Trump is at a crossroads on multiple fronts

nNovember is shaping up to be a pivotal month in Donald Trump’s post-presidential career, with him facing critical moments on multiple fronts.

Obvious tests of Trump’s political strength will come from the midterm elections, in which Trump-backed candidates compete across the country, and the prospect of Trump launching his all-but-announced presidential bid soon after. But November could also represent key moments in the investigations against the former president, mark a turning point in Trump’s use of social media and reveals the durability of the election denial movement he spearheaded.

The most immediate milestone will come Tuesday, when Trump’s handpicked nominees will be tested at the polls and Republicans could find themselves in control of one or both houses of Congress. When cool rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday night Trump described to supporters how he views the midterms. “There’s only one choice to end this madness,” Trump said. “If you want to stop the destruction, save our country and the American dream, then this Tuesday you need to vote Republican in a giant red wave.”

Just how big that wave will be may come down to a few decisions Trump has made over the course of more than a year. Old-guard Republicans are concerned that Trump has backed the wrong candidates in key swing states, pushing out primary contenders better suited to the general election. In Pennsylvania, TV personality Mehmet Oz is working to overcome accusations that he is a New Jersey mobster. Herschel Walker in Georgia is fighting accusations that he paid for abortions and repeatedly misrepresented his background during the campaign. JD Vance in Ohio has been dogged by perceptions that his views are too extreme for the state.

The outcome of these contests will judge Trump’s political acumen in outrunning the traditional gatekeepers of the Republican Party. If too many of his handpicked candidates fail, it could prompt party leaders to work more aggressively against him in the future.

“This is an absolute test for Trump,” said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University, one of whom Naftali argues is connected to the country’s feelings about the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “If Americans cast their ballots for the favorites of Trump in large numbers; then you have to conclude that, at least for these Americans, the fact that Donald Trump has at least inspired an uprising doesn’t matter, or at least doesn’t matter enough to have doubts about someone they favor.

Once the results are in, Trump could find himself at another pivotal moment, this one stemming from his continued efforts to undermine faith in the nation’s elections. “We need a landslide so big that the radical left can’t rig it or steal it,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Iowa.

To the former president repeated and baseless allegations of electoral fraud have permeated dozens of races across the country and encouraged many Republicans who deny Joe Biden a 2020 presidential run to run for office this year. As votes are counted on Nov. 8 and in the days after, losing candidates in various states may refuse to acknowledge their races, leaving Trump with a chance to fuel that frustration and spread more misinformation about the election system or remain silent.

Read more: Trump rallies Iowans ahead of midterm elections warped by his campaign lies

Besides further eroding confidence in the democratic process, Trump’s relentless focus on undermining faith in US elections may have harmed the GOP’s midterm efforts, said Lauren Wright, a political scientist at Princeton University. “For Republicans to win, they need moderate and independent voters. These kinds of claims risk alienating moderate and independent voters. Although recent polls suggest Republicans may have a good night on Tuesday, Wright argued that whatever the outcome, the GOP likely would have won even more seats if it weren’t for the party’s denial-of-election stance, raising questions whether they could do better.

Trump is holding a final wave of rallies in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election. His decision to hold the first of these rallies in Iowa, which traditionally holds the first rally of the presidential cycle, sparked speculation that the event was intended to boost Trump’s next presidential campaign. The former president has been teasing for weeks about his intention to run for another term in 2024, and it is reportedly ready to make an announcement later in November. “I ran twice, I won twice,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Iowa. “And now to make our country more successful, safer and more glorious, I will very, very, very likely do it again.”

The announcement is highly anticipated by many of the former president’s supporters. At the rally, some wore Trump 2024 paraphernalia. Justin Hefling, 36, of Yankton, South Dakota, said he wants Trump to run again because he wants “someone back in office who is talking crap about how things are.”

Along with the political ramifications of Trump’s announcement, there will be legal ones as several investigations into his activities continue apace. Attorney General Merrick Garland is considering whether Trump’s candidacy would create a need for a special adviser to oversee ongoing federal investigations into the former president’s mishandling of hundreds of government documents and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to a report this week by CNN.

A separate investigation into his New York business is advancing and threatens to disrupt his ability to run his family real estate company. And the Supreme Court ruled Nov. 1 that a key Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, could not avoid testifying in a Georgia case brought by Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis about Trump’s attempts to pressure officials to change local results in 2020 election.

Read more: How Trump Survived Decades of Legal Trouble

Speaking in Iowa, Trump framed the legal pressure on him as a way to silence him and his supporters. “They’re coming after me because I’m fighting for you, remember that,” Trump said.

Trump took aim at New York Attorney General Letitia James in his speech, accusing her of leading a politically motivated investigation into him. Trump tried to put James’ efforts to hold the Trump Organization accountable for alleged tax violations and loan misrepresentations in the same category as confiscations by socialist and communist governments. The New York attorney general “has started a process of asset forfeiture that is similar to Venezuela, Cuba, the old Soviet Union,” Trump told supporters Thursday night.

While major events in the political and legal worlds would be enough to mark November as a pivotal month for Trump, events over the next few weeks could also have major implications for Trump’s social media presence. It’s been almost two years since Twitter finally suspended Trump after the Jan. 6 riot over concerns that Trump’s tweets to his 88 million followers risked “further incitement to violence.” Trump has since launched his own social media site, Truth Social, which some of his far-right supporters have embraced.

But last week Twitter got a new owner, Elon Musk, who suggested Trump’s removal was a mistake. Musk said he would create a “content moderation board with many different perspectives” to consider restoring suspended accounts. If Musk lifts Trump’s suspension, Trump may be tempted to return to the platform and its reach.

In Iowa, Trump did not mention Musk or the prospect of him tweeting again. But he found time to incorporate Truth Social, which remains his primary social media platform for now.

“Go out and sign up for Truth Social,” Trump said. “This is a hot site.”

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