The best candidates to be “the best president” are out there now, in the U.S. Senate and running the red states. In the next campaign, their records will be what matters most. What a candidate says he wants to do needs to be measured against what he’s accomplished—or at least tried to accomplish. That goes for candidates’ record building the party as well. Did they help expand the party and its representation in Congress and the state legislatures? How many Senate, House, and gubernatorial candidates did they help? How much money did they help raise for others compared to how much they raised to fuel their own ambitions? Do they adhere to Reagan’s 11th Commandment (“thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”), or do they resort to sharp elbows and cutting remarks against foes who should be considered friends? In short, what kind of leader do Republicans want for the next four, and perhaps eight, years?
The answer is not obvious, even for those who’ve already decided to back Trump again. He accomplished much. It’s fair to say he delivered on his promise to “Make America Great Again”—at least before the lockdowns started. His commitment to keeping his word on judges is directly responsible for the overturning of the constitutionally suspect 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which was bad law no matter which side of the issue you were on.
Trump was right for his time—but is he right for the future? He’ll get a chance to make his case after November if he chooses to run. Whether he does or doesn’t, the others who want the job will get the same chance. The Republicans who are tasked with choosing the candidate in 2024 need to keep their options open and think seriously about who can best get the country where it needs to go. If they want to win, they need to make the candidates come to them.