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The Right Resistance: Trump keeps insisting no Republican will challenge him in ’24. Is he right?

“If there’s no possibility it will happen, then why are you still talking about it?”

Such is the speculation swirling around the upcoming – likely in about five to eight months – announcement from former president Donald Trump regarding his political future. Not so ironically, it’s the same question politics watchers have been floating since the lifelong real estate developer, tabloid celebrity and reality TV star entered the 2016 presidential race.


Back then, despite his numerous assurances to the contrary, many in the media openly declared that Trump’s run was a wild publicity stunt befitting of a Miss Universe pageant producer to simply further his ego and build his brand, which they gleefully claimed was faltering. Still others suggested that Trump, once the actual primaries rolled around, would suddenly declare that he wasn’t intending to accept the nomination and mounted a campaign only to shake up a political system that badly needed it.


A few contemplated that Trump was indeed running to capture the Republican presidential nomination, but only with the knowledge that he couldn’t possibly beat Hillary Clinton in the general election and would henceforth use the notoriety from the campaign to launch his own TV news network with himself as the centerpiece and chief “star”. In other words, this group of doubters suggested, egomaniac Trump was doing it to further his own media profile, in effect using the American public – and especially the heads of the Republican Party – as chumps for personal gain.


When none of these things occurred and Trump not only finished the GOP campaign but also carried through with his 2016 win against Hillary Clinton and served the four years of his first term – and then ran for reelection – his skeptics kept up their insinuations that the 45th president was in politics only for himself, or maybe he did it because his businesses weren’t doing as well as he said they were.


Now, all these years and months later, Trump is constantly peppered with questions on whether he intends to run again – and if he thinks any other Republicans will run against him. In signature Trump style, the New Yorker deflects – he says he doesn’t think anyone will run against him once he announces his intentions. Trump’s oft-stated reply reflects his confidence of winning if he, as expected, reenters the fray.


But if Trump is so self-assured, why does he keep repeating his belief that others won’t challenge him? Should his professions be taken at face value, or do they signify a weakness in his political outlook that he otherwise would never divulge?


Further, what impact will the stupid January 6 Committee hearings and ultimate findings have on Trump’s choice to run, and, assuming he does, will they boost his intra-party opponents?


Brett Samuels wrote last week at The Hill:


“Any criminal prosecution of Trump would face certain legal hurdles in proving Trump’s intent and overcoming the wide protections granted to the executive office.


“But other Republicans eyeing the 2024 nomination would have no such trouble using the events of Jan. 6 to argue it’s time for the country to move on from Trump, and it could provide a boost for a struggling Biden White House. Former Vice President Mike Pence has presented a conservative agenda at various events in early primary states while distancing himself from his former boss, specifically on the matter of Jan. 6. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has polled well among Republicans, and even edged out Trump in a straw poll earlier this month at a Colorado conservative convention.


“Even Biden, who has seen his approval rating plummet to record lows in recent months, is shown to be competitive when pitted against Trump in a hypothetical rematch and has previously welcomed the opportunity to run against his predecessor again in 2024.”


One figures that Samuels had to keep his The Hill bosses happy at the center-left leaning publication in order to advance his last point. Democrats typically hold sizable pre-election leads in head-to-head poll matchups of potential presidential race opponents, so if Biden weren’t at least competitive with Trump now, you’d have to wonder what was going on in the establishment media industry.


Trump is, and always has been, such an outlier in American politics that he’s probably never going to exceed a certain ceiling in national polls. Off the top of my head, I’d say his highest point would be about fifty-two or fifty-three percent, merely because the quantity of people who hate him isn’t likely to change much. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Trump jumps ten or more points unless Biden is caught with his gnarled old hand in Hunter Biden’s proverbial corruption cookie jar – or Ashley Biden comes right out and exclaims, “It’s all true, he’s a pervert!”


