Thoughts on the Republican Presidential Field
If you truly want a stronger America, you will have to accept that Trump is the horse we will have to ride through next November, get in the saddle, and hope he wins.
If Republicans truly want to “move past Trump” then they should accept the reality that, barring a health crisis, Trump will win the Republican nomination next year so “moving past Trump” means supporting him in the 2024 general election knowing that, win or lose, this is Trump’s last presidential rodeo given he will be 82-yers-old in 2028. Thereafter, even the most loyal Trump voter will acknowledge that he will be simply too old for a fourth run for the presidency. As Matt Kane recently wrote in “The Primary Is Over”:
Even in a field with a double-digit number of candidates, Trump has already secured the majority or close to it. For reference, he entered the 2016 race with around 10-12% support and won the nomination with just 44% of the vote. If anyone else had his current polls during any past primary in such a crowded field, there would be calls for all candidates to drop out to build as much party momentum as possible to defeat the Democrat nominee. This makes Republicans challenging Trump pure hypocrites when they speak about “coming together,” “party unity,” and “winning the general,” since they are attempting to beat the candidate who is already in the best position to achieve these things. (Emphasis added)
For good or ill depending on whether you are a NeverTrump/Establishment Republican, a pro-Trump loyalist, or a pragmatist who recognizes that amazing Trump policies go hand-in-hand with the sometimes grating Trump personality, “moving past Trump” won’t happen until November 6, 2024, if he loses next year or January 20, 2029, if he wins. ANY American not infected by Trump Derangement Syndrome should want a Trump win next November given the alternative is four more years of progressive Left disasters domestically and internationally.
Here are my thoughts on the candidates still in the Republican presidential primary race and what they each should do:
(1) Trump (59.1%) : his RealClearPolitics average lead stands at 46.5 percentage points. That is insurmountable no matter how many times people say “there is plenty of time left” to overcome that lead. The only thing that will derail a Trump nomination is Trump’s health, which seems robust, but lots can happen given his age. As I note above, the Republican Party will not move past Trump until he gets his last shot at the presidency next year. Given what the Left did to negatively limit his presidency from 2017 to 2021 followed by its actions during the 2020 election, Trump and his supporters rightfully believe he deserves one last shot.
(2) Ron DeSantis (12.6%): I am an enormous fan of DeSantis due to everything he has done as Florida governor. As an Ohioan who deals with weak leadership on a daily basis out of Mike DeWine and Jon Husted on virtually every issue you can think of and a jobs economy perpetually at the back of the pack, it is easy to like what DeSantis has done in Florida. While his presidential campaign has been less than stellar at times, I believe his support has faltered largely due to the campaign waged against him by Trump and his supporters that most people don’t see, as it occurs via text messages and emails. I suggested a year ago that the only way to possibly beat Trump was for DeSantis and Tim Scott to form a ticket at the beginning of this year, as it was something no one had ever done and would have garnered lots of positive attention. He didn’t. DeSantis now needs to suspend his campaign pending any Trump health issues and focus on making Florida even better than it already is, thereby keeping his presidential hopes alive for 2028.
(3) Nikki Haley (8.3%): Haley knifed Trump in the back shortly after leaving her job working for him, which was just stupid given the strong support he had and always will have with Republican primary voters. While I loved her as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, many South Carolinian insiders viewed her as a fairly weak governor. She might get a strong 2nd place in the South Carolina primary, but her recent rise is due more to her beating down a sometimes grating Ramaswamy than any real Republican support for her (i.e., her rise isn’t from taking support from Trump). She won’t beat Trump (or DeSantis) and, because of her disloyalty, Trump will not pick her to be his running mate, especially when he has South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (if the affair rumors with Corey Lewandowski aren’t true), Iowa Governor Km Reynolds, and Tim Scott from which to choose. Haley will stay in through the South Carolina primary due to ego, but getting second and third places won’t do much for her.
