Analysis: The argument for the GOP to nominate someone other than Trump

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“There’s a lot of folks that Republicans can vote for that get the same policies and the same sort of willingness to stand up and fight for the middle class that Donald Trump had without the baggage.

“I think you get a lot of the benefits without a lot of the drawbacks. … I think that’s where a lot of Republicans are as a direct result of these [January 6] hearings.”

The argument Mulvaney is effectively making is if Republicans can get someone — like, say, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is 90% of Trump (since no one is 100% Trump other than Trump), they should jump at that chance.

Because, well, 100% Trump comes with all sorts of built-in negatives — most notably that he lost a bid for a second term less than two years ago and has spent the time between then and now pursuing demonstrably false claims that the election was stolen from him.

Mulvaney’s logic is, in short, right. Trumpism — over-the-top nationalism, a rejection of “woke” culture etc. — is more popular within the Republican Party than is Trump himself. So, in theory, if you decouple Trumpism from Trump, you may well have a winner.

A New York Times/Siena College poll released earlier this week suggests that there is at least some bloc of support for Mulvaney’s view. Nearly half of those who said they planned to vote in the 2024 Republican presidential primary wanted someone other than Trump to be the party’s nominee.

Which is interesting!

As is this, from the Times, in regards to a 2024 general election matchup that put President Joe Biden at 44% and Trump at 41%:

“A growing anyone-but-Trump vote inside the party contributed to Mr. Trump’s deficit, with 16 percent of Republicans saying that if he were the nominee they would support Mr. Biden, would back a third-party candidate, wouldn’t vote at all or remained unsure what they would do.”

On the other hand, that same poll showed Trump leading DeSantis 49% to 25% in a hypothetical 2024 Republican primary.

The key questions here are as follows:

1) Just how big, really, is the group of Republicans who will vote for any Trump-y alternative to Trump? When it comes down to Trump vs. a non-Trump, do those who say they want someone other than him as the nominee stick by that belief?

2) How credible a challenge does Trump wind up drawing in the 2024 race?  No one has yet announced, and while Republicans like DeSantis are clearly moving in that direction, that’s not the same thing as actually running.

The Point: If Republicans were looking clinically at who they should nominate for president in 2024, they would almost certainly settle on someone other than Trump. But nomination fights don’t happen in a theoretical space. And in the real-world Trump remains the favorite.

July 16, 2022 at 06:40AM

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