I bet you didn’t realize this – but one year from tomorrow, July 15, 2024, the opening gavel of the Republican National Convention will fall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, signaling the start of the Republican Party’s official quadrennial nominating event.
For you calendar watchers, of which I am definitely one, tomorrow initiates the countdown to the always (sometimes?) entertaining political extravaganza featuring red, white and blue-clad party people clapping a lot, cheering some, chatting with old friends in the hallways and generally having a grand time listening to high-brow speeches about how the GOP is destined to send broken-down senile Joe Biden – or whomever the Democrats should draft to replace him – packing for a trip to the dustbin of history.
Or maybe a prison cell. Senile Joe likely won’t be sent to the Big House, but he might be there quite a bit visiting son Hunter as the scumbag does hard time for his multitude of crimes against decent society. That is, if the Biden Justice Department would ever do its job. Fat chance!
At any rate, it’s always fun to speculate on what the RNC will look like next year. The current Republican presidential primary race seems to be in a holding pattern. Former president Donald Trump is maintaining – and maybe even expanding – his lead over his lesser-known rivals. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a clear second, but hasn’t yet solidified his position as the lone “not Trump” candidate. The others are hanging around, touring the early states, burning through campaign cash and no doubt conducting strategy meeting after strategy meeting, hoping to discover the magic formula that would derail the Trump juggernaut.
Or at the very least, slow it down.
One year out from nomination, has Trump reached the inevitable point yet? In a piece titled “Air of inevitability builds around Trump’s bid for GOP nomination”, Seth McLaughlin reported at The Washington Times:
“In this third bid for the White House, Mr. Trump is far ahead of his closest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in national and early state polls and is running circles around the rest of the sprawling field. Even after losing reelection in 2020 and facing legal problems that threaten to put him behind bars for the rest of his life, he has a commanding lead.
“The building air of inevitability has Mr. Trump’s rivals clinging with hope to the example of the early stages of the 2008 Democratic primary race. Hillary Clinton was considered a near shoo-in for the nomination in early July, but her lead in the polls evaporated with the startling rise of Sen. Barack Obama...
“’Is it possible that [Trump’s] support could drop like Clinton’s did in 2008? Of course, but it wouldn’t be for any of the same reasons as that race,’ said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. ‘We have a one-term president with a cultlike following among a large portion of his partisan base attempting to stage a comeback in a crowded primary field. Looking backward for some clues on how this could play out is a pointless exercise,’ Mr. Murray said in an email. ‘There is no lesson other candidates can draw from past presidential contests because they are in completely uncharted territory.’”
Yes, we are in uncharted territory for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is Trump himself. More than just a candidate from outside of Washington, the uniqueness of Trump runs deep. There’s never been anyone quite like Trump in American politics, and there probably never will be anyone like him ever again.
The Trump haters say, “Good” to the last assertion. But there would be an undeniable void if Trump were to lose his grip on the nomination anytime soon. As McLaughlin wrote, the former president has the aura of inevitability, but that’s not to say it’s all over and the convention could start tomorrow instead of a year from now.
Here are some possible scenarios that could lead to a different nominee at next year’s RNC:
First and most obvious, if also most unlikely, Trump would drop out due to health or some other designated reason. DJT is, by all appearances, a healthy, vivacious ball of energy at age (just turned) 77. But by his own admission, he barely sleeps, and also has a highly volatile temper (as confirmed by many, many close observers). In addition, his eating habits are notoriously questionable (frequent fast food, eating once a day, addiction to diet soda, etc.).
I’m not claiming that Trump is defying the odds, but it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that he could receive medical news that would cause him to choose caution rather than forging full speed ahead and risking some catastrophic circumstance that would destroy his indomitable reputation.
Two, Trump’s competitors would conclude, among themselves, that everyone but one – most likely DeSantis -- should drop out so as to provide that person a one-on-one shot at the frontrunner.
