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Maggie Haberman: Don’t write Trump off for 2024

Donald Trump.
Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Former President Donald Trump is seeking to regain his old job, and New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman is back on his trail covering his latest campaign.

In a virtual event sponsored by the Jay Heritage Center in Rye, Haberman — who chronicled Trump’s rise to presidential power in the book “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America,” published last October by Penguin Press — observed that it is a mistake to write off Trump as a viable candidate.

“I think people are underestimating him,” Haberman said. “I don’t think that that means people should overstate him. He is a diminished presence in our public consciousness and in our  discourse — that doesn’t mean he will stay that way.”

Trump was the first Republican to announce his bid for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, which Haberman viewed as a strategy to “essentially freeze the field and keep anybody from coming after him.” But while Trump is trying to put the spotlight on his future, Haberman noted he is carrying a surplus amount of political baggage.

“We can’t forget whenever we write about him that he is facing a criminal investigation in Georgia, in New York, two Justice Department investigations, plus a blizzard of lawsuits — which are normally his specialty to file against other people,” she continued. “I don’t know what this all looks like in terms of a Trump campaign through the course of 2023.”

Screen shot of Maggie Haberman during her virtual talk. Photo by Phil Hall.

Haberman acknowledged that other Republicans have been touted as potential candidates for the presidency, but none have been eager to dive into the race. She pointed out that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is “the person who most Republicans talk about in terms of having a hunger for somebody who’s not Trump, and that is real in that party,” but she added he is “completely untested on the national stage.” She predicted former South Carolina Gov. Nikkie Haley was “likely to be the next person to jump in” while South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have also been viewed as potential candidates.

However, Haberman noted a Republican Party trend of hyping candidates who either stumble once on the campaign trail — most notably former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who “seemed great until he started talking in debates” — or who just fizzle in the spotlight, such as former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Haberman pointed out that a possible Biden-Trump rematch in 2024 would be historic as the first time when both major party candidates are being investigated by special counsels for retaining classified documents in their private residences after leaving office.

“We are in such uncharted territory right now,” she added. “We will see if DOJ does anything related to that in terms of the special counsel, although I think the circumstances are a little different. Biden is effectively Merrick Garland’s boss, and I think he felt like he had to appoint somebody who was independent. And Trump was a declared candidate, which is part of the issue there as well, because they had been investigating Trump related to the January 6 attack and to the documents for many months.”

For Haberman, Trump has been in her crosshairs for the past dozen years.

“I had been working at Politico in 2011 when Trump was considering running for president, and that was when he spread the birther lie of President Obama,” she recalled. “I saw how powerful that was in the Republican primary in terms of elevating Trump’s poll numbers. It didn’t get him 100% approval, but it started moving his numbers up in a primary in which he really struggled before that, because on the issues he was not aligned with the GOP base in any meaningful way.”

While Haberman faulted others for underestimating Trump, she freely admitted she made a major mistake in not taking him seriously. After Trump decided not to seek the 2012 Republican nomination for president — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney ultimately scored the nomination but lost to Obama in the general election — Haberman viewed him as someone more interested in publicizing his TV show “The Apprentice” than seeking to run the country.

“And until he actually ran, I was not going to write a word,” she said. “This is what I said when his aide Sam Nunberg called me and said, ‘You know, Trump’s gonna announce on June 16 (2015) and we want you to break it.’ And I basically said, ‘No, I’m not, I’m not doing this again until he actually is in the race.’ Now, in hindsight, not my best call.”

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Phil Hall's writing for Westfair Communications has earned multiple awards from the Connecticut Press Club and the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists. He is a former United Nations-based reporter for Fairchild Broadcast News and the author of 11 books (including the new release "100 Years of Wall Street Crooks," published by Bicep Books). He is also the host of the SoundCloud podcast "The Online Movie Show," host of the WAPJ-FM talk show "Nutmeg Chatter" and a writer with credits in The New York Times, New York Daily News, Hartford Courant, Wired, The Hill's Congress Blog, Profit Confidential, The MReport and StockNews.com. Outside of journalism, he is also a horror movie actor - usually playing the creepy villain who gets badly killed at the end of each film.


  1. Should non-partisan historical sites sponsor more of the endless political punditry we have enough of already? Isn’t Maggie on enough TV shows already? How about the Jay Center sponsor a speaker on how great Dwight Eisenhower was. 8 years no wars. As Brian Williams of NBC News recently said: we are burning down our nation’s house with us in it. His words not mine. We fiddle while Rome burns.


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