John Kelly Is Latest Former Aide Predicting Trump Won't Run in 2024: 'He Simply Cannot Be Seen as a Loser'

The former White House Chief of Staff joins a list of Trump watchers who say he’s all talk while others see signs he’ll attempt a presidential comeback

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Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, President Donald Trump, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton together in Quebec on June 9, 2018. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty

While Donald Trump remains focused on the 2020 election and frustrated over his defeat, political players and watchers are looking ahead to 2024, speculating about another campaign for the former president.

"Trump won't run," John Kelly, who served as Trump's chief of staff from 2017 until 2019, said in a new report from The Atlantic about former Vice President Mike Pence's presidential possibilities.

Kelly's expression of certainty seems out of step with his former boss, who regularly teases a rematch with current President Joe Biden, who has said he intends to run for a second term.

In his first appearance since leaving office, Trump, 75, asked the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference, "Do you miss me yet?" and said his "incredible journey" was "far from over."

Former President Donald Trump, second from right, commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks by visiting the NYPD's 17th police precinct in New York, where he criticized President Biden over the pullout from Afghanistan Sept 11 20th Anniversary, New York, United States - 11 Sep 2021
Jill Colvin/AP/Shutterstock

While visiting first responders in New York on Sept. 11, he indicated that he's made a decision and gave the impression that he'll run. "For me, it's an easy question … I know what I'm going to do," he said, adding, "I think you're going to be happy, let me put it that way. I think you're going to be very happy."

So why is Kelly so sure another campaign is not in the cards with all the not-so-subtle hints? "He'll continue talking about it; he may even declare, but he will not run," Kelly said. "And the reason is he simply cannot be seen as a loser."

Another member of Trump's cabinet, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, echoed Kelly's sentiment that buzz about a 2024 campaign will continue — but Trump will stop short of announcing his candidacy.

"He knows deep inside, although he will never admit it, he did lose in 2020 and very much fears losing in 2024, because if he hates anything in the world, he hates being called a loser," Bolton told Britain's ITV in November. "He will talk about running incessantly until the very last moment because if he were ever to say he was not going to be a candidate, it would turn the spotlight off, and he doesn't like that either."

Others aren't so sure.

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa wrote in their book Peril that Trump told his former campaign manager Brad Parscale that he's "really strongly thinking about running."

The authors also reported that Pascale said Trump "feels a little pressure of not being in the fight like he was and he's wrapping his head around how to get back there" and offered insight into the former president's motives for a return to presidential politics.

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Donald Trump. James Devaney/GC Images

"I don't think he sees it as a comeback," Pascale said, according to the book. "He sees it as vengeance."

Woodward and Costa aren't alone in their assessment. While promoting her own tell-all in October, former Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said she wrote her book, I'll Take Your Questions Now, in part because she fears a second term for her former boss.

"I now want to, in whatever way I can, educate the public about the behaviors within the White House because it does look like he's going to try to run in 2024," she said on Good Morning America.

U.S. President Donald Trump
Donald Trump. Michael Kovac/WireImage

A handful of advisors to the former president, who will be 78 on Election Day 2024 (Biden just turned 79), told the Washington Post that Trump was set to announce a campaign as early as August — during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — but was convinced that it would be worth it to wait, citing campaign rules, fundraising and next year's midterm elections.

Indeed, it now seems likely that the "will he or won't he" speculation will continue until at least Nov. 2022.

"We'll see," Trump told Fox News in November. "I think a lot of people will be very happy, frankly, with the decision, and probably will announce that after the midterms."

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