The hidden side of politics

Trump’s GOP rivals keep searching for the right lane to catch up to cruising front-runner

Reported by Washington Times:

The Republican presidential candidates have spent most of this year searching for that elusive sweet spot with primary voters but, with less than two months until the Iowa caucuses, nobody has laid a glove on front-runner Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump‘s rivals not only can’t touch him, they can’t even SEE him. The former president has refused to appear on a debate stage with them, correctly reasoning he has nothing to gain against a field he leads by 40-plus percentage points and growing.

Without Mr. Trump, the debates have had a make-believe feel, as if the survivors are debating the Great and Powerful Oz. And we don’t mean Dr. Oz.

So firm is Mr. Trump‘s grip on the GOP base that former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, earnest and true conservatives, have dropped out of the race even before any ballots were cast. Nice guys do finish last.

Nevertheless, the candidates who are still standing have attempted to carve out their own lanes where they believe they can attract the most primary voters. And despite the lopsided polls in favor of Mr. Trump, it’s a fact that no voters have actually voted yet in the GOP primary. A miracle could happen. Really. Journalists want to believe. It would sell papers and clicks.

Here’s how the candidates stand ahead of the GOP‘s Iowa caucus on Jan. 15:

Donald Trump

Mr. Trump occupies any lane he wants. He’s the guy driving in the fast lane, unaware that his turn signal has been blinking for the past 20 miles and fast food wrappers are blowing out of his open windows, while he has no fear of getting pulled over by the cops.

He apparently can do no wrong in his quest for a rematch with President Biden.

Of course, the cops have pulled him over a few times this year, in federal and state courts. It’s conceivable that Mr. Trump could go to jail in any of these criminal cases brought by Democrats. And the impact would no doubt be significant. Were Mr. Trump to land in jail by Super Tuesday, just for argument’s sake, his lead among GOP voters would probably increase to 60 points.

Mr. Trump is a known quantity. But in promising to make America great again, he has added an unusual plank for 2024: revenge. Mr. Trump is vowing to “root out … the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” He also sounds eager to go after his outspoken opponents.

You can almost see his bumper stickers now: “Trump ‘24: A Dish Served Cold.”

Ron DeSantis

There was a time, around Valentine’s Day, when the Florida governor was still within 15 points of Mr. Trump — close enough for Mr. Trump‘s discarded quarter-pounder-with-cheese wrappers to stick to Mr. DeSantis’ windshield. But since then, Mr. DeSantis has looked like anything but the obvious alternative to Mr. Trump.

At the start of his candidacy, Mr. DeSantis’ pitch to voters essentially was that he wasn’t Mr. Trump — he wasn’t a loser. But since then, he’s been losing ground to the former president steadily in polls. Falling further and further behind in voter surveys gives the appearance of being, well, a loser.

Mr. DeSantis also campaigns on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, having opposed shutdowns. But if that was such a plus for his presidential bid, why is he trailing Mr. Trump so badly in Florida, the only state where voters actually benefited directly from the governor’s pandemic policies?

In short, Mr. DeSantis is still searching for a smooth lane, and time is running out. Lately, he has even sounded somewhat like a Trump sympathizer, telling Fox host Sean Hannity that the prosecution of Mr. Trump in New York “really just showed just how ridiculous, quite frankly, the justice system has become when it’s in the hands of leftist politicians and leftist activists.”

The DeSantis campaign is banking on a win in Iowa or a strong second-place showing to inspire GOP voters around the country who are either “not for Trump” or are willing to consider alternatives, according to an internal campaign memo reported by the Associated Press.

DeSantis campaign communications Director Andrew Romeo said the governor “has the best combination of endorsements, ground game, and message in the early states, which is why the former president continues to attack only him.”

Team Trump has a different view.

“Rob DeSanctimonious has until Dec. 12 to remove his name from the Florida ballot or face losing his home state by 40+ points, ending his political career,” Trump adviser Jason Miller said on social media.

Nikki Haley

The former U.N. ambassador has been beating expectations largely by demonstrating her foreign-policy chops, seeking a middle ground for her party on abortion, and showing she’s not afraid to criticize Mr. Trump.

She has climbed to second place in New Hampshire in a recent poll.

Another sign of her strong performance this year — in a recent poll by Marquette Law School, Ms. Haley leads Mr. Biden by 12 percentage points, a greater margin than any of her Republican rivals. Were it not for a certain elephant in the room, Ms. Haley could emerge as the party’s nominee.

Unfortunately for Ms. Haley and the others, two-thirds of GOP primary voters say they’re happy with Mr. Trump.

And then there’s her feud with rival Vivek Ramaswamy. It’s understandable how he could get under a competitor’s skin, but Ms. Haley didn’t help herself last week by suggesting that Mr. Ramaswamy has a “girl problem,” in part, because he keeps attacking her. That sounds like using gender as a shield or making a clumsy appeal to women voters from the only female candidate.

She won’t win, but she gets an A for effort.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Essentially this is the lane that Mr. Ramaswamy has charted for himself: he admires Mr. Trump so much, he wants to prevent the former president from winning a second term.

The businessman is trying to portray himself as the new, energetic face of America First. He opposes U.S. aid to Ukraine in its war against Russian invaders, and he supports ending birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.

Running as the unindicted version of Mr. Trump, he won’t win, either. But Mr. Ramaswamy’s position in the race does show success in another way. When the campaign began, Mr. Ramaswamy was the ultimate unknown candidate. In a New Hampshire poll last week, Mr. Ramaswamy was only 1 point behind Mr. DeSantis.

Probably small consolation to both men.

Chris Christie

The former New Jersey governor positioned himself as the truth-teller about Mr. Trump, but soon learned that it made no difference whatsoever. He believes that Mr. Trump will be convicted on criminal charges and that somebody else must therefore become the GOP‘s nominee. Why not a Jersey guy who used to put crooks in federal prison for a living? Why not a Jersey guy who was among Mr. Trump‘s biggest backers in 2016?

“If he’s convicted, which he will be … is there going to be anything else discussed from late April to November [2024] other than the fact that Donald Trump is a convicted federal felon?” Mr. Christie said on Fox recently. “We’re going to lose this election to Joe Biden if we nominate him. We got to get smart about it now.”

Unfortunately for him, “getting smart” and “nominating Chris Christie” makes sense to about 3% of GOP voters. And they’ve had all year to think about it.

Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson

They are still in the race. Your guess is as good as ours.

Source:Washington Times