With eight days to go until the first Republican presidential candidates’ debate, a lot of conservatives are suggesting that it’s time to call off all the blather about electability, staff
layoffs, campaign reorganizations and fundraising worries and simply declare former President Donald Trump the winner of the contest before it even starts.
There’s a temptation to go along with such reasoning, since Trump has opened up – and maintained – a sizeable lead in national horserace polls as well as established himself the clear favorite in the early voting states as well. The Democrats’ and the Biden Justice Department’s ongoing pursuit of Trump on dubious charges has only fanned the flames of Trump backing even more intensely. What conservative sees what’s going on and isn’t outraged?
There’s also incentive for Trump’s political enemies in both parties to defend the defenseless, often employing the standard “No one is above the law” platitude while purposely looking the other way at their man’s (senile president Joe Biden, of course) considerable high crimes, misdemeanors and obvious lies.
The totality of today’s happenings lends credence to those claiming it’s time to put a stop to the petty divisions and get behind the man who’s the clear favorite of the voters. In a piece titled “The Primary is Over: It’s Time for Republicans to Unite Behind Trump”, Matthew Boose wrote at American Greatness last week:
“Democrats know that Trump will be the nominee, even if Republicans haven’t realized it. There will be plenty of pointless drama in the months to come. We will see Chris Christie waddle on stage at some point to call Trump an insurrectionist, and CNN and the Washington Post will say, ‘is this the end of Trump?’ for the millionth time. It will end with the same result, except the party will be divided. Democrats, meanwhile, are preparing for the general election. Democrats have DeSantis to thank for increasing the odds of Biden’s success with an increasingly quixotic campaign.
“The media gossip about which candidate won which ‘debate’ might be a good pastime for professional pundits with no skin in the game, but it is an absurd and anachronistic diversion with serious consequences for the country. This is not an era of conventional politics. Democrats are destroying the very foundation of the country, the consent of the governed, with their brazen effort to jail the opposition candidate. The man whom the corrupt establishment hates and fears has been clearly marked. Republicans should recognize the urgency of the moment and unite behind him.”
Almost makes you want to proverbially pick up the rifle and march off to the nearest mustering station to seize the “Make America Great Again” banner and forget about everything else, doesn’t it? Boose makes a lot of strong points in his piece, and although it probably won’t go down in history alongside Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” pamphlet or Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech, Matthew B’s “The Primary is Over…” screed will receive its fair due in 2024 advocacy.
Trump does indeed look strong, and it’s not like the two-time Republican presidential nominee and one-term former president ever looks weak. Trump carries himself as though he’s the only candidate in the GOP field worth looking at, and it’s hard to blame him for the arrogant stance. Trump remains convinced that Democrat shenanigans cost him his second term in 2020, and sleazy senile Joe Biden has done everything within his power to demonstrate how awful things could get in America if he were elected.
So Trump’s in a good place, but at this point, it begs the question: If not Trump, who?
It may be a bit premature to handicap the field before we’ve even reached mid-August the year before the primaries – and the famous Iowa State Fair, complete with its straw poll that draws so much attention – continued over the weekend, but there are fewer and fewer signs that things will change, short of some catastrophic event that would shake the entire world to its foundation. In comparison, the puny Republican presidential race can’t keep up in terms of magnitude.
No clear alternative to Trump has emerged thus far and it seems as though people are waiting around until next week’s debate to determine whether Trump should even be challenged. The candidate announced last week that he won’t be signing the RNC’s “loyalty pledge”, which all but gives Trump an “out” from showing up, but if he were to come to the event I doubt Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel would bar him from participation for the oversight.
Wouldn’t that be a scene? McDaniel could run across stage with paper copy of pledge in hand and threaten to hold her breath until she’s blue in the face until Trump signed it – and he still wouldn’t do it.
