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Protecting The Donald
The RNC’s 2024 mission.
Predictions are always risky, but I think it is safe to say that Brave Sir Donald will never under any circumstances get on a debate stage with Liz Cheney.
Reports Ron Brownstein in the Atlantic: “The general feeling among Republicans I spoke with this week is that the RNC would go to almost absurd lengths to avoid allowing Cheney to appear on the same debate stage as Trump.”
Well, yes. And the key words here are “absurd lengths.”
Let’s break out the popcorn for a moment to imagine the mind of RNC Chairwoman Ronna [
Romney] McDaniel circa 2024, as she struggles to shield, coddle, appease, and protect the Orange God King from his 5′3″ nemesis.
It’s not that hard, since [
Romney] McDaniel has a track record. It’s not beyond her to cancel primaries and caucuses, or even scrap the party’s platform altogether.
So a debate — an actual face-to-face confrontation between the disgraced, twice-impeached, defeated, chronically lying narcissist and his most loathed antagonist — is not going to happen.
“Imagine,” writes the Wapo’s Aaron Blake, “Cheney pressing the case against Trump not just in Jan. 6 committee hearings, but also doing it to his face.”
There is no circle in the MAGA Hell too deep or fetid for an RNC that even thinks about allowing that to happen.
Brownstein talked with our colleague Bill Kristol, who “predicted that the party might try to exclude her by requiring any candidate participating in a RNC-sanctioned debate to commit to supporting the party’s eventual nominee in the general election—something Cheney’s determination to stop Trump would not allow her to do. (In 2016, the RNC imposed such a loyalty oath primarily out of fear that Trump wouldn’t endorse the nominee if he lost. Trump signed it but characteristically renounced it in the race’s latter stage.)”
But the pretext they will use to exclude Cheney isn’t important. If they have to, the pigeon-hearts of the RNC will just make up some other sh*t, because the leash from Mar-a-Lago will be very short and very, very tight.
Make sure you read Brownstein’s whole piece, which lays out what a Cheney 2024 bid would look like. No one, including Cheney herself, thinks she could actually win. It would be a kamikaze mission; but it would be a helluva ride.
“Of course she doesn’t win,” Bill Kristol, the longtime strategist who has become one of Trump’s fiercest conservative critics, told me. But, he added, if Cheney “makes the point over and over again” that Trump represents a unique threat to American democracy and “forces the other candidates to come to grips” with that argument, she “could have a pretty significant effect” on Trump’s chances.
Unlike, say, Joe Walsh or Bill Weld, Cheney’s quixotic bid would be able to muster some formidable firepower. Brownstein writes:
Her name identification is extremely high, for both her familial ties and her prominence as a Trump critic. Her potential fundraising base is strong: Through late July, she had already raised more than $15 million in her House race, and in a presidential run, she could tap into a huge pool of small-dollar donors (many of them Democrats) determined to block Trump. And with her unflinching attacks on the former president, she would be ensured bottomless media coverage.
All of which would give TrumpWorld and the RNC fits. To the surprise of absolutely no one, their reaction will be petulant and petty.
[In] other states—including Iowa and South Carolina—the state party controls whose name can be included on the primary ballot. And in at least some of those places, either the state party or the Republican National Committee, which has subordinated itself to Trump under Chair Ronna McDaniel, would likely move to keep Cheney off the ballot as a means of protecting him.
Reeks of confidence and courage doesn’t it?
But, if she can’t win (and she can’t) what’s the point of a Cheney presidential bid?
An excellent question that Brownstein posed to a bunch of smart people, including our publisher, Sarah Longwell.
The best-case scenario for the Trump critics if Cheney runs is that her battering-ram attacks weaken him to the point that someone else can capture the nomination. As Longwell told me, even if “Liz likely cannot win a Republican primary (though anything can happen!) … she can play a significant role in helping someone else beat Trump in a Republican primary.”
More likely, however, she could weaken him to the point he becomes unelectable in the general election. As Brownstein notes that “The only plausible way to break Trump’s hold on the GOP . . . is to show that Trump, or Trumpism, cannot win national elections.”
Even if Cheney cannot deny Trump the nomination, she could still ultimately loosen his hold on the party, this thinking goes, if she persuades enough centrist and white-collar voters to reject him and ensure his defeat in a general election. To save the party, in other words, Cheney might first have to be willing to destroy it.
ICYMI: Tom Nichols and I took a deep dive into Cheney’s defeat, her defiant concession, and possible kamikaze presidential bid in yesterday’s Bulwark podcast:
Cheney’s defeat was no surprise, but it is an especially bitter pill to swallow for the Never Trump former Republicans (as Charlie Sykes and I discussed in a podcast today) who saw Cheney as the last outpost of the party they once knew. Cheney nodded to the GOP’s free fall in her concession speech. “I believe deeply in the principles and the ideals on which my party was founded,” she told her supporters. “I love its history, and I love what our party has stood for, but I love my country more.”
Notice the use of the past tense there.
The best thing you will read today…
As we struggle to the end of another deplorable week, make sure you check out this utterly delicious NYT review of Jared’s new fail-book:
“Breaking History” is an earnest and soulless — Kushner looks like a mannequin, and he writes like one — and peculiarly selective appraisal of Donald J. Trump’s term in office. Kushner almost entirely ignores the chaos, the alienation of allies, the breaking of laws and norms, the flirtations with dictators, the comprehensive loss of America’s moral leadership, and so on, ad infinitum, to speak about his boyish tinkering (the “mechanic”) with issues he was interested in.
It gets even better.
This book is like a tour of a once majestic 18th-century wooden house, now burned to its foundations, that focuses solely on, and rejoices in, what’s left amid the ashes: the two singed bathtubs, the gravel driveway and the mailbox. Kushner’s fealty to Trump remains absolute.
Reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo.
Not an actual picture of Jared.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin
Feel free to restrain any irrational exuberance you might feel, but this new poll is . . . interesting: “Marquette poll shows Mandela Barnes with 7-point lead over U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.”
With a post-primary bump, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Mandela Barnes surged to a 7-point lead in his race against Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, while Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was locked in a tight battle with GOP nominee Tim Michels, according to Wednesday's Marquette University Law School Poll.
In the Senate race, Barnes was at 51% while Johnson, who is running for a third term, was at 44%.
Two caveats: (1) Barnes is still relatively unknown and has not yet been subjected to an avalanche of negative oppo research, (2) Ronjon trailed in late summer polls six years ago, before winning comfortably.
This suggests two possibilities:
(1) Ronjon may be so uniquely unpopular that he might lose even to a very progressive Democrat.
(2) I could have been wrong about Barnes’s electability.
They are not mutually exclusive.
Bonus: More warning signs for Johnson:
Here’s another striking finding from the Wisconsin poll:
This may be a problem for the GOP nominee for governor, Tim Michels.
He has said that the state’s 1849 ban on abortion — that doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest — is “an exact mirror” of his position. State Democrats are already highlighting this clip: