The Trumpists vs. DeSantisites
Let the Civil War commence!
“Just win baby” – Al Davis
There is a concept in game theory called “think forward and reason back.” The idea is that you first decide on your end goal, then think, in reverse, through the steps that will help you achieve it. So let’s say you want to end up with a pepperoni pizza; the last step is putting it in the oven at 400 degrees. Ok, do you have an oven, and can it reach 400 degrees? Check. Before that, you need a pizza sauce, sliced pepperoni, grated cheese, and pizza dough. Then you can follow each of those paths backward to determine what ingredients you need for the sauce, the type of knife to slice to pepperoni, the grater for the cheese, etc. You get the point. The strategy is overkill for something as simple as making a pizza, but it can be helpful for complex goals. When using this strategy, unquestionably, the most crucial element in the entire process is deciding on what target you are aiming for. What is the goal? It may seem easy, but this can be the single most arduous piece of the entire thing. This leads me to the current conundrum facing the Republican party, what is the goal for 2024?
I think the mid-term elections were a full-fledged Hindenburg disaster for anyone who is a GOP voter or who simply doesn’t like how our government has been functioning over the past two years. Not simply because the GOP lost, but because people are searching for the light switch in the dark to figure out what happened. As of this writing, though it is likely, it is not certain that the GOP will even win the house…something unimaginable on the day of the elections. However, things shake out; the main question needs to be, where do we go from here? And more precisely, what are Conservatives and right-wing Libertarians trying to achieve in 2024, with the Presidency on the line? We need to figure this out before the primary season starts. From my perch, it seems there are two camps. Camp number 1 is the folks who want to ensure Trump gets back into the White House. Camp number 2 is the people who want to make sure the GOP wins the Presidency in 2024. There could be other positions staked out, but these seem like the predominant ones at the moment.
Now, it is possible that Trump offers the best opportunity to win the White House in 2024, but what I am addressing here is the goal. If you could only have one thing, what is it? Before we go too far down this road, let’s look at the mid-term results.
Takeaway number 1, and I am sure this is news to no one here, is that Ron DeSantis showed he is a political force to be reckoned with. DeSantis went from winning his Gubernatorial race in 2018 by a mere 30,000 votes to win his reelection by 1.5 million over a well-known name in Florida, the former Republican Governor Charlie Crist. To say, in his nearly 20-point win, he beat the snot out of Crist would be an insult to snot. Additionally, DeSantis won the Hispanic vote by 15-points (57%-42%), which is a 25-point reversal from his first campaign when he lost the Hispanic vote by 10 points.
Takeaway number 2 is that Trump has no coattails. It is that simple. However, it’s worse than that because he seems to have been a detriment. In campaigns where there were two GOP candidates on the ticket for the major elections (Governor and Senate), with one having Trump’s backing and the other without it, the candidate without Trump’s support outperformed those with his backing in every instance. Although he won his Senate race in Ohio, J.D. Vance performed 10 pts worse than Mike DeWine. In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp outperformed Hershel Walker by five points. In New Hampshire, Chris Sununu (who said Trump is “crazy” and that if Trump were admitted to a mental hospital, “he ain't getting out”) put 13 points of distance between himself and the GOP Senate candidate Don Bolduc. In Pennsylvania, where Trump-backed the Senate (Dr. Oz) and the Gubernatorial candidates (Doug Mastriano), both lost in embarrassing style. Mastriano lost by over 13 points, and Oz was defeated by someone who literally cannot put two sentences together.
Even Kari Lake, who was the darling of the MAGA crew this election cycle, though she outran Trump-endorsed Senate candidate, Blake Masters, ran 6 points behind the Congressional candidates in the state.
Trump world has tried to pass the buck to Mitch McConnell, but this is purely cope. According to AdImpact, a company focused on tracking political ad spending, McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund (SLC) Super PAC spent the most money they’ve seen from a PAC during a political cycle since the company started in 2014. The SLC spent $205M during the cycle, including $42M in Georgia, $41M in Pennsylvania, $36M in North Carolina, $31M in OH, and $28M in Nevada, while spending 80% of what they raised over the past two years. This is opposed to Trump’s Save America PAC, which doled out $32M during the cycle while spending nearly $37M in operating expenses and ended the cycle with almost $70M in the bank.
Through post-election polling, we know Trump’s hold on the party is not only weakening, but has become increasingly toxic, not just to independent voters, but to a subgroup of Republicans as well.
According to CNN exit polls, based on a sample size of nearly 19,000 people, Trump has a 58%-39% unfavorable rating, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that only 75 percent of the Republican respondents had a favorable opinion of him. If we dig deeper into the numbers, we see that 86 percent of the Republican voters in this cycle voted for Trump in 2020. This is a significant issue because this means that 11 percent of GOP voters who did vote for Trump in 2020 now have an unfavorable opinion of him. If even a fraction of those voters decide they can’t hold their noses and vote for Trump in 2024, that is a nearly insurmountable problem.
When we look at online betting platforms like PredictIt, they now show DeSantis running neck-and-neck with Trump to be the Republican nominee in 2024. Clearly, we are a lifetime away from 2024, but this will be the last election before then, and DeSantis is the hands-down victor.
There is much consternation on the part of the MAGA crowd that Trump must be the guy because of some GOP purity test they put forth. But where they lose me is the implication that there is no difference between a DeSantis and any Democratic President. They claim that DeSantis is bought and paid for by Wall Street. They claim that Trump is the only candidate not part of the “uni-party” merging of the Republican and Democrat parties. They claim that Trump is the only anti-war candidate.
For the sake of argument, let’s say all of this is true. Are they claiming there is no difference between a Ron DeSantis Presidency and, say, a Gavin Newsome Presidency? If they are being honest with everyone (themselves included), they know that is a ludicrous position. Again, for the sake of argument, let’s say a DeSantis Presidency only gets you 70 percent of the ideal Trump policies they want (whatever those may be). That is indisputably better than what you get from a second Biden term.
So again, we must answer the question of the goal in 2024. Is it Trump or bust? Or is it to nominate the Republican with the best chance at winning the White House? And if it is the former, I have to ask, why are you so hell-bent on this Kamikaze mission?
I voted for Trump in 2020 and if he is the best option to win the Presidency in 2024, I will vote for him again, so I am by no means a Trump hater; however, 2024 must be all about winning. And there is more to winning than simply claiming you are a winner and whining incessantly when you lose. To say that “winners win” is a truism, but one Trump world, it seems, has to be reminded of.