All signs lead to Trump not taking part in the Milwaukee event, which will make for an awkward program without its biggest drawing card and undisputed star. Who’s going to fill the stature gap? Who’s going to take the opportunity to lay into Trump knowing that harsh criticism will only serve to generate more sympathy for the man. If not Trump, who?
Governor Ron DeSantis remains the most likely main challenger, though DeSantis himself appears to be grasping for something concrete to keep from sinking deeper into the political abyss quicksand. The American Spectator’s Scott McKay made a convincing case for why conservatives and Republicans need DeSantis to stay viable last week, and, although things don’t look great for him now, DeSantis has the record and position to still make a difference.
McKay asserted that Americans won’t be as willing to vote for a new president who’s occupying a prison cell, and there’s something to be said for the argument. Trump backers swear frog-marching Trump to the federal pen will bring on electoral Armageddon, but the portion of the electorate that’s detached from heavy politics might not see it the same way.
DeSantis, on the other hand, though he hasn’t run a great campaign thus far, will serve as a pretty good “backup plan” to Trump in the case that something goes markedly wrong for the presumptive Republican nominee. DeSantis has several months to find his “legs”, and the supremely intelligent and accomplished man could very well do it.
Outsider sensation Vivek Ramaswamy also would seem to be a viable alternative, though it can’t be emphasized enough that the Ohioan is brand new to politics and there’s much yet to be learned about him. Possessing a Trump-ian level of confidence and enough smarts to occupy the entire debate stage, Ramaswamy will raise eyebrows next week and send pundits scurrying to claim “Did Vivek just win the debate?”
The buzz will last for a few days – or maybe even a week – but the talk will be replaced at some point by polls showing Trump way ahead, and/or the latest Democrat overreach into Trump’s “behavior” on January 6 and beyond. Ramaswamy is as sharp as they come but politics isn’t necessarily a merit-based vocation, and here’s thinking that Vivek’s time is sometime in the future, or possibly a position as Trump’s VP or major cabinet officer. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, is another GOP contender who could run the Oval Office well and is a well-grounded conservative on nearly all of the issues important to the grassroots. But Pence is mired in the single digits in the polls at current, and he needs to be exceedingly careful on the January 6th topic, which acts like a lead ball shackled around his ankle. Lots of folks have concerns about the way Trump acted that day, but at least an equal number are conflicted over Pence’s role, too.
South Carolina senator Tim Scott has been making the rounds in Iowa and has established himself as the “nice guy” establishment favorite in the national race. Unfortunately for Scott, the grassroots aren’t seeking a conciliator to take over the leadership. They crave an advocate and a fighter. Scott didn’t enjoy his finest hour when he shied away from defending Gov. DeSantis a few weeks back over the cackling Kamala Harris generated “slavery curriculum” controversy.
Somehow, taking the middle ground isn’t what conservatives demand these days.
Who else could possibly step in as a “White Knight” candidate for the GOP? There’s not exactly a dearth of talent on the Republican bench, but not a single name comes to mind that could one, displace DeSantis as the “backup plan” against the Democrats and two, throw everything together quickly enough.
Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin occasionally earns a mention, but a first term governor from a purple state who hasn’t even been in office for two years yet? Kristi Noem? She’s got a mostly successful record, but the stature gap? Who else? Jeb Bush? Karl Rove? Marco Rubio?
Or Chris Christie? How would anyone win the nomination by trashing the party’s most popular figure, much less a washed-up establishment hack like the former New Jersey governor? The same reasoning goes for former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison, a man without a platform – or his only argument for a vote is that he’s not Trump.
While it still might not be clear that Donald Trump is the one to lead the country’s effort to vanquish Joe Biden and the Democrats in 2024, as time goes on, if Trump’s lead sustains at about the same level – and as the opposition gets more and more desperate to be rid of him – it would be the moment to declare the primaries “over” and focus all the energy behind one man.
Next week’s debate will help clarify the matter for us, regardless of Donald Trump’s presence in Wisconsin.
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