When Donald Trump first announced he was running for president in 2015, the pundits wrote him off immediately.

And as he bounced from scandal to scandal in the primary, the prevailing wisdom was that Republicans would coalesce around another candidate.

But Trump defied expectations and shocked even himself by winning the White House in 2016.

Donald Trump standing next to his son Barron after his election announcement speech.
Donald Trump standing next to his son Barron after his election announcement speech. (AP)

So can he do it again in 2024?

The first step is winning the Republican primary, which is not a sure thing.

The case for Trump winning the nomination

Running for president is a humbling experience for politicians not used to being humbled.

The primary process involves going to small towns in Iowa and New Hampshire and convincing voters, often one at a time, that they should be president.

This is not going to be a problem for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has announced his bid for 2024 unusually early.
Donald Trump has announced his bid for 2024 unusually early. (AP)

Trump already has universal name recognition and a devoted fan base. They may not account for more than half of Republican primary voters, but they will show up in enthusiastic force to his rallies.

While his rivals try to shake hands with shoppers outside suburban strip malls, Trump remains a big deal.

Two polls in the past week showed Trump with close to half of Republican primary voters, well ahead of his nearest rival Ron DeSantis.

And while being below 50 per cent could be seen as a sign of weakness, Trump only needs to win over a few more people to win big.

His fan base also gives him a powerful grassroots fundraising base. While his rivals may struggle, Trump could blanket the airwaves with ads.

Donald Trump left countless rivals by the wayside in the 2016 primary.
Donald Trump left countless rivals by the wayside in the 2016 primary. (AP)

But Trump’s greatest advantage is the simple fact that he’s done it before, and he knows how to do it.

The frontrunner in 2016 was former Florida governor Jeb Bush, whose resume made him one of the best-qualified candidates in recent memory. Trump branded him “low energy Jeb”, a nickname both mean and devastatingly accurate. 
Marco Rubio was considered one of the brightest rising stars of the Republican Party, but he never truly recovered from Trump dubbing him “lil Marco”.

And Governor Scott Walker, who had become a conservative hero in Wisconsin, struggled to respond when Trump attacked his economic record, and his campaign never got off the ground.

The case against Trump winning the primary

In 2020, Republicans did not dare criticise their president, for fear of aggravating his army of devoted supporters.

But two years on, it appears there are a few politicians who aren’t afraid of challenging Trump – and some of them are top members of his administration.

That includes former Vice President Mike Pence, who is considering his own bid for the White House.

Mike Pence appears to be planning his own bid for the White House.
Mike Pence appears to be planning his own bid for the White House. (AP)

Pence has published a memoir and is doing a media tour, the archetypal schedule of someone about to run for president.

Pence has been loath to speak out against Trump in the past, but his new book is not a flattering view of his former boss.

Meanwhile, Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has also hinted at her own run.

“A lot of people have asked if I’m going to run for president now that the midterms are over,” she said.

“I’ll look at it in a serious way and I’ll have more to say soon.”

Nikki Haley has revealed she is considering a presidential bid.
Nikki Haley has revealed she is considering a presidential bid. (AP)

And former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has confirmed he is considering a tilt.

“We need more seriousness, we need less noise, we need steady hands, we need leaders that are looking forward, not staring in the rearview mirror claiming victimhood,” he said.

But Trump’s biggest potential foe is Ron DeSantis, who is just about the only Republican to come out of the midterm elections looking good.

DeSantis is in many ways the perfect Republican foil – young, popular in a crucial state, and in many ways more conservative than Trump.

Ron DeSantis is likely to be Donald Trump's top rival in the Republican primary.
Ron DeSantis is likely to be Donald Trump’s top rival in the Republican primary. (AP)

If the Republican never-Trumpers coalesce around one candidate, it will probably be DeSantis. 

But DeSantis stands a better chance of the presidency if he waits until 2028.

Because in the words of The Wire‘s fearsome character Omar, “if you come at the king, you best not miss”.

Donald Trump announces he’s running for president in 2024

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