Really? Barring the Sweet Meteor O’ Death, I’d bet that “2024 is going to happen” in the literal sense, or at least I hope so. Although perhaps even #SMOD2024 might still be an improvement over 2020.

A Trump 2024 campaign, though? That seems like a riskier bet, but four Trump insiders tell the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard that they’re already planning the big comeback. The legal fight over 2020 election results are part of a strategy for Donald Trump to come back in four years and take back the presidency:

“He is never going to stop. 2024? 2024 is going to happen,” one of the four who has regular contact with the president told Secrets.

“There is a big 2024 play in this legal fight,” said another who was with Trump this week. “He is not going anywhere. He is the great unifier of the Republican Party. People are not going to walk away from him. It is their identity,” added the source.

A third source said that there is no focus, politically or fundraising, on 2024 while the legal fight is on. But when it ends, and if it comes out bad for the president, the effort will begin immediately.

I’m …. not buying it. It’s entirely believable that Trump would want to run again, and might even be laying out plans to do so. He would have a base of supporters who would remain loyal enough for him to enter the 2024 primary cycle as a probable front-runner, too, assuming nothing else changes between now and mid-2023.

That, however, is a large assumption for a man who’s been under IRS audit for more than a decade, and who has a number of legal problems on his immediate horizon after leaving office. Most of those are civil, but some aren’t, and Trump can’t use his office as a legal shield after January. If Trump exited politics, some of those might go away, and it’s also possible that all of them would be shown as unfounded anyway. (The IRS issues predate Trump’s political career, though.) If he sticks around, prosecutors with political axes to grind and/or reputations to build will continue making Trump a target. The risks here aren’t all political or financial.

Plus, Trump would have a lot of incentives to go back into the private sector and leverage that base for all it’s worth. Memoirs, speaking tours (rallies with entry fees!), and even building a new conservo-populist media empire to battle the Murdochs are all in the offing. That would feed Trump’s lifelong need for fame and adulation without any of the baggage and poison of the Beltway. And all of those would allow Trump to act more as kingmaker, which might suit him better even if it does look more swampy.

The problem with Trump attempting a Grover Cleveland-esque comeback in 2024 is that his act is no longer novel enough to succeed. It worked in 2016 because Trump was an outsider looking to shake up the status quo. Voters tired out of Trump’s status quo after four years of chaos-agent behavior, as the 2020 election proved, driving a nearly invisible Joe Biden’s numbers up even more than his own in a high-turnout election. Republicans actually had a very good 2020 election, with Trump as the singular exception. The magic spell of Trump’s invincibility has been broken with his loss to Biden. Republicans will look to another generation for leadership in the next four years, with less baggage and more of a future in the party.

And even the bumbling manner of his election challenges is undermining rather than empowering a 2024 argument. Trump’s making claims that his own lawyers aren’t presenting in court, and the arguments they are making aren’t surviving the first tests of judicial scrutiny.  Trump’s legal team isn’t throwing the kitchen sink at the courts because they’re putting together an argument for 2024. They’re doing it because the Trump era will be over in 2021 without a win in this election. And they know it.

Update: There’s this, too:

That assumes Biden will be running for a second term. I’m not buying that, either. And if Trump’s not running against an older Biden, this looks even less likely to succeed.