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Of Course He’s Running
Plus: Lost, Not Stolen
Of course Donald Trump is running in 2024. Was there really any doubt at all? In the buzziest article of the day, he tells Olivia Nuzzi that the only question is when he announces, not whether.
Speaking of Nuzzi’s article, take a moment to read this bravura 152-word opening sentence:
Donald Trump was impeached twice, lost the 2020 election by 7,052,770 votes, is entangled in investigations by federal prosecutors (over the Capitol insurrection and over the mishandling of classified White House documents and over election interference) and the District of Columbia attorney general (over financial fraud at the Presidential Inaugural Committee) and the Manhattan district attorney (over financial fraud at the Trump Organization) and the New York State attorney general (over financial fraud at the Trump Organization) and the Westchester County district attorney (over financial fraud at the Trump Organization) and the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney (over criminal election interference in Georgia) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (over rules violations in plans to take his social-media company public through a SPAC) and the House Select Committee on January 6 (whose hearings are the runaway TV-ratings hit of the summer), yet on Monday, July 11, he was in a fantastic mood.
Trump’s decision raises a host of interesting, if by now shopworn, questions: What happens now? And who will do what?
As for Trump, if you are at all surprised that he’s running, then you really have not being paying attention these last few decades. Of course, it’s about power and money. But mostly its about ego and revenge. And he knows he has to move quickly.
Trump may not be a deep strategic thinker, but he understands that if he doesn’t run he instantly becomes irrelevant, and an embarrassing and deplorable artifact of political history. You’d be amazed how fast he never happened. The money would dry up, the ring kissing would fade away, and even Lindsey Graham might stop returning his calls. (Just kidding. That would never happen.)
But the longer he leaves anyone in doubt, the more doubts would fester. And the whispers would get louder: What about Ron DeSantis?
None of this requires a Ph.D. in either politics or psychology to understand. By announcing early, Trump hopes to:
Freeze the field:
He told Nuzzi:
“Let people know. I think a lot of people would not even run if I did that because, if you look at the polls, they don’t even register. Most of these people. And I think that you would actually have a backlash against them if they ran. People want me to run.”
Derail the investigations:
This may be wishcasting on his part, but Trump has a long history of successfully bullying prosecutors and regulators. By announcing, he thinks he can change the subject from his role in the insurrection (I think it will do the opposite), and maybe cause Merrick Garland et al. to flinch from charging him (more plausible).
In any case, he’s obviously worried about the various probes.
Advisors I’ve spoken with say that Trump is desperate to turn the national conversation away from Jan. 6. He’s calling around, asking for advice, and realizes he doesn’t have the same microphone he would have as a candidate. That’s a big thing that’s motivating him to announce.
He’s also obsessed with the perception that Jan. 6 is hurting him with big donors, who are tired of the antics and worry about how his Jan. 6 baggage will impact the presidential election if he decides to run. Not to mention they’re having a bit of a love affair right now with DeSantis, who they are donating to under the guise of his gubernatorial campaign. He’s raised more than $100 million.
Make the midterms about him:
To the extent there is a GOP establishment anymore, it dreads the prospect of a pre-election announcement because it would turn the midterms into a referendum on the former president, whose poll numbers remain ghastly. Team Normal understand that Trump’s early announcement is a huge gift to Joe Biden and the Democrats, who otherwise can’t seem to catch a break. (I wrote about this yesterday.)
Trump, to put it mildly, doesn’t give a shit, and hopes to take credit for the expected Republican sweep. And, again, it puts the squeeze on DeSantis, who is running for re-election in Florida this November.
Tim reviews the debate over whether DeSantis “would be less dangerous, less anti-democratic, and/or less authoritarian than Trump.”
Honestly, I think a reasonable case could be made for either view. You can peruse the various links above if you want to decide for yourself. As for me, gun to my head, I’d side with the people saying DeSantis would be less of an existential threat.
