March 27, 2023
This Week: The Briefing, Vol. XI, issue 13
- A new phase of the Trump-DeSantis GOP battle
- Trump’s struggles on a net positive, so far
- Republicans have an opportunity in Nevada, but do they have a candidate?
Christie: Yes, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has stated that he will be making a decision on whether to run for president in the next 60 days. But Christie is the answer to a question no one is asking.
It is funny, because there was a time when he really might have been relevant to the presidential conversation. And his endorsement of Trump, at a moment when Trump still had very little mainstream Republican support, helped turn him into the nominee in 2016.
But in fact, Christie lost the trust of anti-Trump Republicans, then lost Trump’s own trust. It is difficult even to remember today how popular his press conferences once were with Republicans and conservatives, as he tore apart liberal journalists, their activism, and their shibboleths. He could be considered a forerunner to Trump’s even more confrontational style. And now, it would be hard to find a Republican who supports him.
Trump: Even facing prosecution in multiple jurisdictions, Donald Trump is a force to be reckoned with.
Indeed, the prosecutions currently seem far more likely to help Trump than to hurt him.
Trump can incredibly claim — and even his most self-interested Republican detractors cannot disagree with this — that the Soros-backed woke District Attorney in New York City who is attempting to have him indicted has an extremely weak and tenuous campaign finance charge to bring against him.
There are also potential charges coming in Georgia, which could be more serious. But these have been damaged by one idiotic grand juror’s loose lips. In every case, Trump has been boosted and helped by the people who hate him most. Some Republicans even view this as a conspiracy by leftists to get him nominated!
If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is using a book tour and a Florida legislative session to run for president, then Trump is using his own potential indictment and even the lawsuit he faces over an alleged rape to do the same thing.
Nothing about Trump’s actual campaign has been impressive so far at all, but if he can continue to cast himself as the victim of vindictive leftist prosecutors, he will reap abundant benefits for the coming presidential primary.
DeSantis: Given the opportunity to comment on Trump’s legal woes, DeSantis savaged Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg for bringing a political prosecution. But he didn’t hesitate to take a shot at Trump, either, and this was something new. Here’s what he said: “Look, I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”
Was it a low blow? Well, maybe. But could anyone — even the biggest supporter of Trump — deny that the former president would say almost exactly the same thing if DeSantis were facing similar legal troubles? Of course not. Trump would say it in a heartbeat. So why would his former friend and ally do anything differently?
This isn’t DeSantis’s first shot at Trump. Earlier, when invited to draw a comparison, he simply responded, “I won re-election.” But this is much more pointed attack on Trump’s character. Indeed, DeSantis did not stop with the mention of Trump’s ethical problems above, but actively raised the fact that this speaks to the man’s character in a subsequent interview with Piers Morgan: “At the end of the day, as a leader, you really want to look to people like our founding fathers. Like, what type of character — it’s not saying that you don’t ever make a mistake in your personal life — but I think, what type of character are you bringing?”
Will this tactic work? Go back to the conservatism of 2004 or even 2012, and yes, it probably would have. Many conservative leaders were undone by ethical faults in those times. But Trump seems to transcend all moral boundaries.
In 2016, This sort of scolding over his manner of life did not work at all — not even with the very sort of religious Christians whom one would expect to object most strongly. Filled with low energy, establishment politicians unwilling to fight on immigration and various cultural issues, the entire GOP field flailed and failed as the entire party became Trump’s footstool.
Is DeSantis different? Well, he has shown himself willing to fight on all the issues where Trump did. The legislative session is adding new accomplishments to his resume day by day, and he understands keenly that the harder he fights on issues where the media hates him, the better he does.
Even so, if he finds the formula to take Trump down a peg, then he will be the first Republican to do so.
The polls in this race have shown a great deal of variation. Most national polls show Trump in the lead, but DeSantis is competitive.
Last week, a survey from Public Opinion Strategies showed DeSantis leading Trump in Iowa (45 to 37 percent) and tied with him in New Hampshire (39 percent each) in a head-to-head race. In both states, Trump’s unfavorable ratings are twice those of DeSantis and his favorable ratings are lower.
However, DeSantis will not likely have the benefit of a head-to-head race. The numbers in these early states are good enough to show that he is a real contender, but he will be the underdog. Also, he trails Trump (by just two points) in a crowded primary in his own state of Florida, which is another problem he must overcome.
Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has opened himself up to a possible electoral attack by vetoing the legislature’s Bill banning child mutilation (which leftists call “gender-affirming care”). The legislature may override his veto as soon as this week, as the bill had enough support for an override.
North Carolina: The Republican field to reclaim the governor’s mansion will feature at least two candidates — State Treasurer Dale Follwell, who just announced over the weekend, and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who is widely expected to announce soon.
Maryland: Amid rumors that Sen. Ben Cardin (D) might retire (he will be 81 years old on election day), former Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has ruled out running. Marylanders have not elected a Republican senator since 1980.
Nevada: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D) is viewed by Democrats as a potential liability in 2024, and by Republicans as a potential pickup.
Although Joe Biden carried Nevada in 2020, and Democrats have carried it in the last four presidential elections, he is now 15 points underwater there according to a new OH Predictive Insights poll (55% disapproval) and certain to serve as an anchor on Rosen, who also has a negative approval rating (30 percent approve, 40 percent disapprove).
Rosen won her seat in 2018, a Democratic wave year. Republicans have since been working very hard to make inroads with Hispanic and Asian voters, a process that began in earnest (with Asian voters, anyway) with an experiment in 2012. As in Texas, they have been having enough success in targeting these voters to make Democrats worry.
So far, the Republicans’ biggest problem is that they don’t have a candidate. Their bench is somewhat weak insofar as they had lost all major statewide elections (not counting races for controller and Secretary of State) since 2015 before finally winning last year’s governor’s race.
As mostly second-tier candidates consider whether to run, this could become a race where some NRSC recruitment meddling would be welcome.