter his rhetorical excesses and Democratic efforts to drive him from office by violating norms and flogging conspiracy theories.
“But Mr Trump’s dishonest challenge to the 2020 election, even after multiple defeats in court, clearly broke those bounds and culminated in the 6 January riot.
“Mr Trump may run again, but he won’t win another national election. He lost re-election before the events of 6 January, and as president his job approval never rose above 50%.
“He may go on a revenge campaign tour, or run as a third-party candidate, but all he will accomplish is to divide the centre-right and elect Democrats. The GOP’s defeats in the two 5 January Georgia Senate races proved that.
“The country is moving past the Trump Presidency, and the GOP will remain in the wilderness until it does too.”