Imagine you are advising one of Donald Trump’s primary rivals for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination.
Your candidate has challenged you to come up with an interesting new campaign angle to use on the stump, claiming that all of the usual arguments about the frontrunner – he’s too old, too divisive, too mired in legal and criminal problems, etc. – are falling flat with audiences, especially in the “retail politics” states at the front of 2024’s voting calendar. But instead of sending a campaign staffer to take another deep dive into the news archives trying to dredge up or reinforce one of the well-worn topics, you advise him or her to keep it simple: namely, you, candidate X, can run for a second term at the end of your first, giving you, literally, twice as much opportunity to get your agenda passed in Congress if successful.
That’s badly needed additional years to build relationships with lawmakers, make trips to the states to sell your proposals, issue executive orders, use the bully pulpit to establish new narratives on controversial topics such as abortion and “climate change”, anoint judicial appointments and… generally go down in history as a president who made a difference.
Even the most uninformed are aware Donald Trump is constitutionally limited to one more four-year term, meaning he’ll effectively become a lame duck on his second Inauguration Day. True, four years is a long time, and Trump would start his second go ‘round with a significant head start on continuing his push to Make America Great Again, but there’s little doubt that the 47th president would be hindered, to some degree, by being unable to go beyond 2028 in everyone’s estimation.
So why not recommend to your candidate that he or she tout how they can take eight years to do what Trump would max out at four to do? Could the deep state agencies truly be reformed or dismantled in four short years? Will the rot in the federal bureaucracy be swept away in only four trips around the sun? The old saying goes that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Can the next president get enough done in just one term? Could being term limited be Donald Trump’s most vulnerable position?
It's an interesting concept, an angle a few of the GOP candidates have latched onto. In an article titled “Trump’s GOP rivals nudge primary voters to consider the promise of eight years vs. four”, Tom Howell Jr. reported at The Washington Times:
“Former President Donald Trump dominates the GOP primary field in early polling, but his rivals are ready to exploit a potential weakness: He can only serve one term if he wins in 2024. A group of former Trump officials recently formed ‘The Eight-Year Alliance’ in support of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying the GOP’s to-do list ‘simply can’t be done by a president who becomes a lame duck on his first day in office.’
“Mr. DeSantis gave a not-so-subtle nod to Mr. Trump’s term limit in saying the next president could play a role in nominating successors to Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. over two terms.
“’It is possible that in those eight years, we would have the opportunity to fortify Justices Alito and Thomas, as well as actually make improvements with those others and if you were able to do that then you would have a 7-2 conservative majority on the Supreme Court that would last a quarter century, so this is big stuff,’ Mr. DeSantis, who launched his 2024 presidential bid last Wednesday, told the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando [last] month.”
You can hardly blame DeSantis for playing the “age” card in a subtle way most observers probably wouldn’t even notice. Trump would be halfway through his 78th year if he wins a second term and be about the same age senile Joe Biden would be (in 2025), 82, when he ended it. It’s strongly implied that he would be considered too old to run again anyway if that were the case, no matter how many times the former commander in chief has joked about changing the Constitution to allow for a legal third term.
Of course, Trump plays with the emotions of the establishment media when he refuses to answer their perpetual “would you accept the results of the 2024 election” questions, surmising that they’ll whip themselves into a frenzy by the notion of Trump lasting forever. But on the one term/two term quandary, there’s really no such dilemma, since Trump would be constrained by law.
Here’s thinking Trump’s Republican intra-party opponents would be foolish not to use the four-year/eight-year restriction against him. As Howell mentioned in his article, there will be additional scrutiny of Trump’s running mate next year if he ends up the nominee, because that person becomes the de facto next-in-line in 2028 regardless of how 2024 plays out. If the new vice president is well loved by the MAGA grassroots, Trump’s lame duck status issue almost becomes moot.
DeSantis said the other day that Trump is off his game this time around, which could be another semi-unique way to perhaps cast doubt in the minds of convincible Republican primary voters.
For a man who seemed so talented at encapsulating his opponents with simple smears that just about everyone could recall at the drop of a hat in 2016, Trump has (somewhat) misfired this year with “DeSanctimonious”, don’t you think? First of all, what does “DeSanctimonious” even connote? That Ron DeSantis is or isn’t “sanctimonious”? What does that equate to?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “sanctimonious” means, one, “hypocritically pious or devout”, or two, “obsolete”, neither of which seemingly describes Ron DeSantis, unless Trump intended to argue the Florida governor isn’t a true religious believer, or, that Gov. Ron is past his prime politically (obsolete) and doesn’t really matter anymore. Add the “De” in front of “sanctimonious” and that basically insinuates that DeSantis isn’t “hypocritically pious or devout” – and the “De” would maintain that the Floridian isn’t “obsolete”, either.
Regardless of what you think of his politics, the Yale and Harvard Law School educated DeSantis is a pretty smart guy, seeing as he went to those institutions back when they actually taught stuff on high level thinking rather than merely propping up “wokeism” at the expense of real academic achievement. At any rate, the brainy DeSantis surely grasps what “sanctimonious” means and figured that Trump’s new nickname for him was basically not harmful at all, first because it’s somewhat hard to pronounce, and second, the average voter couldn’t care less about what it is supposed to mean.
“DeSanctimonious” pales in comparison to Trump’s slate of 2016 sobriquets, all of which were clearly barbed insults to the recipient of the dishonor, were exceptionally easy to comprehend and all-but goaded the establishment media to report on them – and even use them when the occasion fit. Who can forget “Low Energy Jeb” (Bush), or “Little Marco” (Rubio) or “Lyin’ Ted” (Cruz)? All of the jabs cut deep to those who had nothing to do with crafting the names but couldn’t seem to shake them, either.
Then, of course, on the Democrat side there was “Crazy Bernie” (Sanders), and the best slam of all, “Crooked Hillary” Clinton. One could almost sense the animosity Trump engendered from the two-faced leftist Democrats who certainly didn’t want it widely disseminated that Bernie Sanders was kind of a nutcase with bulged out eyes and wild hand gestures, and by the same token, liberals came to despise it that half the country commonly referred to Madame Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” – and not just on bumper stickers, either.
Heard together with chants of “Lock Her Up!”, “Crooked Hillary” was instantly branded as a sleazy, corrupted politician who gamed the system for advancement, not some saintly old granny who was sometimes shown in campaign paraphernalia reading stories to her grandkid. Hillary was nothing of the sort. What a phony!
Trump has yet to coin nicknames for his other 2024 GOP rivals – or if he has, I don’t remember hearing them – so it’s clear the former president views DeSantis as the main threat to his mission to gain a third Republican presidential nomination and a second term.
But whatever Trump does, it won’t completely dispel the notion that his time is limited. After the fallout from 2020, there was little doubt among longtime Trump observers that he would attempt a comeback of some sort, even if the thought of running for president again appeared to be a longshot. Trump proved the doubters wrong, but there’s no escaping from Father Time and the limits of the Constitution on the four-year/eight-year matter.
Some experts quoted in Howell’s article predicted that the fact Trump would be a lame duck from the outset wouldn’t be a hindrance to his most devoted fans. This certainly is correct, but the greater mystery is whether undecided conservative voters are inclined to think about his limitations in making their decision short of the voting booth.
There’s still a long way to go in the 2024 Republican primary race, and most, if not all, of the candidates are still finding their way. What they’re talking about today might be different months from now, but certain facts won’t change. Because of circumstances, Donald Trump cannot serve as president for more than four more years. Is this a non-issue, or potentially his Achilles heel?
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