Pretend, for a moment, that you’re a Republican campaign consultant, spouse of a would-be candidate, good friend of the same or a political enemy of the person who just believes in competitive politics -- and it’s about two years out from the next presidential election.
The candidate gathers a collection of similarly politically aligned people together to brainstorm about potential campaign themes and arguments to use against a popular (within the party at least) former president who’s all-but announced his intentions to run again for the office, strongly hinting that he plans to use the election where he lost as the basis of his platform to offer voters.
“So… friends, neighbors and campaign consultants, how do we go at Donald Trump? We can criticize certain parts of the MAGA platform, touch on a few broken promises – like he failed to complete the wall – or even take a shot at his age, since he’s only a few years younger than the current old goat in the White House, who the whole country thinks is too old and senile to do it again. Plus, Kamala Harris is his vice president. Enough said. Or how about a combination of all these points?”, the candidate asks the assemblage.
To a man (or woman), the eager attendees say in unison, “We think you should make the case to the party voters that he’s not electable. Heck, there’s that January 6 matter, where Democrats have hour upon hour of video from that day to show over and over again while telling people that it was Trump’s fault that a few protesters got a little too drunk on crowd mentality and turned a peaceful protest into a riot.”
“Then there’s that Liz Cheney woman and the rest of the Never Trump throng of losers, spineless idiots and fools bugging the federal authorities to indict Trump on… well, something. They’ll find something to stick. You wait and see. As soon as that happens, and Trump is shown standing in a courtroom before a judge, he’ll be toast with the independents!” “Plus, as if this weren’t enough, Trump is mean! He likes to say stuff about everyone he doesn’t like on social media! The commentators at all the establishment media outlets can’t stand him! The knowledgeable and trustworthy hags at The View despise him, and every woman in America worships those old crows!”
“He can’t win! He can’t win! He can’t win”
The words echoed off the walls as candidate X replies, “Alright, we’ll go with it! We’ll go gently on Trump because we know we need the MAGA voters, but we’ll softly tell Republican supporters that we’re only running because Trump is too damaged to win again, and the country can’t afford to be subjected to another four years of senile Joe Biden! It’s brilliant!”
Though it probably didn’t actually happen this way, several of Donald Trump’s fellow intra-party rivals for the 2024 GOP nomination likely reached the same conclusion in one way or another. Hypothetically speaking, in a pure political universe, Trump’s weakest link to electoral success was the fact he’d already lost the presidency once, there’s all that history/baggage to contend with and there were the legal challenges staring him right between the eyes.
Electability is a key factor in voters’ minds every nominating cycle. In 2024, it should’ve been more than just a consideration, it should’ve been the factor. But it hasn’t worked out that way, leaving Trump’s rivals grasping at straws to come up with new reasons for Trump’s loyal backers to leave his cause and join them instead.
In an article titled “Trump’s massive lead in polls deals blow to rivals’ electability case”, Brett Samuels wrote at The Hill the other day:
“[A] slew of recent polls have undercut the idea that Trump is incapable of taking on Biden, even after losing to him in 2020. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Nov. 5 found Trump leading Biden in five out of six critical battleground states that will likely determine the outcome of the 2024 race: Nevada, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Biden led Trump in Wisconsin.
“A CBS News national poll released Sunday found Trump leading Biden in a hypothetical match-up, 51 percent to 48 percent. A CNN poll released Tuesday found Trump ahead of Biden 49-45 in a hypothetical rematch.
“And an Emerson College poll found Trump leading in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with Biden leading in Michigan. The two were separated by just one percentage point in Wisconsin.”
Yes, Trump appears to have a general election advantage over ol’ senile Joe and even the swing states are beginning to go his way in these surveys. Nikki Haley interjects that her lead is bigger in many of these polls, and while that might be accurate, her deficit in the only contest that matters to her, the 2024 Republican primary race, is large enough to drive a proverbial truck through it.