Democrats hate Trump that much. Basically, there’s no chance for him to win over leftist hearts and minds. Nearly all Democrats would vote for a gender bending cartoon mouse over the man who achieved so much success in the White House. Whoopi Goldberg could run and Democrats would tell pollsters that they’d take her over Trump. It’s sad, but true.


With Friday’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which Trump took much of the credit for (by appointing three originalist judges), the left’s fury towards him will only burn that much brighter.


As far as other Republicans running against Trump for the Republican 2024 nomination, there’s less certainty. As Samuels mentioned in his piece, a couple different recent polls of gatherings of conservatives gave Florida’s Ron DeSantis a slight edge – or at least positioning him close to Trump. Such a turn of events wasn’t foreseeable last year.


DeSantis’s reputation has been on the rise for a couple years now. The COVID craze with its unprecedented lockdowns and mandates provided the 43-year-old the perfect opportunity and forum to forge his own path – and receive national attention for it. DeSantis employed his scientific data and set policy accordingly, much to the delight of his constituents and Sunshine State visitors alike. Ron’s now so well regarded that even the noxious hags at “The View” have begun calling him “Death-Santis”.


That’s the type of publicity Trump himself would appreciate.


Here’s thinking that if DeSantis decides to enter the 2024 primary race that a few others will follow. With DeSantis and Trump declared, there wouldn’t be much room to compete for the conservative vote. DeSantis will attract those who believe Trump is too old or controversy-generating to be effective in his late 70’s. The Floridian will also get a healthy look from Republicans who hold electability above all else.


It would make sense that another viable conservative candidate – or candidates -- could try for it, such as Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton, or all three. Cruz came within a few whiskers (no pun intended) of defeating Trump in 2016, so we know he has the “game” for a sustained national campaign. It would be hard for Hawley and Cotton to separate themselves from the field, however.


Ditto for Mike Pompeo, who I think would make a very good president if someone could talk him out of some of his neoconservative interventionist foreign policy longings.


There will also be an establishment candidate – or maybe several – in the race. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie has kept himself just visible enough to vie for the establishment slot, and at least one or two unabashed Trump haters will enter in order to take charge of the ten or so percent of wishy-washy status quo loving Mitch McConnell-type GOP voters. These candidates will camp out in Iowa and New Hampshire trying to capture enough support to remain viable until a place like South Carolina votes, which is sometimes friendly to establishmentarians.


Conservatives – and probably Trump himself – would relish a Liz Cheney candidacy, and she’s probably just dumb enough to do it, too. Or, should Liz decide she’d prefer to slither as a K Street lobbyist and settle for making big bucks while sniping at Trump from the outside, Adam Kinzinger could fill in for her. There are always a few candidates in every cycle that cause party followers to wonder, “Why is he/she there?”, so 2024 will be no different.


It could be that Cheney or Kinzinger or (insert no chance GOP Trump-hater here) would try to run against Trump so as to curry favor with liberal cable news outlets, where, after a few months on the campaign trail, they could vie for a primetime show slot opposite Jen Psaki or some other Biden administration castoff. Can’t you picture the “Liz and Jen dish on politics” show?


What isn’t likely to happen is some Trump challenger effectively using the January 6 Committee findings to base their campaigns on. Conservatives recognize the whole affair is a farce, which might not have been the case if Nancy Pelosi had allowed a truth-seeking firebrand like Rep. Jim Jordan to participate and ask tough questions. Instead, you have Liz Cheney publicly pursuing her vendetta against Trump and a collection of Democrats without any credibility.


Hardly anyone’s paying attention to the boring public proceedings hashing over a four-hour event that happened a year and a half ago. There were no weapons, no dramatic, memorable confrontations, no members of Congress harmed and very little property permanently destroyed that day. It was a riot, and not even a very good one.


Trump’s viability is not threatened by the January 6 Committee. Any realistic challenges to a 2024 candidacy will be waged by a collection of Republicans with real resumes and who could possibly offer the same kind of policy gravitas as Trump but with a slightly more palatable public persona. Liz Cheney need not apply. But there’s still a long way to go, too.


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