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The Sad GOP Field— Almost As Pathetic As The Democratic Field

Larry Ellison has a net worth north of $125 billion. He’s almost 80 and will be roasting in hell for eternity soon enough. Too bad his fortune, the 4th largest in the world— which includes Lanai, a significant Hawaiian island— won’t be taxed out of existence. He has lots of yachts, planes and mansions. He’s been wasting quite a bit of his fortune supporting American fascists. Recently, though, he announced he’s done giving to Trump, has already funneled $30 million into supporting Tim Scott and will give Scott’s campaign much more (at least $50 million). His choice—and besides, yesterday, The Forward insisted that Jewish Republicans will back Scott. Ellison is the richest Jew in America (and the world)-- for whatever that's worth.

In my opinion, Ellison is wasting his money. Still, all that money could get Scott from polling at around 1% to polling in the upper single digits. But all those candidates… all it does is make Trump’s nomination more certain. Yesterday, David Graham wrote that “For years, Republican presidential primaries have been chaotic affairs. In 2008, Rudy Giuliani looked like a prohibitive front-runner until his disastrous decision to forsake campaigning in the calendar’s first two states (an indicator of judgment issues to come) created openings for Mike Huckabee and eventually John McCain. In 2012, things got so weird that Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain all led the field at various points. Then 2016 was even weirder— the earliest debate saw 17 participants in two tiers— and culminated in Donald Trump’s stunning victory. But 2024 was supposed to be different. In one corner was Trump, making his attempt at a comeback from an election loss he still hasn’t acknowledged. No one was sure whether he was unbeatable or if he was a hollowed figure, outwardly fearsome but ripe for toppling. If the latter, then the man to do it was surely Ron DeSantis, the hotshot young Florida governor who his backers believed had formulated a highly potent version of Trumpism without Trump. And who knows? That might be where things end up, but it’s not where they are now…[R]ather than consolidating the Trump-alternative space, DeSantis enters a race that is expanding. The growing number of candidates reflects wariness among Republicans about Trump’s weakness in a general election, yet a big field could smooth his path to the nomination.”

So what have we got so far besides Trump, Meatball, who’s announcing this evening on Twitter with Elon Musk, and VP wannabes Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswarmy and Asa Hutchinson? Tim Scott jumped in on Monday. Other non-starters like Chris Sununu, Mike Pence, Glenn Youngkin, Chris Christie are saying “very soon.” Even Rick Perry and Doug Burgum gave reared their heads

“All of this happens,” Graham reminded his readers, “even as Trump’s position has actually improved over the past few months, despite his indictment in New York, legal troubles elsewhere, and a loss in a $5 million civil case for sexual assault and defamation. The growing candidate list reflects skepticism about both DeSantis’ and Trump’s chances. DeSantis’ estimation has sunk sharply since last fall, as he has appeared lethargic, unsure how to take on Trump, and frankly just a little weird, and some Republicans simply don’t believe that Trump is as invincible as he looks. Perhaps this is because they think his legal troubles will eventually catch up with him, or perhaps they are indulging in wishful thinking.”

The important thing is that many major Republican donors are up for grabs. These people tend to be older-school Republicans who want low taxes, a favorable business environment, and not a lot more. They were never all that enamored of Trump, whom they found gauche and whose love of tariffs and dislike of immigration turned them off. They didn’t give much to him in 2016, when he ran on a shoestring budget and eschewed them, and although they grudgingly donated in 2020, they didn’t like January 6 and worry he can’t beat Joe Biden in a rematch.
Initially, many of them gravitated toward DeSantis, but as his polling has faded, so has their ardor. John Catsimatidis, a New York grocery baron, told the Washington Examiner that he wouldn’t back DeSantis, asking, “Why would I support somebody to become president of the United States that doesn’t return phone calls?” The financial-tech billionaire Thomas Peterffy, sounding uncannily like a Joe Biden ad, told the Financial Times he was cool on DeSantis too: “Because of his stance on abortion and book banning … myself, and a bunch of friends, are holding our powder dry.” He then sent a big check to Youngkin’s PAC. The financier Ken Griffin, who’d looked like a DeSantis backer, is among those waiting. A fellow Wall Street titan, Stephen Schwarzman, wasn’t convinced after a meeting with the Florida governor. Miriam Adelson, the widow of the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has said she plans to stay neutral in the GOP primary. The Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, a former Trump backer, hasn’t committed to any candidate yet, per Puck. Larry Ellison, who co-founded Oracle, reportedly plans to put millions behind Scott. The hedge-funder Steve Cohen is reportedly backing Christie. (DeSantis did recently pick off the former Trump donor Hal Lambert, the New York Post reports.)
As long as the big money hasn’t started consolidating around a few candidates, there’s no reason for the field to start contracting. But the splintering is a reminder of why so many donors gravitated to DeSantis in the first place: because they wanted to stop Trump. The irony is that a diffuse field is good news for the former president, just as it was in 2016, when he won the nomination despite plenty of party opposition split among his many rivals. Trump is often described as a chaos agent, but he’s happy to be a chaos client, too.

In the same issue of The Atlantic, Tom Nichols went so far as to say that the GOP primary might already be over and that all these guys are delusional. “Scott,” he offers, “seems like a classic no-hoper presidential prospect but a strong choice for vice president, which of course is why some weaker candidates run and then bow out (see “Harris, Kamala”).

The Trump alternative are all “flailing about in limbo while the rest of the field is populated by the likes of the wealthy gadfly Vivek Ramaswamy and the radio-talk-show host Larry Elder. Of course, in a normal year, a twice-impeached president who has been held liable for sexual abuse would do the decent thing and vanish from public life.”

These Republicans are likely waiting for a miracle, an act of God that takes Trump out of contention. And by “act of God,” of course, they mean “an act of Fani Willis or Jack Smith.” This is a vain hope: Without a compelling argument from within the Republican Party that Fani Willis and Jack Smith or for that matter, Alvin Bragg, are right to indict Trump— as Bragg has done and Willis and Smith could do soon— and that the former president is a menace to the country, Trump will simply brush away his legal troubles and hope he can sprint to the White House before he’s arrested.
No one is going to displace Trump by running gently. A candidate who takes Trump on, with moral force and directness, might well lose the nomination, but he or she could at least inject some sanity into the Republican-primary process and set the stage for the eventual recovery— a healing that will take years— of the GOP or some reformed successor as a center-right party. DeSantis would rather be elected as Trump’s Mini-Me. (It might work.) Hutchinson has tried to speak up, but too quietly. Haley, like so many other former Trump officials, is too compromised by service to Trump to be credible as his nemesis. Tim Scott is perfectly positioned to make the case, but he won’t.
A Republican who thinks Trump can be beaten in a primary by gargling warm words such as electability is a Republican in denial. Trump is already creating a reality-distortion field around the primary, as he will again in the general election. Is it possible that the GOP base would respond to some fire and brimstone about Trump, instead of from him? We cannot know, because it hasn’t been tried— yet.

Presumably, that’s Chris Christie’s role. But no one cares about Chris Christie outside of his immediate circle— especially not today, Meatball Day. Writing for Puck, Tara Palmeri noted that she drove around New Hampshire with Sununu last week and then stayed for Meatball, who she described as both “one of the most important if enigmatic and sequestered national candidates of our age,” as “a guarded politician who had no interest in actually engaging with other humans, and was perhaps even a little scared of the spotlight” and as “a paper tiger— a superficially perfect test-tube Republican candidate who, on closer inspection, is probably not ready for prime-time.”

This is an AI-generated Biden ad. They should run it… a lot

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