In case it wasn’t clear, Nikki, you must first win the Republican nomination to even reach the general election where you supposedly are more well-regarded than a plagiarizing, history embellishing, lying sleazebag who’s relied on corporate media to cover for him his entire political career. I would argue that just about any Republican – except maybe for Mitt Romney – could be competitive with senile Joe Biden. The Delawarean dolt is so compromised that even some of his own people are turning on him.
The results of the recent polls have accelerated the Democrats’ jumping off the bandwagon. But even if senile Joe were to find himself waiting in line with application in hand to the nearest dementia care facility, here’s thinking that Trump would still maintain a commanding lead in the Republican race.
Which begs the question: Were the consultants just dead wrong on Trump’s electability, or have events – and common sense – intervened in the meantime?
Both. First and foremost, Trump has defied the electability boobirds because he’s well, him. In the historical context, we’re just beginning to study the political phenomenon that is Donald Trump. The career real estate developer and reality TV/tabloid celebrity not only defied convention when he ran for – and won – the presidency in 2016, Trump blew all the unwritten “rules” to smithereens in the process.
Ask a room full of Trump supporters what they like about Trump and you’re likely to receive a different response from each member of the whole group. Some like the fact he was an outsider and remains so; others appreciate his willingness to step on the necks of the party bluebloods to fight for his voters; still others back his “if Biden wins next year, it’s over for America” messaging.
Trump’s popularity cannot be pinned down. I had a friend tell me about a year-and-a-half ago that Trump’s backing would begin to wane when the legal challenges were brought to fruition, namely because he thought that marginal voters wouldn’t tolerate seeing Trump being led around by cops in courthouses.
I didn’t disagree at the time. I’m not sure I do now. But thus far, there are no signs that Trump’s base voters are even thinking about abandoning him.
Second, senile Joe’s steady, inevitable decline wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Many, including myself, speculated that Americans would eventually realize that Biden was a fraud, but the Republican House’s various investigations – and other revelations – have put faces and names behind the corruption. The Biden people have been thoroughly unable to answer the facts, too, which has rubbed off all the sheen from senile Joe’s “good guy” reputation.
Anyone remember “Let’s Go Brandon!”? We don’t hear it much these days, but the feeling has only intensified along with runaway inflation, absurd interest rates and Biden’s bragging about his own economic job performance. Democrats salvaged some of their electoral viability by hitching themselves to the abortion train since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. But how long can that last?
Senile Joe Biden was always a cranky old curmudgeon whom you wouldn’t want to spend an hour with. But it’s only since he’s been president that his real self has revealed itself.
Third, the Democrats legal witch hunts against Trump have no substance. The half of the country that supposedly despises Trump didn’t need additional reasons to hate him, and the flimsy, transparent Biden DOJ only further opened the decision-makers to accusations of abuse. As I’ve argued before, his enemies managed to turn Trump into a sympathetic character. That’s not easy, and they’ve given credence to the polls showing Trump doing well vis-à-vis Biden.
Voters confront themselves with a simple question: would I rather have the mercurial Donald Trump and good policies or the perpetually grouchy old coot Biden and crappy governance? Prices at the gas pump and super market checkout counter are constant reminders of what’s the better alternative.
Lastly, Trump’s electability case has been (unwittingly) bolstered by his Republican competition, none of whom have really lived up to their lofty billing. Ron DeSantis is a good man with a bright future in Republican politics, but his personal bona fides don’t bring comparisons to the extremely confident Trump. It’s a stature gap that can’t be filled by someone so relatively “new” to national politics. Trump has an established “brand”. DeSantis, not so much.
Donald Trump’s fellow Republican competitors should’ve figured that the former president would find a way to solve the dilemmas surrounding his electability. 2024 will bring new issues to the forefront, but somehow there’s always the belief that Trump will come out on top. For the time being, Democrats and Never Trumpers will still have Trump to hold up as someone who’s destined to fail. He certainly will not oblige them.
Joe Biden economy
Biden cognitive decline
January 6 Committee
Build Back Better
Marjorie Taylor Green
2024 presidential election