Like with everything else, this picture is possible but highly unlikely, primarily because several of Trump’s fellow candidates aren’t necessarily anti-Trump; they’re more like pro-themselves, hoping to showcase a “team” attitude to be considered for the 2024 vice presidential nomination. They’ll go out of their way not to criticize Trump for anything and, in so doing, won’t say much of substance, either.
It's hard to see how the diverse group would suddenly come to a realization that Trump had to go. When would they do it? Wait until after Iowa? Or after New Hampshire? After Super Tuesday? Would that be too late? Would anyone listen at that late hour or would their “unity” and declaration only solidify Trump’s support?
Three, one of the lesser-known candidates performs out-of-this-world in the upcoming party debates, launching the buzz about an insurgent candidacy that has staying power.
Just as with reasons one and two, this snippet of possibility probably will never be realized. The most likely candidate to be so outstanding as to shine above everyone else in a 90-minute (or two-hour) time format is Vivek Ramaswamy, not only because he’s brilliant, but also due to being a young face in a political system that desperately needs fresh blood. Plus, he’s got a million ideas and the ability to articulate them all – and in detail. Ramaswamy’s got a future in the GOP, I’m just not convinced his time is now.
Four, similar to 2016, the field narrows itself to Trump and a main competitor.
This is the most likely scenario, as invariably the field’s also-rans will drop out of the race and leave the strongest ones remaining to vie for the balance of the delegates. I can also see someone like Chris Christie being 2024’s version of John Kasich, the hanger-on who’s only doing so to “protest” the ignorance and lack of foresight of the conservative grassroots. Voters are keen on Trump, and here’s thinking they’ll adopt Ron DeSantis more and more as the months go by.
By the time winter rolls around, the novelty candidates – which means everyone except Trump and (probably DeSantis) will have faded from view. The party primary debates will be mostly done and there won’t be any need for the losers to continue their futile crusade. Besides, everyone will be heartily sick of the campaign by then, with most folks ready to start tossing rhetorical bombs at the Democrats rather than friendly faces.
Five, all the not-Trump candidates decide among themselves that Joe Biden and Democrats are the real enemy, then clear out, endorse Trump and campaign like crazy on an “our only cause is victory” Republican message in 2024. In return, Trump secretly promises them all a cabinet post or high advisory position and agrees to stop criticizing each of them publicly in exchange for lasting loyalty and support for the “victory” cause no matter what happens.
Last week, the always insightful Kurt Schlichter made a very similar case for supporting the eventual winner, but in this scenario, the “competition” would do it prior the primaries. Otherwise, if and when Trump trounces the others, he wouldn’t be as inclined to give on the “I win, you win” agreement. Eternally suspicious and wary Trump wouldn’t be wild about this kind of horse trading, figuring he can bludgeon the field all by his lonesome, but wouldn’t a truly unified party be much closer to guaranteeing a win for him? As I’ve argued several times before, Trump would do himself a favor by picking DeSantis as his running mate/bureaucracy smashing czar, too.
A final way next year’s RNC might look different is if the Biden Justice Department witch hunts make progress and convict Trump, sending him to prison. The country would go crazy, but could cause enough Republicans to peel away from the frontrunner and anoint one of the others the nominee.
I included this highly volatile picture as a possibility because we can’t see the future and there’s no limit to what Democrats will do to cashier Trump, including sending the population onto the brink of civil war. If this were the reality, the RNC’s tone would be a lot different than the usual revelry of a “normal” year or convention. It’d be more like a meeting to hammer out war plans.
In mid-July, 2023, it doesn’t seem like Donald Trump’s 2024 GOP primary win is inevitable – yet. Therefore, next year’s RNC planning committee shouldn’t start printing up the invitations anytime soon. At this point, it would take special circumstances to derail a third Trump nomination. Let the cards fall where they may and be prepared to consolidate behind the winner in a year’s time. Or even sooner.
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