Many a political commentator, myself included, has remarked about how lifeless and devoid of dynamism the 2024 Republican nomination season has turned out to be, its utter lack of
regular “name” star power depriving the usually exciting horserace of much tension for the chatter-industry to blubber and whine about.
And yes, that observation includes the race’s runaway frontrunner, Donald Trump. Of course, Trump has enough star power in reserve to fuel a hundred presidential primary contests if he wished to make it that way, but he generally hasn’t chosen to use it against his opponents, instead opting to lay low and mostly snipe at the Republican ankle-biters through his TRUTH Social medium or by saying something cursory and (sometimes) ill-timed at one of his rallies.
Many would label the 2024 race as boring. That’s right. Donald Trump and boring in the same paragraph.
Was it Trump’s intention to take the edge off the struggle all along? In an article titled “Trump, who lives for drama, has created the dullest of nomination fights”, Adam Wren wrote last week at Politico:
“…Donald Trump is now polling above 60 percent nationally among Republican primary voters. Rather than sweat it out like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his once-chief rival who spent the weekend working a Sheraton Hotel ballroom in West Des Moines, Trump rang in the New Year at Mar-a-Lago by taking in a performance of a rapping Vanilla Ice and a dancing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
“And as the campaign turns this week to Iowa, the former president will arrive there having already iced the rest of the field, trouncing his competitors down the homestretch of what has seemed for months like a slow-motion coronation…
“Trump, who has skipped four GOP debates and largely forgone barnstorming early nominating states, hasn’t taken the primary lightly. His team has worked for endorsements, leaned on state parties and put in place a more sophisticated delegate operation. Trump himself will make a show of force in Iowa ahead of the caucuses… he will counterprogram a Jan. 10 CNN debate with a Fox town hall in Des Moines.”
Anyone who’s followed American politics since the emergence of Trump should’ve figured that the man plays to win. Kind of like facing the New England Patriots in the Tom Brady era (not anymore! Finish 4-13? Ouch!), opponents know ahead of time not to expect any mercy from the frontrunner. Trump has always maintained an “I want to win by more” type attitude, and his final campaign has definitely been no exception.
The behind-the-scenes ruminations from the Trump sphere haven’t been newsworthy, but neither were Barack Obama’s or George W. Bush’s before him. Trump must’ve figured he could count on eight years’ worth of goodwill to help him while keeping his opponents at bay. Was the race over before it even started? It certainly looks that way now. But some would say the journey hasn’t been as much “fun” as it was in the past. More business, less joy.
The reasons for a lack of drama in the Republican race are many. First and foremost, Trump has made it so. As a “new” politician in 2015/2016, Trump made headlines in the early going for his sheer pervasiveness in the media (establishment and otherwise). The major networks, surely thinking that he was a flash-in-the-pan type celebrity dabbling in politics, seemingly allowed him all the platform and coverage he desired – and he desired a lot.
Trump set the tone from the get-go, stating that Mexico wasn’t sending its finest to cross the border into the U.S., instead pushing murderers and rapists to pillage its northern neighbor. You could practically hear the audible gasps of horror from the snooty smart set, who must’ve wondered, who would say such things in public?
Trump once famously wrote that all media coverage is good, even if it’s negative. The establishment media saw Trump as a curiosity who instantly drew eyeballs and readers while constantly taking shots at the party leadership, which, to them, accomplished two things at once: weaken the Republican party and increased their readership/ratings.
But when Trump survived the 2016 early season vetting and debates relatively unscathed – to my recollection, he only lost the overall polling lead once, briefly ceding the title to fellow outsider Ben Carson in the fall of 2015 – and began actually doing well in the early voting states, the media’s focus morphed from fascinated cheerleader that propelled the Trump circus to more of a “He’s destroying the Republican Party” type concentration.
Trump continues uttering controversial things, as expected, but the establishment media has ignored them to a much greater degree during the 2024 campaign. The former president is still talking about the 2020 election being stolen, but the media boobirds now cut off the discussion before it even starts, labelling Trump’s gripes as “false claims” and “lies”.
