Whatever their game plan, party and finances, nearly all candidates for president start with the same two challenges: First, win the nomination and then unite your party to have a shot at winning the general election.
Then there are those unlucky candidates in this year’s Republican field who face a third challenge.
By the end of this week, there will be at least seven contestants in a race to see who gets to go head-to-head with Donald Trump for the GOP crown.
But wait, there’s yet another obstacle for that lucky survivor.
If he or she manages to defeat Trump for the nomination, there is a good chance Trump will take many of his supporters and run as a third-party candidate, or tell them to stay home, dooming the GOP nominee to defeat in the general.
Oh, what fun.
Just as it was when he first came down the escalator in 2015, everything in 2023 is still about Trump.
And just as it was then, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t for Republicans.
Those assumptions are why I have concluded that, as it stands, the GOP can’t win with Trump, and can’t win without him.
I first reached that conclusion months ago and, although there have been some major developments since, nothing has changed my mind.
Even with Trump being indicted in New York, losing a federal civil trial on sexual assault and defamation and facing three more criminal probes and other civil cases, the parameters of the race are about the same as they were a year ago.
If anything, the odds of Trump becoming the nominee for the third time have improved.
The RealClearPolitics average of two months of polling shows him with 56% support and a whopping 37-point edge over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who consistently finishes second with an average of just 19%.
Trump’s gains have come despite or perhaps because of relentless attacks by Democrats, their prosecutors and their media handmaidens.
The more they contort the law to try to bankrupt him and lock him up, the larger his support becomes.
On some level, this is understandable.
It is a fact that Trump has been treated unfairly by the media, the FBI and prosecutors, and the Russia hoax was finally debunked by the John Durham report.
His finding that the FBI treated Hillary Clinton with favoritism confirms the belief of Trump supporters that there is a double-standard of justice.
Then, too, President Biden’s policies have been such obvious failures that they remind voters of the big things Trump got right, especially border security.
And the slow-walking of the Hunter Biden case by the FBI and the Justice Department confirm Trump’s claims of a crooked Deep State.
Joe’s loathsome odds
Still, even with the doddering, corrupt Joe Biden as the Democrat’s nominee, I believe the GOP has no more than a 10% chance of capturing the White House, regardless of whether Trump or another Republican is on the ballot.
And a losing presidential candidate generally spells doom for party congressional candidates in swing states and districts.
Meaning, at this point, I assume Dems will control all power in Washington come January of 2025.
That’s the state of play as the GOP field takes shape this week.
With DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott and Chris Christie expected to announce they are joining Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Larry Elder, Asa Hutchinson and Trump.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is sitting on the fence, a straddle that usually leads to splinters.
Of course, DeSantis looks like the strongest alternative to Trump, and a speech he gave Friday in New Hampshire reflected the basis of his appeal.
His record of cutting taxes, creating jobs, expanding school choice and taking on the culture issues pushed by the far-left demonstrate his conservative bona fides and political skills.
“If you look at what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said, “there is something in there for anybody in terms of the issues that we tackled.”
Trump effectively concedes as much by singling DeSantis out for the most brutal treatment.
The name calling — “DeSanctimonious” — has been going on for months, along with claims that DeSantis is betraying Trump by running against him.
It’s silly, and Trump looked especially foolish when he said that Charlie Crist, as a Democrat, had been a better governor of Florida.
But it’s also true that DeSantis, at just 44 years old, has looked less sure-footed than when he won re-election last year in a landslide.
Notwithstanding relentless Big Media attacks, his war against Disney feels like a personal grudge match and his combativeness can seem calculated.
Ron and his rivals
DeSantis’ presumed position as the leading alternative to Trump has drawn the fire of rivals who aim to replace him.
“I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative, based on his actions towards Disney,” said Christie, the former New Jersey Governor.
Haley, a former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador under Trump, welcomed DeSantis to the race with the dig that “We’ve been waiting.”
While I doubt any of the others will supplant DeSantis as No. 2, I also believe the Florida governor is going to need help to beat the 800-pound gorilla.
He needs an event that shakes up the race and persuades large numbers of Trump supporters to switch teams.
It could be an error by Trump, such as something he says or does that dramatically undercuts his appeal, although just what that could be at this point is hard to imagine.
In any case, DeSantis must do well in early primaries and capture a momentum that carries him to upsets and large hauls of delegates later.
Drawing big turnouts and wins in key swing states could especially make DeSantis look like the strongest general election candidate, which will be an important test if the delegate race is tight.
Still, even if DeSantis prevails in the primary process, it will end in tears if Trump takes his supporters and quits the party. In that case, four more years of Biden-Harris would be Trump’s revenge on America.
Racial strife & times
From a New York Times manager’s in-house racial and ethnic analysis of employee evaluations: “Looking at the raw data itself, we are troubled to see that fewer Black and Latino employees received the top two ratings company-wide when compared with ratings for white employees.”
“The gap has decreased since last year, with 24 percent of Black colleagues receiving one of these two highest ratings in 2022 (up from 19 percent) and Latino colleagues receiving 26 percent (up from 22 percent). The rate for Asian and white colleagues remained effectively the same, at 28 percent and 34 percent respectively.”
Imagine what Martin Luther King Jr. would say.
Reader Anita Mule has a question about the migrant mess in Gotham, writing: “How does a city become a sanctuary city? I don’t recall voting for this.”