A glance at the calendar this morning reveals that tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, 2023, which, of course, signifies another year has passed for gratitude-filled Americans to remember those who served in the armed forces, both deceased and alive. As Abraham Lincoln famously
spoke at Gettysburg about this time of year in 1863, “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”
But heading into mid-November, it also means the primary campaign portion of the 2024 Republican presidential race is reaching its final phase. The summer’s over, no more outdoor “county fair” barbecues, photo-ops with “common folk” in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, no more chewing the proverbial fat while flipping burgers, ‘dogs n’ ribs for hungry onlookers. Mostly, it’s all indoors from here on out.
Except, of course, for Donald Trump, who has never shied away from utilizing the outdoors to addresses masses of people. But with all those attendees at his rallies, perhaps they keep each other warm.
We’re also just a couple days removed from the latest “official” debate event featuring the second-tier not-Trump candidates, since the race frontrunner declined, again, to engage his intra-party competition on the same stage. Post-debate reaction continues to trickle in, though a good number of observers have suggested that the Miami forum should be the last of its kind – at least in terms of the number of participants.
Is it the occasion for a couple of them to go? In an article titled “Debates are getting better as candidates are forced to exit”, Conn Carroll argued at the Washington Examiner yesterday:
“The two front-runners, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, had strong moments and will surely survive and advance. For everyone else onstage, however, it is really time for them to ask themselves what are they trying to accomplish.
“Love him or hate him, at least businessman Vivek Ramaswamy tried to make news with his heated attacks on Haley. Whether going after Haley’s daughter for using TikTok will help him with voters is questionable, but at least it was memorable. He was trying to produce moments voters would talk about the next day.
“But what are Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doing? They both completely faded away from the debate for long stretches, and when they did speak, they did nothing to separate themselves from the rest of the field. Their continued presence in the race only helps former President Donald Trump by taking support away from other candidates. It is past time for them to drop out.”
Help Donald Trump? This might not be the outright stated goal of the remaining not-Trump Republicans in the 2024 field, though it’s not necessarily a disqualifying thought. In Ramaswamy’s particular case, it’s obvious from their terse exchanges in the three debates to date that he isn’t fond of Nikki Haley. Why, therefore, would he necessarily feel obligated to clear out of the way for her when his continued presence, theoretically, aids Trump by taking away potential support for Haley?
Is Carroll right, are Chris Christie and Senator Tim Scott just occupying space and outstaying their welcome? Couldn’t the same be said for the others, too? Christie takes up a big chunk o’ real estate no matter where he resides at any given moment. What makes the Republican primary race any different?
What does each one of the not-Trump contenders add to the mix?
Since, let’s face it, none of these candidates carries with him or her an overload of star power, in an attempt to maintain fairness and impartiality towards this field – minus Donald Trump, of course – perhaps a look at what each one adds to the intra-party conversation is called for. The five remaining not-Trump candidates who took the stage on Wednesday night have no doubt been enduring all manner of judgment and contempt for not only failing to establish a foothold in an otherwise (speculative, of course) open primary campaign field, but also for exhibiting personal shortcomings that may affect their future individual political viability.
I’ll candidly admit that much of what the candidates said on Wednesday passed right over my head because one, I’ve heard each of them state pretty much whatever they claimed at some point in the past, and two, there isn’t anything any of them could say, at this point, that would change many minds. It’s the totality of the argument that perhaps could make headway, but a blow-by-blow analysis of the not-Trump participants just isn’t necessary now.
If polls and surveys indicate otherwise in the coming days, we’ll revisit the topic.
For now, what do they offer?
Governor Ron DeSantis. To me, it always looks as though DeSantis is a tad too rehearsed – he lacks the spontaneity of Trump, but also someone like Vivek Ramaswamy or Chris Christie. He’s not constantly repeating the infamous “25 second speech” of Marco Rubio fame, but yet you almost get the feeling you know what he’s going to say before he says it. DeSantis seems like he’s too coached and too practiced.
