Looking Ahead to 2024

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

The 2022 midterm election may be a pill too bitter for former President Donald Trump to swallow. Although he has been unwilling to take any responsibility for the GOP’s underperformance, he should, because Trump was among last week’s biggest losers.

Spencer Brown at Townhall: “In an election year that favored Republicans purely for its timing as the first midterm of the Biden administration, an advantage that should have been helped by a president with chronically underwater approval, inflation above eight percent, surging crime and drug overdose crises, a wide open border, and…many more reasons, there’s no reason Republican candidates should have performed as poorly as they did.”

John Podhoretz explained, in part, in the NY Post: “Liberal fundraisers actually put money behind Trump-endorsed candidates in GOP primaries…to help them prevail so that Democrats could face them in the general election. It was transparently cynical and an abuse of our political process. But it worked…”

Trump endorsed lightening rod supporter State Senator Doug Mastriano for governor in Pennsylvania’s 2022 primary election even though experienced observers – including Democrat fundraisers – knew Mastriano was unelectable statewide. Trump also backed a carpetbagger, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who lost an open Senate seat to a barely-functioning family freeloader.

The midterms demonstrated that, despite a largely-successful presidency and lingering skepticism about the legitimacy of 2020 election results, Donald Trump can be a liability for the Republican Party, especially its conservative wing where there is an emerging sense that it’s time to look ahead and nominate a less flawed, less polarizing 2024 standard bearer.

Conservative Trump voters approved of most of Trump’s policies, but disliked – still dislike – his style and braggadocio. Most conservatives value responsible governance over constant high drama, gratuitous name calling, reflexive rancor, preening and self-admiration.

Too many independents and women despise Trump, and many conservatives would only vote for him again to keep Democrats out of office. If diehard supporters manage to keep Donald Trump head of the GOP, they’ll get more of a party that cannot beat Democrats even in extremely favorable years like 2022.

The midterms showed that “Not Them” is not enough. Politically, he is damaged goods, so Donald Trump should consider another role. It would be far better for a normally self-indulgent Trump to simply promote the nation’s welfare.

Donald Trump was a successful president, and he may have been cheated out of a second term, but his age and personality argue against another run, plus his “magic” didn’t help some of his midterm election picks. Trump’s endorsements did not produce enough general election votes and undoubtedly lost some, especially in swing states like Pennsylvania where anti-Trump hangovers persist.

But Trump can still influence party primaries. Hopefully, he will be adult enough to suppress his massive ego and play kingmaker for another Republican who, like himself, is not just another sad remnant of the pre-Trump GOP establishment, but who has demonstrated the ability to gather support from a broad array of voters.

In 2016, Trump was a refuge for establishment-weary Republicans. His victory set the stage for other, arguably higher quality non-establishment options. If an angry, bitter Trump were to run and fatally damage a more viable Republican in a nasty primary slugfest, win or lose, only Democrats would benefit.

The GOP has a deep lineup of popular state governors (e.g., Texas, Virginia, Georgia) who are led by Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis won a landslide reelection with nearly 60 percent of Floridians’ votes despite being labeled “Ron DeSanctimonious” by a clearly-threatened Trump.

In four years, DeSantis has transformed Florida from a “purple” swing state into a successful, conservatively-governed “red” relocation destination for disaffected voters and businesses escaping failed and failing Democrat-run cities and states.

Competence counts.

DeSantis’ COVID policies were science-based, sensible, and effective. He managed Hurricane Ian’s aftermath flawlessly. Like Trump, DeSantis stays on offense, but, unlike Trump, doesn’t pick prepubescent fights. Unscathed by a hostile press, he has challenged “wokeism” and won.

The governor shares Trump’s America First values. In fact, he’s everything that MAGA enthusiasts like about Trump, but without the baggage. As he has in Florida, DeSantis could recover voters Trump lost – plus.

Republicans’ highly-anticipated 2022 nationwide “red tsunami” started and, with too few exceptions, ended in Florida. That phenomenon is one Donald Trump and the GOP would do well to examine before 2024.