It’s always interesting, in kind of a curious, semi-morbid way, when a football coach is asked during a postgame press conference about a star player being sidelined by an injury or a contract dispute, etc. – something that will keep his performer from suiting up for the next game or games.
The coach’s reply typically goes like this: “Next man up. Everyone knows, in this business, your opportunity might just be a play away. You gotta be ready when the moment arrives, and your teammates will depend on you and support you just as though [star player such and such] was still in the lineup.”
Of course, everyone in professional football is pretty darn good, or else they wouldn’t be there to begin with. There aren’t many weak links when millions of dollars are on the line. Stars are stars because they’re marginally better than who they would be replaced by, but the drop-off in performance isn’t huge, and probably not even noticeable to the average fan (not talking about fantasy football here!).
Politics is a completely different animal in most ways, particularly at the upper echelons of the political arena. 2024 looks to be a rematch of 2020’s presidential race between current president (and 2020 winner) senile Joe Biden and the bumbling Delawarean’s predecessor, former president Donald Trump.
Both are at the top end of their age group and both have potential legal pitfalls that could cause party adherents to search for the “next man (or woman) up”. Apparently, there’s an unspoken competition taking place in Republican Party circles to determine who would be Trump’s backup should the GOP find itself in a situation where their star performer was placed, for whatever reason, on the political “Not able to perform” list.
“Here is the danger for Trump’s GOP rivals: If any Republican candidate even hints that the prosecutions are legitimate or that Trump deserves them — in other words, agrees with Democrats and Never Trumpers and all the others who are pursuing the former president — that candidate would have big, big problems with the GOP base. ‘The Never Trumpers have negative clout with the grassroots,’ noted Dave Carney, the veteran GOP strategist based in New Hampshire. ‘[The Never Trumpers’] selection is doomed.’
“But there is one more complication. If legal troubles did somehow knock Trump out of the race, some Republican would have to be the party’s candidate. And whoever that is, he or she might have a good chance against the too-old and too-weak President Joe Biden. There is a big prize awaiting the candidate who can walk a fine line between opposing the Trump prosecutions and becoming the GOP standard-bearer if the prosecutions work...
“At the end of all that, it’s time again to remind that this situation is entirely unprecedented. Nothing like this has happened before in American politics. Haley and Trump, too, are having to deal with the situation in real time. It will be unprecedented if Trump stays in the race, and it will be unprecedented if he leaves the race. No one knows exactly how either situation would work. The Republican Party and the nation are headed for unknown territory.”
Seriously? Should we devote time and energy to contemplating a Trump-less GOP? I suppose someone has to think about it, especially since Trump’s life clock is pushing towards eighty (he’ll turn 78 on Flag Day in June), and although he certainly looks young, healthy and vigorous for that actuarial milestone, Father Time waits for no one.
York’s article primarily centered on the likelihood of one of the court cases felling Trump before he reaches his Election Day finish line this year, a distinct possibility, but still a far-fetched one. Without going into the deliberations and machinations of each set of charges against Trump, it just doesn’t seem plausible that any of them will overcome the multitude of procedural roadblocks (appeals, Supreme Court rulings on immunity, privilege, etc.) – and the waves of public opinion weighing on the movers – to come to a point where we see a convicted Trump taken behind those unmarked doors in the back of every courtroom to be outfitted in an orange jumpsuit and locked with restraints, plastic or otherwise.
Forget for a moment the legal gymnastics stunts that the self-interested leftist prosecutors would need to score perfect tens on to win their cases, but how would the authorities find enough jail personnel, jury members, security details and courtroom visitor screeners to work on the day(s) that Trump could potentially be found “guilty” of a charge and whisked away from public view?
It was one thing to secure these necessaries for someone like South Carolina’s Alex Murdaugh last year, it’d be an entirely different scenario for a defendant who is basically in line to re-become the leader of the free world. Assuming that at least a certain percentage of these people are Trump supporters, would they just set aside all personal views to “do their jobs” for a system that is so indisputably corrupt and broken?