Second, expectations have changed over the years. Again, from 2015/2016, not many gave credence to Trump’s authentic political staying power. Many a disbelieving pundit dismissed the polls that indicated Trump was competitive with much more established politicians such as Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, reasoning the newcomer’s disdain for retail politics would end up hurting him when the time came to cast the votes.
Trump had an army of willing and devoted volunteers, however, and his largely self-funded campaign focus on collecting data from attendees at his big rallies was at least equal to the prior tried-and-true practice of canvassing for supporters at diners and fire stations that had always been done by candidates for president in both parties.
Who would turnout? Would they really back a guy who just flew in for an appearance and then returned to wherever he came from on a big airplane with “TRUMP” emblazoned on it?
The “experts” said Trump’s big-event strategy wouldn’t work. Many were then shocked at the returns coming in from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which demonstrated that there really were gobs of Trump-sters out there, even at the beginning. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio gave Trump much more of a battle eight years ago, but no one’s bragging that Trump’s support isn’t real this time.
Trump is expected to have a large force of supporters. And he’s retained their loyalty, too.
Third, Trump let it be known early on that he wouldn’t be attending the party establishment’s primary debates, thus depriving the not-Trumpers of their best opportunities to damage him. The establishment media desperately craved to see Mike Pence and Chris Christie and the others on stage with Trump. But he didn’t oblige them.
Trump said he wasn’t going to any of the made-for-TV forums and hasn’t wavered. And his lead only grew in the interim time.
Fourth, Trump has largely spared young thirty-something upstart Vivek Ramaswamy of any direct criticism, which has all-but removed one possible avenue of excitement from the establishment media portfolio of potential fireworks starters. For his part, Ramaswamy has repeatedly praised Trump’s first administration while suggesting in rather boastful terms that he could carry the torch forward better than Trump, which one would usually think would earn a stern retort from the man roughly twice the political neophyte’s age.
Ramaswamy needed a means to fuel his campaign while also remaining onboard with Trump’s MAGA movement, so his “we need a next generation of leaders” tack was really all he had. Vivek was brimming with ideas and often championed subjects and causes that largely were overlooked or ignored by the “bigger” candidates, but his overt appeals to younger Americans doesn’t appear to have had much effect.
As I’ve written on a number of occasions, Ramaswamy, thanks to his audacious 2024 run for president, has inserted his name into the lexicon of the future for political office. The Ohioan first-time politician surely realized early on that he had little to no chance to make a serious run at the Republican party nomination with Trump in the field, so here’s thinking it’s all about tomorrow for a new face who’s about the same age as Pete Buttigieg for the Democrats, but who’s a thousand times smarter and more capable than the ambitious leftist homosexual former mayor of a small midwestern city.
Lastly, the not-Trump candidates lacked presidential stature – and/or the ability to create it. This reflection is perhaps unfair to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an elected official who had received a great deal of pre-race media scrutiny following his big 2022 reelection win in Florida in addition to his state’s ongoing war against woke, but compared to Trump’s me-against-the-ruling-class crusade opposed to the Washington swamp, DeSantis’s campaign just couldn’t keep up.
Trump’s GOP competition tried arguing that he was too controversial, too burdened by official witch hunts, too old and too “yesterday’s news” to be an effective head of the party going into the crucial 2024 general election. Yet none of them could make a dent in the Trump MAGA persona and mission, a cause that was only bolstered by president senile Joe Biden’s absolute corruption and incompetence.
Many Trump detractors theorized that Biden didn’t matter, since Trump’s presence on any ballot would motivate waves of haters to come out of their roach holes and pull the lever for anyone versus the 45th president, which would lead to disastrous defeat and the end of America. In essence, Trump had to be removed by his own party’s voters.
But none of the 2024 not-Trump candidates made the case that he or she should be the lone survivor after Trump was sent packing. They didn’t have the stature, the gravitas, the… whatever… to supplant Trump. Trump contributed to the voters’ impressions by belittling his opponents, which myself and others have criticized as not wise.
But it worked.
So yes, the 2024 Republican presidential primary race has been boring by historical standards. Just as every nominating cycle is different, this year’s conditions fostered voter attitudes that called out for the controversial if reassuring presence of Donald Trump. The polls have forecasted a big Trump triumph, but the “real” voting begins next week.
Will it be exciting?
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