WASHINGTON (AFP) — When networks projected he had lost his bid for reelection to Joe Biden, US President Donald Trump was playing golf. He’ll soon have plenty more time to enjoy the links if he so desires.
But if there’s one constant for Trump, it is his love of the limelight and few expect this most unusual of presidents to pursue a traditional post-White House life of public reticence, reflective memoir-writing and occasional charitable events.
He will lose the keys to the White House but not his login on Twitter, where Trump and his itchy fingers could still wield powerful control over his Republican Party.
Some allies have already spoken of Trump planning a rematch in 2024. Only one other president, Grover Cleveland, has served non-consecutive terms, winning in 1892 after narrowly losing reelection four years earlier.
Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said with understatement that Trump — who has refused to concede and made unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud — “doesn’t like losing.”
“I would absolutely expect the president to stay involved in politics and would absolutely put him on the shortlist of people who are likely to run in 2024,” he told an Irish think tank.
“He’s a very high-energy 74-year-old,” he added.
Trump’s children have made clear that they are still demanding loyalty from Republicans.
“The total lack of action from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’ is pretty amazing,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Thursday.
He called out by name Senator Lindsey Graham, a former Trump critic turned supporter who coasted to reelection. Hours afterward, Graham was on Trump’s favorite Fox News show pledging money for the president’s legal defense and repeating unsubstantiated accusations of election irregularities.
The thrice-married New York-born hotel developer and television celebrity has made no secret that he longs for some comforts of his pre-White House days.
“I had a nice life. I had the greatest life,” Trump said in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in his final campaign rally.
His main product to fund that lifestyle has been his own name. According to his disgraced former lawyer Michael Cohen, the 2016 presidential run itself was conceived as a “branding opportunity” — until he unexpectedly won.
Trump had rebuilt his public profile in the 2000s as the host of reality TV series “Celebrity Apprentice” following a string of bankruptcies.
The president has hinted about seeking to start a “Trump TV” brand as he has increasingly complained about Fox News, accusing the channel that helped fuel his rise of being insufficiently right-wing.
Viewers, he tweeted, “want an alternative now. So do I!”
And no one can deny Trump has the gift of the gab.
At his innumerable rallies, he held large crowds in a kind of mesmerized attention with stream-of-consciousness shifts from conspiracy theories to jokes to pet peeves, like his peculiarly passionate criticism of feeble water pressure in bathroom faucets.
And he has a potential readymade vehicle for the project in the form of openly Trump-supporting cable channels One America News and NewsMax TV — current minnows that a Trump takeover could turn into giants.
Prison, or a road trip?
No less plausible is a scenario where Trump is embroiled in serious legal problems.
Prosecutors in New York are already probing Trump’s hush money payment to a porn star, his tangled business dealings and mysterious accounting practices. Then there are rape and other sexual assault allegations.
As president, Trump is largely protected from prosecution. Some have speculated that he may again challenge accepted norms by trying to issue a pre-emptive pardon to himself.
Eight Trump associates, including men who served as his campaign managers, lawyer and national security advisor, have already been indicted or imprisoned for serious crimes including over the 2016 campaign’s links to Russia.
Or, just maybe, Trump will want to get away from it all.
However implausible this sounds, he has dropped a few hints.
In June at the White House he mused about taking a road trip in an RV with his former model wife Melania.
Less romantic but equally heartfelt, he paused mid-speech during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania to admire parked trucks.
“Nice trucks,” the president said. “You think I could hop into one of them and drive it away? I’d love to do it, just drive the hell out of here. Just get the hell out of this.”