Here’s thinking we’ll never need to see what happens in any case, because the notion of actually convicting Trump – and hence, creating the need for a “replacement” – is pretty absurd. The legal system, with all its flaws, still has a human element that can’t be overcome in every circumstance no matter how compromised and shady the people running the show (i.e. the Biden administration and Merrick Garland) might be.
A much more real possibility is Trump gets sick or encounters another type of health situation from which even he couldn’t recover or overlook. Trump has said in the past that the only thing that could stop him was a health scare, and it’s not exactly inconceivable that one might develop at some point this year.
Or, it’s also within the realm of contemplation that Trump could grow so tired of the rigmarole he opted to step away. And we might see flying monkeys (from the “Wizard of Oz”) patrolling the sky, too.
Regardless of the feasibility of such a prospect, Byron York did bring up an interesting topic. If, indeed, as York insists, there’s currently a shadow competition to determine who would follow a sudden Trump exit – who would be the next man (or woman) up, so to speak – the possibilities are both endless and extremely narrow simultaneously.
Surely the Republican establishment would be at the front of the line to claim something like, “The party is ours, and, since the primary season is either over or all-but concluded, we’ll choose a new nominee at the party convention based on the rules established for such a circumstance. Further, party Chair Ronna McDaniel will consult with other Republican officials to come up with qualified candidates who meet the criteria.”
Here's guessing, if this were to happen, the Bush wing would push for someone like Mitt Romney to act as an “emergency” replacement since Mitt has already been through the full campaign, is widely known by the American people and is “moderate” enough with a record of “bipartisan votes” to theoretically appeal to a broad swatch of American voters. Where Donald Trump was controversial, Romney is loved by everybody, right? Can’t you just see Karl Rove making the nomination and George W. Bush taking a break from his painting hobby to give his approval?
Likewise, Nikki Haley would instantly step forward and demand that the nomination be given to her, since she’s the last not-Trump challenger standing and has earned more actual votes and delegates than any other candidate not named Trump. In fact, there are many observers who think she’s remaining in the race after it’s already been decided to be available for just such an exigency.
Nikki, in her own fantastical mind, believes she’s the “next woman up” on the GOP roster.
Meanwhile, the folks in Trump’s orbit would (rightly) claim that the nomination is theirs to deal with as they please – and to exclude whomever didn’t fit into the MAGA mold. If the sudden opening arose after the would-be nominee had already announced his choice for vice president, the nomination would then go to that person. Or so I’m guessing.
Those in Trump’s orbit would strenuously contest any claim to the position by Nikki Haley, since she hasn’t won anything and hasn’t demonstrated an ability to win over anyone except Trump-haters, Trump-rejecting independents in New Hampshire and a token few Republican hangers-on who were “anyone-but-Trump” from the beginning.
Nikki Haley didn’t even receive the endorsement of rotund big mouth Trump-basher Chris Christie, so how could she assert ownership over a vacated presidential nomination?
At this point, if Trump were to step away – or if some other health-related anomalies were to happen – the Republican party would be thrown into unprecedented turmoil because, for all intents and purposes, Trump is the GOP right now. Democrats mock conservatives by saying “it’s Trump’s Republican Party” which isn’t different from the political watchers who said it was “Barack Obama’s Democrat Party” or “It is Bill Clinton’s Party”.
The main distinction is the Democrat establishment has much greater sway over the leftist grassroots and there’s complete ideological agreement in the party ranks. How else would they stay together behind Joe Biden and cackling Kamala Harris?
The truth is, no one knows who would come next in the GOP after Donald Trump. All we could say for sure is it wouldn’t be Nikki Haley. She’s burned bridges that were never even built with conservatives. She’s history after this year’s primary race concludes.
Should Trump be disabled by health or circumstance going into this year’s election, there would be a massive intra-party power struggle between conservatives and the blueblood establishment to determine who would take his position. It’s a conversation we’d rather avoid at this stage, but it never hurts to have a “next man up” contingency plan in place just in case, no?
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2024 presidential election