Tell the truth -- are you starting to think of Donald Trump as the sympathetic underdog in the 2024 Republican Party primary race?
Now that I’ve gotten your attention – the notion of Trump being anything other than the top dog in every political wolf pack he runs with seems utterly preposterous, though there have been an inordinate amount of media (conservative and otherwise) stories about Trump being underestimated, too damaged, left for dead, part of American history, etc. lately. It’s almost like the next year had already played out and the former president was thoroughly rejected by the very voters who enthusiastically championed him in 2016 and again in 2020.
Anyone who’s paid attention to recent developments knows this can’t happen. Not that it won’t happen – it can’t happen. There still are millions of “only Trump” supporters out there and they won’t be dislodged from him by an upstart challenger come hell or high water, much less senile Joe Biden’s thematic about face during last week’s State of the Union speech (where the man basically stole Trump’s original-to-him populist themes regarding buying American, reviving manufacturing and helping the “forgotten” people).
Time will tell whether one, Florida’s Ron DeSantis enters the GOP primary race, two, if the 44-year-old will show as well on the national stage as he does in the glaring sunshine of his own state, and three, whether DeSantis can sustain a grueling, prolonged and possibly nasty campaign against the one who many regard as the savior of the semi-useless Republican Party (prior to Trump, that is).
For now, Trump is being studied closely to determine if he’s still the same political street fighter he prides himself to be or whether he’s lost a step. In a piece titled “DeSantis, Inc. Underestimates Donald Trump”, Matthew Boose wrote at American Greatness:
“Like so many commonplaces one finds on the lips of talking heads, ‘electability’ may prove to be a confection of partisans blinded by their own preferences. DeSantis might look ‘electable’ for now, but he has been playing the game on easy mode. ... Sure, he has dealt with his fair share of mean headlines, but nothing like the scorched-earth, whole-of-society persecution Trump has endured, and overcome, since entering politics.
“Somehow, despite being investigated more times than any man in American political history and being compared to Hitler virtually every day for the past seven years, Trump is, at this hour, topping Joe Biden in the polls, including with the elusive ‘independent voter.’ This is the man who we are told to believe ‘can’t win’ because he isn’t smooth enough for suburban moms.
“Monday morning quarterbacks on the Right tend to exaggerate Trump’s failures and whitewash the unprecedented opposition he has faced from every angle. That he is still competitive at this stage is a testament to his extraordinary character, which remains, as always, underestimated by his critics.”
Yes, it’s true. Many, including myself, have commented on Trump having more political lives than the most robust of cats in the annals of history. Trump perhaps embodies the old saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” better than anyone else on planet earth.
But much of Trump’s potential 2024 success depends on persuadable people giving him yet another chance, a test that will be made all the more demanding by the clown show depictions of Trump’s final days of his first term where folks dressed in Trump garb behaved badly in front of the whole world. Thanks to the awesome reporting of true patriots like Julie Kelly, we now know the feds had a big hand in fanning the flames on January 6, 2021.
But, again, the average American doesn’t pay close enough attention to sift through the official crapola emanating from the formerly credible federal intelligence agencies and justice department. How often will they say, “Uh, but the juries found them all guilty”? I can just hear it now from the defenders of the status quo. It’s like a curse, isn’t it?
For their part, Democrats are still attempting to milk January 6 for all it’s worth. Senile Joe Biden himself dropped “The Big Lie” fallacy among his multitude of bigger lies and distortions last week. Biden’s partisan audience ate it up, too – at least the ones who stood and applauded. How did you like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s ultraviolet yellow “Big Bird” outfit? (Look at me! Look at me! I’m still liberal! I still stand for Joe!)
Biden left no doubt that Trump was the focus of much of his wrath – and it contributes to the impression that Trump isn’t electable in 2024. Is Trump too damaged?
I personally haven’t seen it in practice, but general wisdom has it that a wounded dog is a dangerous dog. I suppose the old saying implies that the canine in question is hurting so badly that his or her normal docile demeanor is suppressed by concerns for his or her own wellbeing in such situations. Pain can be so overwhelming that one’s true nature is placed below mere survival.
Trump isn’t a dog and I doubt he would ever accept sympathy from anyone, but there’s little question the experiences of the past eight (or so) years have changed him. Somewhat. The lifelong real estate developer and reality TV (and tabloid) celebrity has always been a subscriber to the maxim “Never let them see you sweat”, but lately he’s displayed more of a vulnerable side.
First off, he’s lashed out at possible competitors – like Ron DeSantis – whereas before he’d simply coin a kooky nickname and pretend like that person didn’t exist. Trump admitted how he would feel hurt by DeSantis’s “disloyalty” if the Florida governor refused to bow and kiss the ring of the much older man. This doesn’t sound like someone who’s supremely confident about his own prospects for success, does it?
In Trump’s world, you win by steamrolling the competition, not by appealing to someone’s emotions about “disloyalty”.
Another thing I’ve noticed about Trump. He’s taken to recording short videos and posting them on his Truth Social media site – he released one last week relaying his response to senile Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech. There’s nothing tremendously unusual in doing this, but the presentations themselves are fairly dark and more difficult than it should be to view. Why not lighten them up a little? Trump is a master at lighting and interview staging – could it be that he’s hiding something with the dim videos?
Perhaps we’re reading too much into Trump’s every action, but that’s par for the course for a man who once lectured that any kind of publicity is beneficial, even if it’s negative. After what he’s gone through in politics, I wonder if Trump still believes it himself.
I don’t necessarily agree with Boose that conservatives are taking Trump too lightly and automatically counting him out before the contest even starts. Thus far there’s only Trump in the race, and the prospects for a good scrap won’t be greatly enhanced by the entrance of someone like Nikki Haley or Mike Pompeo into the GOP field.
There’s just as good of an argument that Haley or Pompeo – or Mike Pence – aren’t themselves “electable”. Trump broke the mold of loser Republican presidential candidates in 2016 mostly because he was able to shatter the “blue wall” in the upper Midwest in terms of the Electoral College. Democrats had captured Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin for as long as most people could remember.
Trump made these states competitive – and they’ll remain so as long as party constituencies keep shifting and Republicans maintain their advantage with voters who pay attention to what’s really going on in government and reject the leftward lurch of Washington under the guise of political pitchmen who insist they want to “help” citizens by raining socialism down on them.
Would the other GOP candidates – including Ron DeSantis – be Trump-ish enough to keep the upper Midwest in the Republican fold? With Georgia now thought of as a swing state – and Arizona, too – any Republican presidential hopeful must maintain the loyalty of Trump’s coalition. Simply put, victory is not possible without them. Those who so strongly harp on “electability” or “un-electability” had best learn this.
As time goes on, more and more American voters will turn their focus towards the future and a “What can you do for me?” orientation rather than harping on what happened two or four or six years ago. This will play to Donald Trump’s advantage. Any Republican candidate who plans to beat Trump had better stress the future with an eye towards taking on and defeating the Democrats and the swamp establishment rather than playing nicely with them.
So yes, due to his perceived lack of “electability”, some observers have begun treating Donald Trump like an underdog. If the notion persists, Trump himself would probably welcome the opportunity to be underestimated again, just like he was in 2016. Time and events will play out as they will, but no one should take Donald Trump lightly. That’s destined to bite you.
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