(4) Vivek Ramaswamy (4.5%): the increased exposure Ramaswamy has gotten since the first debate has revealed he isn’t ready for prime time yet, which is coming out in lower polling numbers. Many of his positions seem to be positions he arrived at in the last month (or on the cuff) versus having truly dug into the issues and arrived at a principled place. He also has gotten caught grossly embellishing his personal story (his parents most certainly didn’t come to America penniless—they were upper caste Indians with college degrees). His extreme youth from a presidential perspective is showing. The best option for Ramaswamy is to cut a deal with Trump that, in exchange for his endorsement, Trump will endorse Ramaswamy for Ohio Governor for 2026. It is an open seat and Republicans don’t like Husted. With Trump’s endorsement and his notoriety from this run, Ramaswamy would instantly jump to the head of the pack. Ohio is desperately in need of an innovative, outsider as governor who will take on the tough fights, which is why I explored a run earlier this year. I couldn’t break through the noise to get the attention I needed to beat the Establishment, but Ramaswamy would. He won’t win the presidential nomination, so his choices are to go back to being an irrelevant CEO, work for Trump (bad idea given their personalities), or run for Ohio Governor. Becoming Ohio Governor would give Ramaswamy the executive political experience he lacks to bolster him for a presidential run in 2028 or 2032. It also will get him into his 40s:-)
(5) Mike Pence (3.5%): as Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, "When you strike at a king, you must kill him.” I hate to break it to Pence, but he never had a chance of killing Trump. Beyond his wallpaper personality, Pence’s biggest liability is that he became a total hypocrite on the election so lost any real credibility to go after Trump on that issue. No intelligent person can square the circle between the video remarks Pence made leading up to January 6 and his cowardly last minute letter to Trump on the issue, especially in light of the details that have come out of John Eastman's disbarment hearing in California that undermine Pence even more. Pence also faced the impossible task of promoting his accomplishments, which are really Trump’s accomplishments, while hitting Trump for his personality. This task has been made all the harder by the stark contrast of the Trump policies in light of the grossly deficient and problematic Biden policies. An increasing number of Americans are coming to the conclusion that Trump’s personality is well worth getting his policies back in place. Pence’s support is so shallow he may not even qualify for the third debate. He should drop out and join the Brookings Institute as their token conservative who will bash Trump.
(6) Chris Christie (2.4%): I will get hammered for saying this, but, sorry, Christie’s long inability to control his weight IS relevant to the larger issue of exercising the kind of self-control voters want in a president, especially with nuclear weapon codes. He isn’t just obese; he is morbidly obese. I make this point as someone whose dad died due to morbid obesity and as someone who has to fight daily to limit the amazing carbs and sugars that appeal to me throughout the day. Christie likes to see himself as the cruise missile aimed at Trump, but he really is more like the Fat Boy atomic bomb dropped on Japan without the explosive material inside. He needs to drop out and go back to his full-time gig on CNN hammering Trump. He has no future in the modern Republican Party.
(7) Tim Scott (1.6%): Great guy. Amazing story. Perfect Vice Presidential running mate. Beyond having to split his home state with Haley, Scott has too few accomplishments as a U.S. Senator to run on, which is why governors always tend to do better than legislators in presidential runs. He largely disappeared at the first debate, but even when he gets a chance to speak he sounds like a Ronald Reagan cliche machine. The rumors about Scott being gay frankly aren’t relevant on the sexuality issue (though statistically what are the odds of two U.S. Senators from one state who have never been married or have no kids?); rather, the relevance is on the issues of authenticity and honesty; meaning, do we really “know” him and what else about him might he be hiding? The fact that he has never been married and has no kids also hurts him from a relational standpoint for many Americans, as in, how can a guy who has never dealt with a spouse or raised kids truly “get” me and my life. I know lifelong bachelors and they are clueless about what most of us go through as spouses and parents. If Scott were smart, he’d make a move to become Trump’s running mate, thereby setting himself up for 2028 after which such questions won’t matter as much.
(8) Doug (right!!!!) Burgum (0.6%): Burgum is just bored of living in North Dakota so has nothing better to do than get some media attention running for president. As a politically plugged in junkie, I frankly had never even heard of the guy before he got in the race and seriously had to google his first name to write this piece. He might be a good guy with good results in North Dakota, but he never stood ANY chance of dethroning Trump. He should endorse Trump in exchange for a cabinet position promise like the U.S. Department of the Interior.
(9) Asa Hutchinson (0.6%): I know Asa, as we worked together at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when he was an Undersecretary. I last saw Asa and his wife, Susan, at The White House Christmas Party on December 17, 2018. Asa is a really smart guy who had two relatively strong terms as Governor of Arkansas. In a normal year, Asa might have been able to catch fire, but, not only didn’t he stand a chance against Trump, he stood no chance against DeSantis. I felt badly for Asa when I saw him doing an event in Iowa that had less than ten people in attendance. I know that feeling. It stinks. He deserved better than that, but he also should have gotten better advice on running, as it made no sense for him to get in this race.
At the end of the day, the question is will a majority of voters in a majority of states necessary to secure an Electoral College win put aside everything about Trump’s personality to get back Trump’s policies? Unlike in 2020 when voters looked at the tabula rosa Biden (he mentally Is that now), voters will now have three-and-a-half years of contrasting policies to answer that question. Here are the contrasts, with lots of sub-contrasts under each category:
Trump’s immigration system or Biden’s immigration system;
Trump’s economy pre-pandemic or Biden’s economy; and
Trump’s foreign policy successes or Biden’s foreign policy failures.
Even on the personal side of the equation, will voters really see Trump’s personality and various political indictments as worse than what they think of the Biden Family corruption scandal that gets worse every week? I doubt it. They will ignore these issues and focus on the policies, which only helps Trump. This reality is exactly why Trump leads Biden currently. Even with Robert Kennedy, Jr., running as an independent, Trump will win due to the demographic notes below.
If you truly want a stronger America, you will have to accept that Trump is the horse we will have to ride through next November, get in the saddle, and hope he wins. There will be no moving on past Trump until then at the earliest anyway.