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September 27, 2023

A GOP Debate, One Candidate Short

Trump intends to be the GOP standard-bearer in the 2024 election, but he continues to show zero respect for the party he wants to lead.

What happened to Donald Trump, the raging bull, the only guy with the moxie to wade into the swamp and kill all the filthy, slimy creatures lurking there? Surely, he’s not afraid to confront a few competitors from his own party in friendly debate?

In any case, Trump has decided to take a pass on this week’s second Republican primary debate, as he did on the first one. He explains that with his insurmountable lead in the polls, there’s no need to debate; and once again, he’s arranged an alternative event, presumably so his supporters will not have to waste their time watching his irrelevant competitors.

Over the years, Trump has shown strokes of political genius — but I’d offer that at this juncture, his decision to blow off the GOP debates reflects a serious miscalculation of the challenges his own candidacy still faces. More importantly, it reveals the fundamental dilemma he poses to the Republican Party and, in a very real sense, to the nation.

Donald Trump wants to be (and assumes he already is) the GOP standard-bearer for the 2024 presidential election. Yet his decision shows utter disrespect for the party and for his Republican competitors. Rather than participate constructively in the party’s process for selecting a candidate, he’s chosen to hijack it. Evidently, he assumes that rank-and-file Republicans who remain uneasy with his candidacy (there are many), along with the legion of independents whom he must win over to his leadership, will admire the hijacking and fall in line.

His decision reeks of arrogance — the Trump personality trait that just happens to rankle so many of his prospective voters.

Just what message is Trump trying to send? And to whom? In effect, he’s telling fence-sitting Republican voters that he already has all the support he needs; the nomination is in the bag. To the general electorate, he’s saying that he’s already proven himself as president; no more information is needed. He’s wrong on both counts. To have any chance of re-winning the presidency, he must change some minds.

Moreover, his decision is remarkably shortsighted. The 2024 election may yet turn out to be the long-anticipated Trump/Biden rematch that both want — but maybe not. Neither candidate is showing any inclination to withdraw; each knows that his best shot at success would be to face the other guy and all his baggage. But the election is still a year away, and every day the lineup looks less certain.

Joe Biden’s prospects are fading fast. A full six years before the completion of a second term, Biden’s physical and mental decline are obvious to anyone willing to take an honest look. His track record as president is somewhere between unimpressive and calamitous. And looming above all is the congressional investigation with emerging, ugly details of potentially impeachment-worthy corruption. At this point, reputable members of Biden’s own party, along with many in the ever-favorable Leftmedia, openly view his candidacy as a liability.

Meanwhile, Trump is still enjoying a sizable bump in popularity thanks to the absurd dog-piling of legal actions, taken against him and obviously politically motivated — everyone loves a victim. But the legal wars ahead for Trump are very real, they will be watched by all, and they will be far less kind to his image and popularity.

Through it all, it remains clear that Trump’s entire focus is Election Day 2024, not the four years thereafter. He wants desperately to confront the man he believes stole the 2020 election and to pull off a resounding reversal, a chest-thumping, in-your-face win for the whole world to see.

But his obsession is creating a wholly unnecessary rift among prospective supporters, a rift that can profoundly affect the political direction of our nation and that — ironically — will doom his primary objective.

The stark reality is this: If a substantial number of potential conservative voters fissions into two mutually exclusive groups — one that will only vote for Trump and another that will never vote for Trump — there will be two inescapable consequences: (1) Trump will not be elected president, and (2) Democrats will retain the White House and probably the Senate, and quite possibly retake the House — an extraordinary, undeserved gift to the Democrats and a disaster for the country.

Surely Trump knows that, and he knows as well that his current take-no-prisoners vendetta is having exactly that effect. Does he care? We don’t know, although post-2020 events suggest breathtaking insensitivity to the consequences of his own actions.

I believe that most Americans care far more about the direction of the nation than about the political legacy of any one man.

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