Any good polling about the 2024 Republican presidential nomination has two key findings:
(a.) Faced with a multi-candidate field, Donald Trump blows everyone out of the water. These surveys generally show him with a ten-to-fifteen-point lead over Ron DeSantis with everyone else in single digits.
(b.) A two-way race between Trump and DeSantis is much closer. Trump still leads the Florida governor but must surveys have them within five to ten points of each other.
So, the key to nominating (or possibly defeating) Trump is the size of the potential GOP field. If Trump and DeSantis find themselves in a race with Nicki Hailey, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, Greg Abbott, or Doug Ducey, Trump will have a large lead that he will likely never relinquish.
But should the race come down to Trump vs. DeSantis, most of the non-Trump vote may coalesce around the Florida governor.
Since politics abhors a vacuum, this calculus looks very good for Trump. He is intimidating enough to win a large primary but not so much as to deter other candidates. A presidential nomination against a frail, failed, senile president attracts potential candidates like a maggot does flies.
By the time reality dawns and the also-rans realize the futility of opposing Trump, he will have racked up a lot of delegates and a ton of momentum. Just like in 2016. By the time candidates Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and others gave up the ghost, Trump had a commanding lead.
The movers and shakers — and the big donors — in the GOP are anxious to replace Trump. He didn’t take their orders when he was president and, with his incredible ability to raise funds online from small donors, he doesn’t really need them. The power brokers may find themselves broke.
So, the big Republican money will try to clean out the field to make it a two-way race between DeSantis and Trump. But that may be hard to do:
• DeSantis is locked into being governor until 2024. Under Florida’s resign to run law, he’d have to leave office in order to run for president. But a compliant state legislature might repeal or waive the law to accommodate him. But, still, by the time he is finished handling his state legislature and passing the budget, it will be almost summer of 2023. The “third candidates” may well have locked up money and support in the early primary states by then. And Trump will have resumed active campaigning, working his magic at massive rallies, and building a formidable war chest.
• There is a good chance that there will be presidential debates in the fall of ’23 and DeSantis may find that he is late to that party.
• The “third” candidates will likely concentrate their fire on DeSantis. They are locked in a battle with him for second place. There will be no point in attacking Trump who is well out of reach and enjoys a lot of latent support among the voters they must reach.
• The national political environment looks like it will revolve around Trump. As Congressional investigators probe overt anti-Trump bias at the FBI, the DOJ, and the social media, he will increasingly become the spokesman for free speech. His charges that the censorship and repression by the government of the Hunter Biden laptop two weeks before the 2020 election rigged the process will ring increasingly true. As the quintessential victim of the deep state, he will have a standing to fight it that will leave other Republican candidates struggling and scratching for relevance and coverage.
• As grass roots Republican anger mounts at Mitch McConnell for his giveaways in the ’22 lame duck session while the new Republican House majority was still unpacking their bags, the Trump v McConnell feud will become the central issue in the party. All other Republican candidates, especially DeSantis, will be caught in the crossfire while Trump mobilizes the party against the Senate Minority Leader. Again, the opponents to Trump will be searching and scratching for relevance.
So, right now, Donald Trump is the front runner, and it doesn’t look like anyone is going to catch him.
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