To be clear—saying someone is less of an existential threat to democracy than Donald Trump might be the faintest praise ever uttered in American politics. It doesn’t carry with it any rejection of the many legitimate concerns that we small-“l” liberals have about a potential DeSantis administration. It merely acknowledges that Trump’s psychopathy is so extreme as to put him in a category all of his own. And as such, anything that keeps him from darkening the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue again is almost certainly an improvement.
Fair enough. But Tim continues:
But what has struck me about this debate is less the hypotheticals than what is missing from it: any acknowledgement from Ron DeSantis or his staff that they believe he would be less dangerous than Donald Trump.
If it’s true that DeSantis is not a threat to our democracy, then why is this a proxy debate and not an explicit one?
A note about stalking horses
Don’t assume it will be DeSantis who would take down TFG, at least not initially.
Let me offer a geeky historical note with a personal connection: In 1968, It wasn’t Robert F. Kennedy who exposed LBJ’s political vulnerability . . . it was the far less prominent Minnesota senator Eugene McCarthy.
When RFK whiffed on the chance to challenge the incumbent president, McCarthy picked up the anti-LBJ standard and shocked the sitting president by doing better in the New Hampshire primary than anyone expected. And he was poised to beat Johnson in the Wisconsin primary in April.
Only after it had become clear that Johnson was beatable did Kennedy decide to get into the race. Just days before the Wisconsin vote, on March 16, 1968, Kennedy declared, “I am today announcing my candidacy for the presidency of the United States. I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies.” RFK’s folks wanted McCarthy to step aside, but having run where Kennedy had feared to tread, McCarthy declined. At the time, my father, Jay G. Sykes, was McCarthy’s Wisconsin campaign director and his reaction to Kennedy’s last minute entry was less polite.
Here’s a picture of my father (center) with McCarthy as they watched Kennedy’s announcement. They were in Green Bay, Wisconsin at the time.
Days later, on March 31, 1968, LBJ made a televised speech, saying that he was suspending all bombing of North Vietnam in favor of peace talks, and that he would not be seeking re-election after all.
Lost, Not Stolen
We are political conservatives who have spent most of our adult lives working to support the Constitution and the conservative principles upon which it is based: limited government, liberty, equality of opportunity, freedom of religion, a strong national defense, and the rule of law.
We have become deeply troubled by efforts to overturn or discredit the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. There is no principle of our Republic more fundamental than the right of the People to elect our leaders and for their votes to be counted accurately. Efforts to thwart the People’s choice are deeply undemocratic and unpatriotic. Claims that an election was stolen, or that the outcome resulted from fraud, are deadly serious and should be made only on the basis of real and powerful evidence.
1. GOP Fears Senate debacle
Top Republicans, once confident about winning control of the Senate in the midterms, fear they'll blow it after nominating several deeply flawed candidates in winnable states, according to conversations with GOP strategists, pollsters and other officials.
Why it matters: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been sounding this alarm for months: electing fringe candidates with checkered pasts could squander a golden chance to reclaim power. Now, McConnell is left hoping for a red wave so wide and powerful that candidate quality is irrelevant.
What they're saying: "The environment is excellent for us. We just can't fumble the ball on the five-yard line," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a top McConnell lieutenant, told Axios.
2. ‘A real chilling effect’: A Lefty Scholar is Dumping CAP — For AEI
Teixeira, whose role in the Beltway scrum often involved arguing against calls to move right on economic issues, insists his own policy views haven’t changed — but says the current cultural milieu of progressive organizations “sends me running screaming from the left.”
“My perspective is, the single most important thing to focus on in the social system is the economic system,” he tells me. “It’s class.” We’re sitting in AEI’s elegantly furnished library. Down the hall, there’s a boisterous event celebrating the conservative intellectual Harvey Mansfield. William Kristol, clad in a suit, has just left the room. Teixeira’s untucked shirt and sneakers aren’t the only thing that seems out of place. “I’m just a social democrat, man. Trying to make the world a better place.”