Yet DeSantis has something that none of the others possess – maybe even Trump. DeSantis adds the experience of having gone into a state, set the agenda, passed his goals and won reelection in record-setting fashion. DeSantis has also served in the House of Representatives and was one of the founding members of the Freedom Caucus. Ron’s only in his mid-forties, but he’s already amassed himself a pretty impressive resume.
No one would claim Ron DeSantis isn’t ready to lead. He could step into the Oval Office tomorrow and know how to make decisions. Will he ever get the chance to do it?
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. It’s not a stretch to say Nikki Haley isn’t my favorite candidate. Somewhat like DeSantis, she seems rehearsed, too – at least on the boilerplate issues -- but a lack of authenticity isn’t her biggest problem. Perhaps because she’s a woman, Haley frequently tries to be “serious”, but instead comes across as mean and nasty. She reminds me of a mythical restaurant manager who doesn’t want to hear that your steak is too done or there was a hair in your salad.
It's like Nikki will snatch the food item away from you and bark at a busboy to bring you a new one. She exhibited the spiteful Nikki the other night, for those who tuned in. It was quite a show, too, having said to Vivek Ramaswamy, “You’re just scum!”
Despite this, Haley appears to be the right fit for a cabinet post. I’m not sure which one would be a good temperament match for her, but she was viewed as a pretty adept governor of South Carolina, which means she’s capable of executive management. You wouldn’t want her to greet foreign heads of state, but perhaps she could get the best out of the bureaucracy somehow.
Vivek Ramaswamy. Ramaswamy brings a fresh face and energy to the 2024 race, but also new ideas and a not-yet-spoiled-by-politics outlook to the Republican Party. Vivek frequently says what a lot of us think but would be too hesitant to propose out in the open for others to peck at. He uses the word “Revolution” a lot, which is usually associated with leftist movements – but liberty is revolutionary, too.
As the son of immigrants, Ramaswamy brings a special claim to realizing the American Dream (in fairness, Nikki Haley also qualifies). Vivek’s life story proves anyone can take their smarts and talents and make something of themselves. What will he do for a follow-up act?
Senator Tim Scott. “Nice guy” senator Tim Scott also embodies the American Dream, having grown up in a poor single-parent home, worked hard, straightened himself out and eventually, made a name for himself in politics. I’d guess it wasn’t Scott’s life ambition to run for president someday, but he did, and there was a time when many considered him qualified for the job.
Scott adds a measured temperament to the 2024 GOP field. I doubt even Trump would say something bad about him, and it’s not just because of his minority status. Scott could do well for himself by becoming linked to a key issue or agenda item. Right now, he’s just too anonymous.
Chris Christie. The former New Jersey governor isn’t anonymous. He’s known for lots of things, many of which all-but disqualify him from ever being a factor in a Republican race. Conservatives don’t trust Christie because he seems too fungible on what he believes, and his only claim to fame these days is his outward opposition to the most popular figure in the GOP today. That’s not much of a leg to stand on, is it?
Christie isn’t completely useless. His willingness to challenge the other candidates is admirable as long as it’s fair. One gets the impression Christie has a closet full of skeletons that he’s trying desperately to hide. If he disappeared from the race tomorrow, would anyone even realize it?
--And no discussion of the 2024 candidates is complete without Donald Trump. Trump earnestly believes he should’ve had the primary campaign all to his lonesome, and it’s hard to argue, now, a year after he officially declared his candidacy, that he was wrong. Trump adds just about everything to this year’s Republican field – gravitas, agenda, experience, combativeness, wisdom (on issues such as abortion), instinct and a sense that he’s been there before and he knows what to do.
It would be nice to see the former president in a debate setting with the others, though it’s understandable why he wouldn’t desire to provide a platform for his competitors to snipe at him. The establishment media already feeds the public a steady diet of Donald Trump news, so it’s not as though Americans don’t know anything about what he’s doing these days.
We’re just about two months away from the Iowa caucuses (slated for January 15, 2024). The wait is nearly over. Will Trump prevail?
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