The State of Trump and the Republican Race

The former President remains the top choice of Republican voters, especially among voters of color, despite threats of indictments and something of an establishment conservative rally around Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, complete with a rewriting of coronavirus history.  The race will come down to these two men and where it ends nobody knows…

After Republicans were disappointed in the outcome of the midterm elections last year and the rush to blame Donald Trump for the poor performance, I opined that rumors of his political demise were greatly exaggerated and frequently pushed by the usual suspects who have loathed him for approaching ten years now.  I have never believed that the former President would be anointed in a Republican primary and would have to earn the right to run for the highest office in the land a third time like anyone else vying for the position, only that he remained formidable with a broad base of support in the party and was well positioned to prevail over even promising emerging figures such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  The latest polling data appears to support my position, where President Trump leads the field by a significant margin.  The Real Clear Politics average puts him 14.9% above his nearest competitor, besting the Florida governor 43.9% to 29%.  In some polls he is up by 30 points.  In only one is he behind by 2.  According to a recent poll from Emerson, President Trump even leads Governor DeSantis in Florida by 3 points.  Polls this early are certainly not predictive and anything can happen, but they do suggest that the former President has enduring support and is well positioned going into campaign season, especially as his chief opponent, the Florida governor, hasn’t even officially declared yet.  Clearly, those who pronounced his political career over last year were wrong, as they have been many times before.

Interestingly, much of the former President’s support comes from demographics usually considered outside the Republican mainstream.  CNN’s data analyst, Harry Enten, recently described this phenomenon in article aptly titled “Voters of color are a big reason Trump leads the GOP primary.”  President Trump holds only the slightest of edges with white voters, 38 to 37, but so far appears dominant with minority groups.  As Mr. Enten described it, “An average of CNN/SSRS and Quinnipiac University polls released this week reveals that Trump’s lead may, in large part, be because of his clear edge among potential Republican primary voters of color.  Trump was up an average of 55% to 26% over DeSantis among Republican (and Republican leaning independent) voters of color in an average of the two polls.”  To be sure, the sample size is relatively small, about 200 total respondents, “but it’s more than large enough to say with a high degree of statistical confidence that Trump is ahead among them and that he is doing better among them than he is among White Republicans.”  Mr. Enten found this surprising, noting that it “flies in the face of the fact that many Americans view Trump as racist. I noted in 2019 that more Americans described Trump as racist than the percentage of Americans who said that about segregationist and presidential candidate George Wallace in 1968.”  It should not be, however.  Unlike any Republican since Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump has proven his ability to expand the Republican electorate and attract non-traditional voters.

In November 2020, the BBC reported on “Why Trump gained support among minorities,” describing how he increased his share by six percentage points among black men and even five points among Hispanic women.  “Despite his election defeat, President Donald Trump can boast a success that has intrigued pollsters – he was more popular with ethnic minority voters than in 2016.”  They described the political journey of Mateo Mokarzel, a graduate student in Houston of mixed Mexican and Lebanese descent.  “The first time Trump ran I really wasn’t convinced. I just thought, here’s this celebrity talk-show host guy that wants to run for president, I didn’t take him seriously – so I was not a Trump supporter the first time he ran. To be honest, I thought he was a ringer for Hillary, so I just wasn’t interested,” he told BBC News.  By 2020, Mr. Mokarzel had changed his mind.  “He really delivered on his anti-globalisation policy,” he said.  “Neoliberal expansion has really hurt both Mexico and the US, and when you have family that live there, and you can see how it’s hurt people living, their jobs, their wages, it really has increased the narco-war, and this is one of the things Trump came in saying – ‘hey, we’re going to tear apart these trade deals’ – and then he actually did it. That was for me the first sign that he actually meant some of the things he was saying.”  His wife, Lily, was convinced as well.  “The way I’ve been seeing him attacked, the lies,” she explained. “I never used to vote, because I never felt my vote counted… And I feel like, since Trump has been in office our lives have improved.”  This has always been the promise of President Trump:  His unique ability, especially as a billionaire and a member of the elite himself, to connect with ordinary people and identify policies with a meaningful effect on their lives, something few short of Teddy Roosevelt who was equally comfortable in a Manhattan salon and a North Dakota saloon, possess.

