Rumors of the death of the Republican Party were widely and greatly exaggerated after President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election.
Following that campaign, many pundits in the political intelligentsia said the growing minority population in the country would make it practically impossible to put together another coalition to elect someone from the GOP.
However, just four years later, Republicans did just that. And they would have repeated the feat earlier this month had their candidate not personally alienated just enough voters to lose.
But what kind of party will the GOP be without President Donald Trump? That will be a critical question facing its denizens going forward.
Four years ago, Republican voters made clear they weren't looking for just another politician. Effective governors, senators and even a former governor with a winning name — Bush — weren't what was desired to erase eight years of a president who had governed against the majority.
That's how Trump, the blustery New York businessman and former reality TV show host, emerged from nearly 20 contenders. And he offered several attributes the others wouldn't — an ability to make bold promises and a willingness to take on a biased national media.
However, the same attributes that fueled his rise also accelerated his fall. His bluster, which was refreshing to many in 2016, was too windy and caustic amid a global pandemic in 2020. His war with the media — something that needed to be fought by Republicans — only doubled their efforts to take him down.
So, from our perspective, the GOP in 2024 will need a leader who is courageous enough to be bold and savvy enough to confront a biased media, but one who also conveys respectfulness, truthfulness, intelligence and the right amount of experience to voters.
The demographics where Trump lost a percentage of voters in 2020 compared to 2016 — whites and seniors citizens — are critical because they vote in greater percentages than nonwhites and younger voters. If you alienate them, you do so at your peril.
But we believe they are groups that easily can be won back if the kind of nominee we envision is nominated.
Hispanics, Blacks and Asians all voted in greater percentages for Trump than they did in 2016. The next Republican nominee will need to maintain those gains and add to them. If taxes are raised, wages depressed and the economy stagnates in the next four years as it did under the Obama-Biden administration, they won't have any trouble finding a reason to do so.
The 2020 pre-election polls told Americans that women and young people would help pave the landslide against Trump, but neither demographic moved significantly from where they were in 2016. Men actually moved more toward Democrats than did women or young people. A nominee with Trump's strengths and without his weaknesses will be able to slide all three of these groups closer to Republicans in 2024.
More telling about what may occur in 2024, though, are the election results other than the presidential vote. Republicans — pending Georgia's Jan. 5 contests — lost one U.S. Senate seat. They picked up six U.S. House seats and may win as many as 10 or 12. They flipped a governorship in Montana and did not lose a single state legislative branch.
In other words, the trend is not what was predicted, which was a wave of Democratic winners. The results marked only the fourth time since the Civil War that a Democratic president was elected to a first term but lost seats in the House. It also occurred in 1884, 1960 and 1992, though in none of those years was the split between parties as close as it will be for the next two years.
Democrats, indeed, are in a bit of a predicament about how to spin the results. Though they put all their energy for the last four years in disposing of Trump, to admit that their strategy worked is also to admit that Biden was not a factor. But if they claim that Biden was a factor, they have difficulty in explaining why he had no coattails and how difficult that will make the next two years.
The names of several potential Republican nominees in 2024 — Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rick Scott, Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Marco Rubio, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence — do not appear to elicit the fervor that Trump had, though they are fine public servants. One who might have some of those qualities — without the minuses — is former South Carolina governor and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Another potential nominee is, well, Trump himself. Some of the president's loyalists are already talking of another run in 2024. Trump would be 78, the age Biden turns later this month. A lackluster term by the declared incoming Democrat may encourage him, and his ego may demand it.
We believe the electorate won't need that much encouragement to vote in a Republican four years from now, but we hope the GOP will have turned the corner to someone new by then.