Politics & Media
Aug 23, 2023, 06:28AM

Who Else But Trump?

Where is this anti-Trump majority for pols like Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence? It doesn’t exist.

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The GOP primaries are still months away, but the largest bloc of voters is pro-Trump. Candidates need to make their pitch to Trump supporters in the primary if they want to have a chance of beating him, not the anti-Trump voter. Voters are not a monolith. Let’s say the Emerson New Hampshire poll is correct, and about half of the Republican voters prefer Trump, and half prefer someone else. Among those who prefer a non-Trump candidate, some are fans of the former president. Some are backing entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Others are going for Ron DeSantis. I know people who say they’re voting for either of those two but still like Trump; they merely think those two men could be better.

When pollsters start conducting more hypothetical head-to-head primary matchups if support in the polls remains constant, Trump would dominate. Too many Republicans like the former president for someone to build an anti-Trump coalition to win the primary. Some might wonder: how could Republicans continue to like Trump after his four years in the White House, the 2020 election, and January 6? Some were appalled by the J6 violence but acknowledge that he got many right-wing priorities done in the White House. The economy was strong before the coronavirus pandemic. He cut taxes. He got justices on the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade and affirmative action in college admissions. He never started a new war, built several hundred miles of border wall, and enacted a public charge rule regarding immigration.

Also, Trump got more than 74 million votes in the 2020 election. Nearly all Republicans backed Trump at one point or another, so attacking him non-stop and pretending, as a Republican presidential candidate, that everything Trump was negative is nonsense. Maybe that’s a good idea for a Democrat in a blue district, but not for those trying to get votes in a party where the average voter is conservative.

The dumbest Republican campaign is that of Chris Christie. While Christie can be an entertaining listen on a podcast—like when he told the story of when Trump told White House reporters off the record that Christie gave him coronavirus—he’s not a serious candidate. Some polls have him in a distant second place, including New Hampshire, but he runs into two problems. He’s running the most vicious anti-Trump campaign of any candidate in a party that twice nominated Trump for the presidency.

Trump had a 66 percent approval rating among Republican voters last month, according to Pew Research, while 32 percent disapproved. So where is this anti-Trump majority for someone like Christie, Nikki Haley, or Mike Pence? It doesn’t exist.

A culture warrior who likes Ron DeSantis might prefer Trump to Chris Christie or Nikki Haley. Couple that with support for the increasingly unpopular war in Ukraine from Christie, Haley, and Pence, and their strategies appear even less competent. DeSantis and Ramaswamy, like Trump, want to see the war end, limiting further death and destruction. A leaked DeSantis campaign memo shows the DeSantis campaign understands the best way to gain support is by appealing to Trump supporters. It urged DeSantis to attack Christie and defend Trump during the first presidential debate. It’s a good idea as Christie unites people across the political spectrum; everyone outside a handful of establishment Republicans hates the guy.


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