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You Are Helping Trump
The case for Chris Christie, Tim Scott, and every other Republican (but one) to drop out of the primaries.
THE PRE-PRIMARY YEAR is winding down and clarity is coming to the Republican presidential race. While it is true that New Hampshire’s and Iowa’s primary voters only start to focus in the ten weeks before their January contests, it is also true that the holiday season must be a moment of hard clarity for every contender.
Mike Pence has already made the right, tough decision: He dropped out on Saturday.
Governor Christie: You’re up next. It’s over. Get out of the race now; by staying in, you are only helping Trump.
Make no mistake, I greatly enjoy Christie’s anti-Donald broadsides. They are true, heartfelt, and well deserved. But Christie has had nearly a year to become viable against Trump, and he’s failed.
The only thing holding Christie’s campaign together right now is the theory he’ll be able to pull a big portion of Trump-despising New Hampshire Republican and independent voters into his effort. But sadly, that’s only a prescription to . . . help Trump survive New Hampshire.
Now, I know what Christie’s supporters will say: Look out! You’ll see! We are heading for a magic McCain-style N.H. upset that will set the political world ablaze!
Well, I was there with McCain in 2000. Every day. For months. And sorry, Chris, you are right about Trump, but you ain’t John McCain.
I wish it were true that Christie’s claws were indeed headed toward Trump’s jugular in New Hampshire, I really do. But alas, Christie’s campaign faces an impossible hurdle: New Hampshire primary voters really hate him.
Look to history, since we have been here before. In 2015 and 2016 Christie took his patented Jersey Boy act to New Hampshire during his first campaign for president. Then too, Christie gave the Granite State the full treatment: blustery town halls with his tell-it-like-it-is persona, a hard sales pitch on his gubernatorial record of (self-proclaimed) miraculous accomplishment, the works.
And after all that? They hated him. Check these results from the 2016 New Hampshire primary:
There is no Christie Magic waiting to stun the world in New Hampshire. He’ll get some votes, for sure, but not nearly enough to beat Trump. So if Christie really, really cares most about stopping Donald Trump, then his sole option is clear: He should get out of the race today. The 6 percent to 10 percent he is currently polling at in New Hampshire is nothing more than a dead-letter box for Not Trump Again voters. And that is a horrific waste.
The story is the same for Tim Scott. I admit I had high early, if theoretical, hopes for Scott; I think the party is dying for a candidate of conservative optimism. But Scott has utterly failed to run as that candidate. Instead he’s waged a thoughtless styrofoam campaign of thin platitudes, raising his favorable ratings among Republican primary voters while doing absolutely nothing to convince anybody he should actually be president of the United States. When your favorable rating in the early states is 70 percent but only 5 or 6 percent of primary voters are making you their choice for POTUS, it’s a huge tell. So it’s no surprise Scott has been reduced to a pile of road clutter in the race. He, too, should think seriously about what’s at stake in the big picture and immediately join Pence in making the big swan dive.
Now, I’m told Sen. Scott wants to stay around for the Miami debate (assuming he qualifies for it) and then linger through the Iowa caucus, where a political wood chipper awaits with his name stenciled on it. In a classic bit of last-stand dramatics, Scott recently redeployed the bulk of his staff to Iowa. That reflects the usual fading candidate’s self-rationalization: I owe it to my supporters to stay and fight on, blah blah.
But that’s bullshit. None of these candidates owe their supporters anything. What they owe is to American democracy. Their duty is to avoid luring anti-Trump voters in the early primaries and caucus into wasting their votes.
And regarding the quiet, cynical voice in Scott’s head telling him to Stay in, it’ll help Trump, and you’ll become VP—that’s a pipe dream, as well. Trump hates losers; Scott will never be his VP. Far better for Scott to get out now, when it means something, than to zombie-limp through Iowa only to fall into politics’ bottomless “who cares” pit after a huge caucus day defeat in January.
The wise, honorable move is to pull the plug now.
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THE DESANTIS SITUATION IS TRICKIER. He should get out, but he won’t. That’s because he has more raw ingredients to cook up a fantasy of success than the others. But he, too, stands in the way of the greater cause. And while I wish DeSantis valued the country more than he values his own political career, don’t ask me to make that hopeless bet.
The important thing for these candidates to understand is that now, in the clutch, it’s no longer about them. They had their shots; they all had the commendable guts to try, and it didn’t work. They weren’t chickens like Glenn Youngkin and Brian Kemp. Bravo to them. But now they owe the winner of the 2023 pre-season a clean shot to beat Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire.
That pre-season winner is Nikki Haley. To be clear, I’ve been a grade-A Nikki Haley critic. I’ve found her to be depressingly cynical. If left up to me, her Secret Service code name would be “Too Clever By Half.” But in a race against the ghoulish, democracy-loathing madman Donald Trump, it’s an easy call: Go Nikki, go. I’m all in.
WHY? ALONE AMONG THE CONTENDERS, she he has a shot.
Nikki stumbled to the top in the last four months because she is the most talented candidate in the also-ran caucus.
She’s also the only candidate running for real in both Iowa and New Hampshire. If she is able to pull off upsets in the first two states, Trump will be hobbled and she’ll have a real chance to administer the killing blow in South Carolina.
Her messaging has been wobbly and inconsistent, but she has shown sparks—hard for her, I am sure—of telling the truth about Donald Trump.
And it’s working. She’s slowly, steadily, moving up. I was all over New Hampshire in August and you can feel movement toward her. It might not be enough, but the only upward energy is hers. It shows in fundraising too; the movable feast of “please not Trump again” donors who started with DeSantis and then moved to Scott have now landed on Haley. She is now the last hope to save the Republican party.
But not with zombie candidates wobbling about and cluttering her path. Christie, Scott, Burgum, and the rest: Get out of this race now. Forget Miami. Forget praying for a Magic Hobo to suddenly appear and hand you a shocking victory in Iowa or New Hampshire. Be patriots and serve the vital cause instead: Clear the way for Nikki Haley to take on Trump. Before it is too late.