In 2016, Donald Trump won the White House by running as a disrupter who would come to Washington and shake things up. That was the right message eight years ago. But today, the last thing Americans want is disruption. To win in 2024, Trump needs to run on the opposite message: as the candidate who can end the chaos and restore normalcy in the United States.

Trump as the candidate of normalcy? I know, I know - but hear me out.

Joe Biden won the White House by painting Trump as “an incumbent president who makes things worse, not better … who sows chaos rather than providing order.” But today, on Biden’s watch, college campuses across the country are in chaos. Our southern border is in chaos. The world is in chaos, with wars raging on two continents.

This creates an opportunity for Trump to seize the mantle as the anti-chaos candidate. His winning message is not to promise “retribution” against those he believes wronged him. It is to tell Americans: Maybe you didn’t like the way I talked, but the border was secure, the economy was strong (before the pandemic hit), inflation was low and the world was largely at peace. What do you care more about: my mouth or your pocketbook? My behavior, or the behavior of Russia, Iran and Hamas? My insults, or illegal immigrants pouring across our border and overwhelming our communities?

A lot of Americans will answer by saying (deep breath): OK, fine, bring back Trump.

Many voters’ memories of his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, and the numerous other reasons they disliked him have faded. An April New York Times-Siena College poll asked: Has Donald Trump ever said anything that you found offensive? Six in 10 said either no or not recently. Among voters ages 18 to 29, a remarkable 77% said no or not recently. And the Times reports that some voters “said that while they disapproved of Mr. Trump’s inflammatory style, they wondered whether they had placed too much emphasis on his personality in past elections.”

What most people do remember, however, is that their lives were better under Trump. Almost two-thirds say they approve of Trump’s handling of the economy when he was president. By contrast, a February Times-Siena poll found a 43 percent plurality said Biden’s policies have hurt them personally (only 18% said they helped). And a recent CNN poll finds that a 55% majority consider Trump’s presidency a success (compared with 55% who called it a failure three years ago), while 61% see Biden’s presidency as a failure.

In other words, Biden is such a disaster that he has made Americans nostalgic for Trump.

Like most former presidents, Trump is benefiting from a bump in public approval after leaving office. But unlike most former presidents, he is running to reclaim that office.

His challenge, therefore, is to harness Trump nostalgia by a) not saying things that remind voters why they disliked him, and b) reminding them what they liked about his presidency (his policies) and what they don’t like about Biden’s (the panoply of calamities he has unleashed at home and abroad).

This means Trump needs to avoid complaining about a stolen election and focus on the future. With many Americans apparently willing to forgive (or at least look past) his conduct on Jan. 6, he needs to stop referring to the Capitol rioters as “patriots” and “hostages.” He needs to choose a running mate who signals stability, not disruption. He needs to persuade voters that electing him will not empower his party’s lunatic fringe - such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and the other GOP legislative arsonists — and simply replace left-wing chaos with right-wing chaos. (Trump’s strong backing of House Speaker Mike Johnson against Greene’s efforts to oust him is a good sign.) He needs to focus less on energizing his base, which remains solidly behind him, and more on winning over swing voters.

If Trump had received just 43,000 more votes in a few key states, the 2020 election might have had a different outcome. Such a marginal shift could be the difference between defeat and victory in 2024. He needs to court Americans who liked his policies but are uncertain about bringing him back to the White House — and behave in a way that gives them permission to vote in their self-interest.

Does Trump have the discipline to do this? The election hinges on that question. Because if voters have to choose between two chaos candidates, Trump will lose.

But if Trump can paint Biden as the chaos candidate — and himself as a return to normalcy — he can win.