January 12, 2024

The GOP Race Is a Battle … for Second Place

With the nation’s first vote just three days away, Donald Trump’s lead appears insurmountable.

The Republican field thinned out on Wednesday when Trump-deranged narcissist Chris Christie called it quits. It sure took him long enough, though.

Christie, who kept taking up oxygen at Republican debates despite polling in the low single digits, finally said what everyone already knew a decade ago: “There isn’t a path for me to win the nomination.”

But being the blowhard that he is, Christie got caught on a hot mic and, referring to his erstwhile primary opponent, Nikki Haley, said: “She’s gonna get smoked. And you and I both know it. She’s not up to this.”

As Trump said at an Iowa town hall Wednesday night: “I know her very well, and I happen to believe that Chris Christie is right. That’s one of the few things he’s been right about actually.”

We guess it’s unanimous, then, because Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s locked in a tight battle with Haley for second place, weighed in as well: “I agree with Christie that Nikki Haley is ‘going to get smoked.’”

About that Trump town hall: It was hosted by Fox News, with whom Trump has had an icy relationship of late. And it featured a candidate, a former president, who seemed to know the race was all but over. He was at ease, and he charmed his questioners — even those who said they were caucusing with DeSantis. Perhaps the moment of the night, though, came when Fox News’s Bret Baier asked him about whether his second term would be about “retribution.”

Trump seemed like he’d been waiting for the question: “We’re gonna make this country so successful again,” he said, “I’m not gonna have time for retribution. And remember this: Our ultimate retribution is success.”

Later on, Trump was asked by a staunch pro-life voter about his stance on abortion — specifically his recent criticism of the strongly pro-life position. “We still have to win elections,” he told his questioner. “We have some great Republicans — and they’re great on the issue, and you would love them on the issue — and a lot of them have just been decimated in the elections.”

We still have to win elections.

Trump’s responses to these two questions — one from a male journalist, one from a female voter — weren’t meant for the red meat crowd; they were meant for the undecideds, for the wobbly ones who are hesitant to sign up for what they’re being told will be “another four years of chaos.”

The chaos, of course, wasn’t always Trump’s doing. It was also the Democrats’ doing. And were Trump somehow trailing in this race, you can bet the house that the Democrats would be sharpening their knives for DeSantis or Haley. This is who they are.

While Trump was wooing caucus-goers, DeSantis and Haley were slugging it out in the first GOP debate to have featured only two candidates. Politico has a comprehensive recap of the event, adding that it “will be remembered as a grinding slugfest, one filled with policy disagreements, political knife fighting, but also a healthy dose of canned lines and accusations of foot shooting.” Or, as DeSantis called it, in reference to Haley’s recent spate of gaffes, “ballistic podiatry.”

Both DeSantis and Haley took some shots at the frontrunner: “Donald Trump deported fewer people than Barack Obama did,” said DeSantis; January 6 was “a terrible day,” said Haley, adding: “Trump lost it. Biden won that election.” But they saved their toughest shots for each other. Said DeSantis of Haley: “I debated the governor of California, Gavin Newsom. I thought he lied a lot. Man, Nikki Haley gives him a run for his money, and she may even be more liberal than Gavin Newsom is.” DeSantis added that the next president should govern in “bold colors” and “not the pale pastel warmed-over corporatism of people like Nikki Haley.” Ouch.

Haley didn’t hold back either: “The best way to tell about a candidate,” she said, “is to see how they run their campaign. He has blown through $150 million. I don’t know how you do that. Through his campaign, he has nothing to show for it. He spent more money on private planes than he has on commercials trying to get Iowans to vote for him. If you can’t manage your campaign, how are you going to manage the country?”

To us, it seems like it’s Iowa-or-bust for DeSantis. Without a great showing there — a solid second-place showing well ahead of Haley and well ahead of expectations — it’s hard to see how he continues. Heck, it’s hard for us to see how he continues regardless. He’s been a great governor, but his timing for a presidential run was a bit off. Many GOP voters have decided this was always Trump’s turn, and DeSantis should’ve waited till 2028. And now, Trump is on the verge of making history in the Hawkeye State, where no candidate in the history of the caucuses has ever won an outright majority of the vote.

Going into the weekend, the latest Iowa poll from Suffolk University has Trump at 54%, Haley solidly in second at 20%, DeSantis in third at 13%, and Vivek Ramaswamy in fourth at 6%. In a must-impress moment for DeSantis, who has campaigned in all 99 of Iowa’s counties, he appears to be headed in the wrong direction. If Trump’s voters turn out in the bitter cold — Monday’s low is expected to be minus 15, and perhaps as low as minus 40 with the wind chill — Nikki Haley won’t be the only one getting smoked.

As for Haley, she’s been gaining ground on Trump in New Hampshire. He’s polling at 43.5% in the Granite State while Haley is at 29.3%. New Hampshire, though, is an outlier. Independents and Democrats can vote in its open primary, which means that leftist mischief will likely skew the outcome in a way that won’t be replicated elsewhere.

Regardless, Haley — who has the endorsement of a popular Trump-hating, Bush-loving governor, Chris Sununu — is poised for a strong performance in New Hampshire, and she’ll no doubt do well soon thereafter in her home state of South Carolina. But beyond that? It’s hard to see any path for a candidate who’s polling nationally at 11.3% and whose establishment bona fides make her generally repulsive to Trump voters.

The primary election, then, is Trump’s to lose. And it’s hard to imagine him losing under any circumstances. Super Tuesday, March 5, is setting up to be a blowout. After that, we’d expect Trump to be standing alone and setting his sights on decrepit Joe Biden.

As for that matchup, former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino marveled at Trump’s energy and what it might mean for Joe Biden. Perino noted that Trump had “a great town hall” in Iowa on Wednesday night — a town hall that ended at 10 Eastern. Then, after pressing the flesh with potential caucus-goers, Trump eventually hopped on a plane, arrived in New York in the wee hours, grabbed a few winks, and was there in front of the cameras at the Manhattan courthouse yesterday morning to denounce a Trump-deranged judge and a Trump-deranged attorney general. Said Perino: “I think the White House and the Biden campaign must be looking at this, going, ‘Okay, our guy takes Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off in order to do lunch with the vice president on Tuesday,’ and how are they possibly going to deal with this kind of energy?”

Indeed, Trump is running circles around the current president, and while Biden was able to run a successful campaign from his basement in 2020, he won’t be able to get away with that this time around. Four years ago, the vast majority of Americans were neither aware of nor concerned about Biden’s age or his cognitive decline. That’s no longer the case. A recent poll showed that 77% of Americans think Biden is “too old to be effective for four more years.”

Sure, 89% of Republicans think Biden is too old, but so do a whopping 69% of Democrats. Asked by Fox News’s Jesse Waters about Biden’s age, talk show host Nick Di Paolo quipped, “I think they’re underestimating how much energy it takes for an 82-year-old to steal two elections in a row.”

Indeed, running for president is hard work. No wonder the Democrats are freaking out.

Trump 2024? You betcha.

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