This is probably a bit too early. Through November, the stage should belong to House, Senate, and state candidates who are on the verge of restoring economic and social common sense to the country. There are plenty of bright spots deserving attention: first term Governor Glenn Youngkin in Virginia; Congresswoman Mayra Flores in Texas' Rio Grande Valley; Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia. There are plenty of races showcasing interesting, but unproven newcomers: JD Vance in Ohio; Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania; Adam Laxalt in Nevada; Katie Britt in Alabama. There are known names trying to fend off well funded Democratic opponents: Ron Johnson in Wisconsin; Congresswomen Michelle Steele and Young Kim in California; Marco Rubio in Florida. Billions of dollars will be spent, billions of column-inches will be written, and trillions of electrons will be launched over the next five months in support or opposition to thousands of candidates nationally. This promises to be fun for Republicans, but much of the analysis will be done in terms of what it means for Trump. How have his endorsements fared? What Democrat could beat him? When will he decide? What Republican could deter or beat him? Let's preempt some of that.
1. America is exhausted with divisive politics. Joe Biden was elected on the expectation that he would restore calm competence to government, but has instead governed ineffectively from the Left. Elections from Virginia to San Francisco, to the Rio Grande Valley show that the fever of open borders, lawlessness, and educational social indoctrination is breaking.
2. The Republican Party has become the party of the working class, while the Democratic Party has become the party of the elites. What began with Nixon's "silent majority" and progressed through "Reagan Democrats", and the Tea Party movement culminated in Donald Trump's Republican Party.
3. A majority of Republicans like "Trump's policies without the turmoil": America first; secure borders; balanced trade with a return of manufacturing; an end to costly foreign wars; pride in America; traditional social values. But with financial constraint and decorum.
4. Trump's behavior after the 2020 election creates the greatest risk that the Democrats could hold the presidency in 2024. The party was more popular than Trump in 2020 - while Trump was losing to Biden Republicans gained 12 House seats and only lost the Senate after Trump's intervention in Georgia. As a "Red Wave" builds in 2022 and there is a modest preference for generic Republicans , Trump's favorability remains 12 points under water.
5. Vindication is not a viable political strategy.
1. Trump cleared the Republican field in 2016 with frontal attacks on one opponent after another: John McCain; Jeb Bush; Chris Christie; Marco Rubio; Ted Cruz; Rick Perry; Mike Huckaby; Rick Santorum; Rand Paul; Ben Carson; Carly Fiorina; John Kasich. Every geographic, ideological, racial, and gender corner of the party had their chance, but they never coalesced around an alternative to Trump. The process began about a year before the 2016 primaries.
2. The trick for alternative 2024 Republican candidates (Mike Pence: Ron DeSantis; Nikki Haley; Mike Pompeo - to be generous add Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, and Glen Youngkin) is to remain credibly visible without becoming a punch line for Trump. As successful sitting governors, DeSantis, Abbott, and Youngkin are in the best position.
Six months out from the "getting serious" date, a strong current is flowing toward DeSantis.
- He is smart: Yale undergraduate; Harvard Law.
- He is a veteran: Navy JAG; Iraq War with Seal Team 1.
- He has serious conservative credentials: founding member of the House Freedom caucus; early suppp0rter of candidate Trump.
- He has taken decisive leading positions on many issues: opposition to restrictive Covid mandates; measures against illegal immigration; opposition to gender education in grades K-3.
- Running for re-election as governor in 2022, he has raised over $100 million, and enjoys near-60% approval ratings while not asking for Trump's endorsement.
- At 43 years of age, and leading a large diverse state, he represents a chance for the country to turn the page.
For the next five months there is no incentive for Trump or DeSantis to engage each other, but before the end of the year Trump will face a decision. This time the decision may not be his to make. Meanwhile the Democratic "opposition researchers" who chased Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and the Trump family for a decade will pivot to Dunedin, Florida High School, class of 1997.
bill bowen - 6/23/2022