Dec 18, 2021Liked by David Thornton

I hang out at a very Trumpster website. I have seen the mood shift. I think if DeSantis declared tomorrow (which of course he wouldn't) he'd be the odds on favorite of the Trumpsters. They look at him as Trump Jr without the warts. He's younger. He speaks English. He's not controversial (they think). I think they would shift plenty fast with a big dash of guilt for deserting El Jefe. There perfect scenario would be for him to announce he's not running for president but still would run the party and then endorse DeSantis. Fantasyland.

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Dec 17, 2021·edited Dec 17, 2021Liked by David Thornton

"Granted Trump did lose the election (and he really did lose it, it was not stolen), but that failed to break his stranglehold on the Republican Party. As we’ve seen since January, the party consistently moves in lockstep to cover up Trump’s actions and protect the former president. If anything, Republicans seem more united against defying Trump now than they were while he was president. Just ask Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who are on the verge of being summarily drummed out of the party."

In the case of Liz Cheney, she is trailing in Harriet Hageman in the polls, as the latter is garnering 38 percent. In order for Cheney to win, she needs to benefit from a splintered opposition, and crossover votes of Democrats in Wyoming's open primary. Given that Wyoming is lopsidedly Republican, some Democrats will vote in a GOP primary knowing that that Democrats will not win in the general election. But there aren't many Democrats in Wyoming, and she needs an optimal combination of crossover votes and splintering opposition to pull off an upset.


"Jonah also posits that Trump’s appeal is becoming more “selective.” Again, I think this has always been the case. With his larger-than-life personality and boastful claims, it is difficult to remember that Trump was not popular among Republicans in 2016. He got the most primary votes of any GOP candidate in history that year, but he also set a record for most votes against him. The party didn’t coalesce around Trump until after the convention and then only grudgingly. And even then, Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by almost 3 million votes, becoming president on an Electoral College fluke."

I think that Trump benefitted from his outsider status in 2016, given that he never held elective office before. And that is what got a lot of voters on the right who didn't like him, to nonetheless pull the lever for him. In 2020, he benefitted from the fact that he was an incumbent GOP President seeking re-election. I do think the Former Guy's constant whining and moaning about his defeat is gradually depleting his support among GOP voters, especially after January 6. While I think Trump's standing among the GOP base is gradually diminishing, the BIG question is whether it is happening fast enough for him to deny him the nomination in 2024, especially when one only needs a plurality to win the presidential primary as he did in 2016. He is no doubt the frontrunner today, and would undoubtedly be nominated in 2024 were the primaries to happen now. But if Trump carries out his plans to sabotage Governor Brian Kemp and other GOPers, and helps elect Stacey Abrams and other leftists into office in 2022, it would not only anger many voters on the right(save the MAGA nihilists), but possibly turn more voters against Trump, to where nomination wouldn't be assured.

"The ultimate question is going to be how much damage Trump did to himself with his behavior after the election and on January 6. I know a lot of people who were grudging Trump voters in 2020 who said that they would never vote for him again after watching him try to steal the election in broad daylight and then seeing his supporters fly Trump flags over the Capitol as they tried to block certification of the Electoral College votes.

Those people may not vote for Trump in the primaries (if the GOP lets them have another option this time), but will they hold their noses and pull the lever for Trump if he is the nominee? Would the same attempts to tar each and every Democrat as a far-left socialist who is the worst person in the world and who wants to destroy America persuade them again if Donald Trump, the man who incited an insurrection in support of his coup attempt, is the other choice? I’m not so sure they wouldn’t. After all, 2024 is certain to be the latest installment in a long series of most important elections of our lifetime."

A lot of what happens from now and 2024 will hinge on the decisions of the reluctant Trump voters. Some of them will remain steadfast and refuse to vote to Trump all the way to the 2024 general election. But others will waver and may walk back their previous determination to never support Trump again. If the Democrats nominate Kamala Harris or some odious, hard left candidate in 2024, then I can definitely see many of the "Trump no longer" crowd walking back their commitments to move on from Trump. The steadfast voters who stick to their commitment never to support Trump again might make enough of a difference to sink the Former Guy in a general election matchup should Biden's popularity recover close enough to a 50-50 parity and the Dems go with Biden again or a more relatively moderate candidate. But it might not be enough if Biden's popularity tanks in 2024, the Democrats double down on governing hard left, and the wavering reluctant Trump 2020 voter uses that as a reason to vote for Trump in 2024.

At the end of the day, most people on the right want to win elections, regardless of how they feel about Donald Trump. Most right leaning voters who aren't particularly big fans of the Former Guy would vote for him or any other GOP nominee. And the converse is true as well. Just say if the unthinkable happened, and either Liz Cheney, Ben Sasse, or Mitt Romney managed to win the GOP nomination, and face off against a Democrat like Kamala Harris or Gavin Newsom. Most Trump supporters (save the most hard core MAGA nihilists)would pull the lever for them, regardless of any misgivings they may have for the Trump-skepticism the 3 of them have. The big hurdle for any sane and competent candidate is the GOP primary. But if the candidate manages to clear that hurdle, most voters are very much vested in not letting the other side(Democrats) win, and that since it is the "most important election of our lifetime", would pull the lever for pretty much anything with an R by their name.

As always David, excellent and very thought provoking commentary on your part. As a fellow NeverTrump conservative, let's hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. We'll see how it all plays out.

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Dec 17, 2021Liked by David Thornton

It is interesting that David French shares some of the erstwhile optimism of Jonah in his newsletter he has at the Atlantic where he admits he is sharing anecdotal experiences, but is relying on his knowledge of the MAGA base to make a few points.


After I read Jonah and David's insights and right before I read your column here David(well written and which I also concur), I read this more sobering column at the Atlantic from National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, where he paints a far more sobering picture regarding Trumpism's influence on the GOP.


While Jonah and David make insightful points(as they always do), I also have a nagging, less optimistic view of reality that leads leads to me also nodding with yours and Ramesh's more tempered expectations. I think that we will get a much better barometer of where things regarding the GOP and Trumpism are at during the primary and general election contests of the 2022 midterms. I think part of the reasons why many predictions of Trumpism have turned out to be incorrect, is that polls gauging public sentiment of Trumpism, are all over the map. Polling voter sentiment in within party primaries is much more difficult than polling sentiments in a general election.

Regarding Goldberg's noting of MAGA candidates not performing well in different primaries, Trump may never had deep and long coattails when it comes to getting his preferred candidate, but one has to also note that many candidates who were running against Trump's choice in a primary, very often play up their MAGA creds by arguing that they would be more MAGA than even Trump's endorsed candidate. I've noticed that except for few exceptions(Romney, Susan Collins, etc), most non-Trump-endorsed GOP candidates try to outMAGA the Trump endorsed opponent. So Trump may've never had the long coattails to begin with, but he almost certainly influences these races in a more MAGA direction, even if the candidates don't truly believe in what they are saying(All one has to do is look at Josh Mandel and JD Vance.). Many of the more recent GOP candidates running, while certainly benefitting from Biden's relative unpopularity, are better realizing what a liability Trump is in light red to purple areas, especially when the latter's desire to relitigate the 2020 election is wearing thin on an increasing number of voters, including some on the right. And these candidates(Youngkin, Jack Ciattarelli, among others) are showing that by keeping their distance from Trump more than they have before Trump's defeat last year.

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