Of course, this is also why he has inspired so much fear and loathing by the establishment on both sides.  The elite, whether moderately conservative or liberal, are more than happy with the existing fault lines in American politics.  Anyone who seeks to upend that order, whether it be Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, is a threat.  Therefore, the increasing evidence that the former President continues to enjoy high levels of support in the Republican party is prompting something of a meltdown in both establishment conservative and progressive circles.  For their part, progressives continue to be convinced that pending investigations and possible legal actions will effectively remove President Trump from the board, imagining him in an orange jumpsuit in prison.  The entire world waits with breath baited for the outcome of New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s attempt to turn a campaign finance violation that the US Department of Justice chose not to pursue seven years ago into a felony charge via a novel legal theory that has never before been attempted against anyone in the history of the known universe.  Anything can happen, but as of right now the outcome doesn’t look good for District Attorney Bragg after the grand jury proceedings have been repeatedly delayed and no indictment is forthcoming.  Former United States Attorney, Andrew McCarthy, a conservative, yet no fan of President Trump, described it this way, “Well, I think it’s clearly a misdemeanor. It’s one that shouldn’t be brought. And the attack on Bragg here, it shouldn’t be a defense of Trump, because it looks like this is a falsification of records…This idea of trying to sort of bootstrap campaign finance violations on this, I mean, it’s first of all, most campaign finance laws are federal, which is not what the New York penal code is talking about, he’s apparently going to try to say, well, it could have been a violation of New York’s election law. Did Trump lose New York by like 30 points?”

There are of course other legal challenges facing the former President, including but not necessary limited to Special Counsel Investigations into his handling of classified documents and potential obstruction of justice as well as his role in the January 6th riots, and whether or not he criminally interfered with vote counting Georgia in the aftermath of the 2020 election.  That particular probe was supposed to prompt immediate indictments as recently as two weeks ago, until it was revealed that the head of the grand jury was a Wiccan who enjoyed eating ice cream with prosecutors and then, almost magically, news of the impending charges simply disappeared.   NBC described it this way, “Georgia grand jury recommended indictments for more than a dozen people in Trump probe, foreperson says” without mentioning the foreperson in question was obviously deranged and equally violating all the rules governing her own position in the matter.  The progressive prosecutor on the scene, Fani Willis, promised charges were imminent, but so far, nothing, likely because Trump attorneys believe the entire process has been flawed given these proceedings are supposed to be secret and the foreperson isn’t supposed to appear on national TV talking about how chummy they are with the prosecutors.  “These collective actions violated all notions of fundamental fairness and due process,” Trump’s attorney argued. “The errors and flaws detailed above are fatal to the report and recommendations made by the SPG as fruit of the poisonous tree.”

This has not prevented mainstream media outlets from continuing the long running “walls are closing in” articles, insisting President Trump remains in deep, deep, deep legal trouble as they have for almost eight years now.  CNN’s Stephen Collinson takes the lead in this regard, claiming “Trump’s intensifying legal drama could drag America closer to historic precipice” and “Donald Trump’s legal limbo appeared to get more precarious on Wednesday. The country gets closer every day to a political and judicial precipice that could see a former president indicted for the first time ever.”  Needless to say, he’s said the same many times before, and never mentions two things.  First, the role out of control Trump-hating prosecutors in this endless cycle.  District Attorney Bragg can near-mystically makes up a seven year old case that no one else has deigned to prosecute, transmutes what should be a misdemeanor into felony, and that’s all right and proper.  The former President is always to blame, whatever is done to him and his family.  Nor does he consider it strange that these cases seem to drag on forever.  In Georgia, they are still investigating what occurred almost three years ago and is essentially based on a well-known phone call when the President asked state officials to “find him the votes.”  In the classified document inquiry, they originally claimed he had nuclear secrets and was selling them to a foreign power, but months later they appear to have moved on to much more mundane matters.   Putting this another way, does anyone believe that years later these anti-Trump prosecutors are sitting on a smoking gun for some serious crime and simply haven’t fired it yet?  Once again, anything is possible, but the idea beggars the imagination, especially in a world where every anti-Trump proceeding is leaked practically in real-time.  Second, why is President Biden never mentioned as being in legal peril?  After all, there is a Special Counsel investigating him for the very same classified documents issue.  How is it that everyone seems to know nothing will come of this inquiry and yet are convinced something will come of President Trump’s?

