Yesterday, Dan Balz tried to make a case for a DeSantis comeback. It’s too late for that. Trump defined him before he could define himself and now even in Florida people prefer Trump to Meatball Ron. DeSantis created the narrative but Trump interpreted it for the rubes— and the media: DeSantis is “described as a candidate who lacks people skills. His campaign operation has been messy. He’s fallen from the heights at which he began the year… The staff shake-up continued a weeks-long reset— and weeks of bad press— for an operation that was spending money at a prodigious clip and that had been forced to lay off a third of its seemingly bloated staff. Because campaigns reflect the candidate, DeSantis, who repeatedly claims to be an effective manager and someone who could get on top of big problems as president, the fallout rightly landed on his shoulders. All the while, DeSantis has trailed far behind Trump in the polls, both here in Iowa and nationally, in some cases losing ground during a summer in which other GOP rivals are eager to emerge as the main alternative to the former president… His team knows he is at an enormous disadvantage in attracting attention from voters, that Trump’s command of the media, even if negative due to the three indictments against him and a potential fourth looming, blots out what all the other candidates do…Many strategists see Trump as the inevitable nominee and someone who will have no trouble starting that quest with a victory in Iowa. The unknown is whether there will be a point when his legal problems cause Republican voters, those who are not hardcore loyalists, begin to be convinced that he would lose to President Biden.”
After the failed coup, the House impeached Trump for incitement of insurrection on January 13. Although a 10 vote majority (55-45) voted to convict him, Mitt Romney (R-UT) was one of just 5 Republicans top agree— along with Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowsky (AK), Ben Sasse (NE) and Pat Toomey (PA). The last two were retiring so they knew that would have no political price to pay. (Romney had already voted to convict Trump the first time the House impeached him.) This cycle, though, it’s Romney’s turn to face the voters of Utah— or retire. Romney has been enormously popular in Utah. He beat Obama there 72.6% to 24.7% and when he ran for Senate he beat the right wing nut, Mike Kennedy, in the primary, 71.3% to 28.8% and then won the general election against Democrat Jenny Wilson 62.6% to 30.9%. He knows his constituents aren’t ready to back him by those numbers this time.
Yesterday Sydney Kashiwagi reported that Utah’s Republican Party Chairman Robert Axson told him that Romney has been out of step with Utah Republicans. There are already two serious MAGAts running against him, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs and House Speaker Brad Wilson. Attorney General Sean Reyes and former congressman Jason Chaffetz are both thinking of running as well. The most recent public polling shows Romney underwater among all Utah voters (41-49%) and 54% of Republican voters said they don’t want him to run again. Romney is in a very different position than most Republicans running next year.
Most Republican operatives, candidates and incumbents, feel that Trump will bring out the voters— and if he’s not on the ticket, millions of MAGAts might not vote at all, between a quarter and a third of Republican voters. Unless something unforeseen happens, like death, he’s got this nomination sewn up, regardless of what Dan Balz fantasizes about a DeSantis comeback. I doubt that even a conviction will keep Trump from winning the nomination— and I doubt he’ll cop a plea.
Yesterday, Alexander Bolton reported that some GOP strategists are worried that he could be prevented from running constitutionally (14th Amendment), something that has been discussed lately-- and quite publicly-- in conservative legal circles.
Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide, said there would be significant political fallout for Republicans if federal and local criminal prosecutions derail Trump’s path to the nomination.
“If somehow he’s not the nominee, it will hurt turnout,” he said. “He’s got a unique coalition. He brings a lot of nontraditional voters to the Republican Party, and it will be difficult to win a state like Ohio” and other Midwestern states “if you lose all those Trump voters or make them disaffected voters, and they don’t show up.”
Darling said Trump, who is leading his nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by more than 30 points in national polls, has a “lock” on the nomination and “the only way he loses [the primary is] if he’s prevented from being on the ballot.”
…“I would say there’s two scenarios, either Trump’s the nominee and we just go with it and whatever, or Trump’s not the nominee and then we have a nominee that Trump’s going to be trashing,” said Bob Clegg, an Ohio-based Republican strategist.
Given the intense loyalty to Trump among many Republican voters, Clegg said there’s little chance any other candidate will beat him out for the nomination.
“I think Trump’s going to be the nominee,” he said. “Ever since Trump came down that escalator in 2015, the face of politics in the United States has charged dramatically, and we’re still in that” new dynamic.
…“For Republicans, the only hope is that when Trump is on the ballot in 2024 … he will turn out rural voters at a rate that overwhelms that phenomenon. It’s certainly possible,” the source said.
David Paleologos, the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said about 40 percent of Republican voters who feel confident about whom they will vote for next year are solidly behind Trump.
“Conservatively, it looks like 4 out of 10,” he said of the so-called Tier 1 voters. “I haven’t seen many polls where he below 40 [percent].”
“The Trump voters, even from our polling, have pretty much said: ‘It’s Trump or bust,’” he said. “There’s a percentage of voters who won’t even vote Republican if he doesn’t get the nomination.”
Paleologos said it’s difficult for other Republican presidential candidates to “navigate” in this environment, and “Trump knows this.”
A New York Times/Siena College poll found that 52 percent of likely GOP voters are only considering Trump. Fifty-five percent of white voters without college degrees and 56 percent of nonwhite voters without college degrees said they were only considering Trump.
Trump has rejected entreaties from party leaders that he pledge to back the eventual Republican nominee for president if he fails to secure the nomination.
“I wouldn’t sign the pledge,” he told Newsmax. “Why would I sign a pledge? There are people on there that I wouldn’t have.”
Bolton wrote that Trump didn’t say which rivals in particular he couldn’t support over Biden; my guess is that he wouldn’t support any of them… although I guess he might support someone who pledged to pardon him if he’s in prison or headed there, something Ramaswamy has already done. I suppose they all would (including RFK, Jr), except maybe Asa Hutchinson, Will Hurd and maybe Chris Christie. Or suppose he's already picked a running mate before he gets bounced-- someone like Kari Lake, Marjorie Traitor Greene or some even nearly as repulsive to normal voters, but just fine with MAGAts.