Could the Trumps follow in the footsteps of the Kennedys and Bushes to emerge as the next American political dynasty?
What You Need To Know
- Experts say that Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is so strong that his family members could become political forces, with him campaigning for them
- None of the president’s children or their spouses have publicly announced plans to seek elected office, but daughter Ivanka and son Donald Jr. have both reportedly pondered their political futures
- If Donald Trump does not seek re-election, early polls show his son, Donald Jr., trailing only Vice President Mike Pence in a potential Republican field
- A poll earlier this month showed the president's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, with 24% support, leading the potential Republican field to replace Sen. Richard Burr, who won’t seek reelection in 2022
As President Donald Trump’s time in the White House draws to a close, speculation is growing about what’s next for the Trump family, including his children.
The president has reportedly expressed interest in running again in 2024, creating a cloud of uncertainty that will loom large over any potential Republican presidential field.
But whether Trump runs in ’24 or not, his family members might pursue their own political ambitions. And Trump’s overwhelming popularity in the Republican Party would make them formidable candidates, if not heavy favorites, political experts say.
None of the president’s children or their spouses have publicly announced plans to seek elected office, but daughter Ivanka Trump and son Donald Trump Jr. have both reportedly pondered their political futures. And a recent poll shows Lara Trump, the wife of Donald Trump’s son Eric, as an early favorite for the GOP nomination in North Carolina’s 2022 U.S. Senate race.
Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is so strong that, with him campaigning for them, his family members could become political forces, pundits say.
"Look at what they've built, and specifically what Donald Trump has built within the Republican Party. They are the Republican Party right now,” said Seth Weathers, a political strategist who was the Georgia state director of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
"I think he is the kingmaker, and I think that Trump Sr. can decide who the next 2024 nominee is,” Weathers added. “No one can beat him, and no one can beat him if he really put it on the line for another candidate."
Alan Chartock, a political scientist and radio host at WAMC in Albany, New York, agreed that Donald Trump’s name and influence are bigger than the GOP right now.
"That group of Republicans who are sticking with Trump, I think would be transferrable to somebody like Ivanka because nobody is switching them around,” he said. "The Republican voters ... will show their allegiance to Trump and not to the party."
If Donald Trump does not run for president again in 2024, polls show that Donald Jr. could be a strong candidate. A recent Axios/SurveyMonkey poll showed 29% of Republicans or right-leaning independents would consider voting for Donald Jr., trailing only behind Vice President Mike Pence at 40%.
A Seven Letter Insight survey last month also found that if Donald Trump was out of the equation, Donald Jr. would be Republican voters’ second choice behind Pence; Ivanka was sixth. And though they’d prefer to see Donald Trump run again, 52% of Republicans said they would support him endorsing one of his children.
Weathers, however, said he believes if Donald Jr. ran for the White House, he’d blow away the competition.
"Name one person who could beat Trump Jr. with Trump Sr. pushing him through the Republican primary,” he said. “It's just not possible."
Donald Jr. has never held any official political position. He is an executive vice president for The Trump Organization but has raised his political profile by campaigning for his father. He’s shown to be an effective social-media and TV attack dog and, along with his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a key fundraiser.
While Ivanka could also potentially run for president, Republican observers say Donald Jr. has developed the stronger bond with the MAGA base.
"I think Donald Trump Jr. is interesting on this front because, while I wouldn't say I'm a fan of his, on some things he's actually far more closer to Republican Party orthodoxy than what his father is,” said Liz Mair, a political strategist whose resume includes working for the Republican National Committee during John McCain’s 2008 presidential run.
Added Weathers: “I think Don Jr. has a true quote-unquote understanding and appreciation and support of quote-unquote conservativism."
Earlier this month, Business Insider reported that Donald Jr., an avid hunter, was considering a run to take over the National Rifle Association. There also had been rumblings of him eyeing a leadership role with the RNC, which he denied.
The Trump campaign and White House did not respond to requests for interviews or statements for this article.
Unlike Donald Jr., Ivanka has had a direct role in her father’s presidency as a senior White House adviser for the last four years, focusing on issues such as education, job creation, workforce development, and the economic empowerment of women and their families.
News last week that Ivanka and husband Jared Kusher, also a senior adviser to the president, are buying a plot of land near Miami Beach for nearly $30 million ignited speculation that she might challenge incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio in 2022 for one of Florida’s U.S. Senate seats.
A couple of books have suggested that both Ivanka and her father have contemplated even bigger roles for her.
Michael Wolff wrote in his 2018 book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” in which he conducted 200 interviews with Trump and his associates, that Ivanka and Kushner reached an agreement between them that if the opportunity presented itself, she would be the one to run for president.
And former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates wrote this year in his book “Wicked Game” that Ivanka was Donald Trump’s first choice to be his running mate in 2016 before she ultimately shut down the idea.
“She’s bright, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, and the people would love her!” Trump said then, according to Gates.
Chartock said he believes Ivanka, not Donald Jr., is the Trump child to watch.
“That's who Papa loves the most — that's clear — and who they're pushing and who their pundits are saying will be the person,” he said.
One obstacle Ivanka might have to overcome is shedding her reputation as a moderate. She recently took some loud steps to the right, declaring for the first time in an October interview that she was “unapologetically” pro-life.
But she might have a hard time escaping her past reputation in the eyes of conservatives, Mair said.
"I still have a hard time seeing that Ivanka really gells as well with Republicans as what she would need to do to actually have any sort of a toehold in running for public office,” she said.
“There are a lot of people in the Republican Party, regardless of where they sit on the policy spectrum ... they hate the word 'moderate,' so I think automatically that's an issue,” Mair added.
Political observers seem to largely agree that Donald Trump shattered voters’ age-old expectation that presidential candidates have political experience, which could benefit Donald Jr. or Ivanka.
And Chartock said it’s unlikely that if the president preemptively pardons his children for any potential crimes, as he is reportedly considering doing, that it would harm their political outlooks much.
"Every piece of garbage that they throw at him [Donald Trump], none of it sticks with those Republican voters,” he said. “So if he pardons himself or pardons his kids, his rationale is going to be, 'They're all out to get me,' and the Republican rank-and-file is going to say, 'Yeah, yeah, that's right.'"
Mair said she’s not convinced the president’s children will have an easy time running for office because Trumpism might not be as strong in two to four years as it is now, when Trump’s supporters are backing him and his claims about widespread voter fraud that have repeatedly been shot down by the courts.
“I think we're going to look back on this period, and probably the assumptions that we had about where we'd be in June 2022 are going to be dead wrong,” she said.
In North Carolina, a BUSR/UNLV Lee Business School poll earlier this month showed Lara Trump, with 24% support, leading the potential Republican field to replace Sen. Richard Burr, who won’t seek reelection in 2022.
Lara Trump, a former television producer who was an adviser to Trump’s campaign, told Fox News in response to the poll that she’s “flattered” and “humbled,” and “open to anything.”
"I could think of nothing greater than to represent the people of my home state, represent North Carolina," she told Fox News' Gianno Caldwell.
There has been relatively little chatter about Eric Trump, also an executive vice president at The Trump Organization, eyeing a political future. And political observers Spectrum News spoke with did not envision Kushner running for any office, although they did not rule him out in future advisory roles.