On the conservative side of the equation, the former President’s more enduring than expected support has prompted something of an endless stream of articles on establishment sites talking up Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  The Florida governor himself has not declared yet, but he has, rightly in my opinion, begun laying down preliminary attacks on his chief opponent.  In an interview with Piers Morgan, he described the former President as chaotic while he puts “points on the board.”  “I also think just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get personnel in the government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda. You bring your own agenda in, you’re gone. We’re just not gonna have that,” he told Mr. Morgan. “So, the way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board, and I think that’s something that’s very important.” Meanwhile, conservative commentators have identified coronavirus as the issue that is certain to put the Governor over the top.’s David Strom noted his “courageous stand on COVID policy is one of DeSantis’ strongest proofs that he can lead in the face of political headwinds, and COVID policy is also Donald Trump’s worst blunder. The contrast couldn’t be starker.”  Mr. Strom was reacting to a recent press conference where Governor DeSantis took aim at Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, saying “When they said ‘15 days to slow the spread’ it turns out, people like Birx and Fauci, they never intended just 15 days…They would also try to do things to condition your behavior, control your behavior..telling things like ‘noble lies.”  This is undoubtedly true, except for the fact that the Florida governor supported the initial fifteen days and the additional one month extension.  “Spring break’s done,” he said after issuing an order to limit gatherings on beaches to no more than 10 people. “Any place to go for bars and all this, done. They don’t have a place to go.”  It wasn’t until later that he changed direction, as did President Trump, because a key part of the desire for a brief pause in daily life was to buy time to assemble much needed medical supplies and testing equipment.  In mid March 2020, no one even knew how many ventilators we had and the CDC had completely botched the initial roll out of testing.  There were daily fears that patients were going to die waiting on supplies, and that we had no idea what the impact of the pandemic would be without the tests.  The early “lockdown” period was at least partially designed to set up the infrastructure to address these concerns, and as a result no one in the entire country went without a ventilator, we ramped up testing capacity to be the best in the world, and started developing a vaccine.

These are the facts of what happened during the period when President Trump mobilized the government perhaps faster than anyone since President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor.  By early April 2020, he was saying he hoped people were packed in Church pews for Easter services.  Ever after, he was roundly criticized for an opening plan that was too aggressive, holding public events during the pandemic, and choosing not to wear a mask whenever possible.  It is true that he did not fire Dr. Fauci or Dr. Birx, but he brought in Dr. Scott Atlas later that summer, a strong proponent of opening back up as quickly as possible, to counteract the noxious pair and simply stopped listening to them as well.  One can debate the merits of this decision, but it is not unusual to keep controversial figures in place in the middle of a campaign to avoid the scandal that would result until after the election.  This has been true for hundreds of years and surely Mr. Strom is well aware that the same thing has happened time and time again.  Lest you disagree, just imagine what the reaction would have been if President Trump fired either in September and what each of them might have said free from their duty to the government.  Of course, none of this is to criticize the Florida governor.  He took strong stands on coronavirus as well and should be applauded for it.  There is no doubt his response to the pandemic and how sharply different and more effective it was than progressive states is one of his strongest assets.  At the same time, Mr. Strom and others must think the American people have very short memories if their grand plan is to claim President Trump, who was more abused than perhaps any American in history for his frequently stated belief that the cure cannot be worse than the disease, was a lockdown proponent that didn’t want the country open for business.  That is absurd, and everyone not in the tank for Governor DeSantis or reflexively anti-Trump knows it.

Astute readers might’ve noticed that I didn’t mention any other candidates.  This is because there are none except in name.  In politics, anything is possible, but barring some truly bizarre black swan event or miracle if you prefer, the Republican nominee will be either President Trump or Governor DeSantis.  The race is officially on, as it should be, and with President Trump involved my oft repeated phrase that “anything can happen” is likely more true than ever.


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