Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Real Anti-Trump Path

History doesn't always repeat, circumstances change over time, and Republican voters are not identical to Democratic voters. In the following podcast of Breaking Points. in which Emily Jashinsky told Krystal Ball discussed polling results which display Joe Biden's vulnerability in a general election and even in being nominated. They transitioned into addressing the Republican race for the nomination and Jashinsky caught my eye (ear, really) when she remarked (at 3:02 of the video below)

When I think about Tim Scott's campaign, uh, they're saying, like literally, we have no idea what's going to happen a year from now. We have no idea what's going to transpire, so we're just going to kind of wait in the wings and see what happens and we'll be the best in position if, if something changes.

The conventional wisdom is that Donald Trump's campaign is most likely to be upended or stymied if the candidate is indicted (beyond Manhattan) and GOP voters become considerably wary that the ex-President could not be elected because of his legal troubles. However, not only is there another path to defeating Trump as the nominee but it the one which Tim Scott- and perhaps others- believe is more likely.

Consider a little bit of history, which may or may not be applicable. In an article which appeared in the May, 2004 issue of The Atlantic, Paul Maslin, one of the four chief strategists for Howard Dean, detailed  the presidential campaign strategy of his candidate in the run-up to the Iowa caucus, which largely decided the nomination. Shortly before caucus day, as the two top candidates were expected to be John Kerry and Dean, the campaign ran a television ad criticizing Dean's strongest opponent. Maslin wrote

When we ran the ad, it barely brushed the intended targets—Kerry and Edwards—but delivered a devastating blow to (Dick) Gephardt. Quite naturally, he fought back—with a "kitchen sink" negative ad on us, which ran midweek. That ad, which attacked Dean's views on Medicare and Social Security, snuffed out what little chance we had left at victory—Dean and Gephardt were both increasingly seen by Iowans as running negative campaigns. The exchange, called off within days by both sides, nevertheless sent us hurtling to a crushing defeat instead of a narrow loss that we should have been able to endure. Had the vote been closer, I believe, there would have been no "I have a scream" speech on caucus night. All the habits we had learned so early in this race—work fast, use Iraq, be aggressive—were coming back to haunt us.

As the front-runner, Dean had been criticized by several candidates but most strenuously by Representative (and former Minority Leader) Gephardt. Gephardt had gone hard after Dean, and Dean (inadvertently, according to Maslin) retaliated robustly. Gephardt dropped out, Dean lost the primary and subsequent to the much overhyped, infamous "scream," went on to losing the nomination decisively.

The nomination went to the candidate, John Kerry, who mostly had stayed out of the fray. Fast forward sixteen years to the 2020 contest for the Democratic presidential nomination and before the Nevada caucus, when Elizabeth Warren

launched her first broadside against Bloomberg just minutes into the debate, setting the tone for the night.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” she said. “A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

About 40 minutes later, the debate returned to Bloomberg’s alleged mistreatment of women when he was asked to address the accusations. He responded by touting the number of women in leadership positions within his foundation and business, noting, “I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the #MeToo movement has exposed.”

Bloomberg faces attacks for refusing to release women from confidentiality agreements

“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’ ” Warren said, drawing applause. “That just doesn’t cut it.”

Warren then immediately zeroed in on the nondisclosure agreements signed by women who sued Bloomberg, demanding that he release them from the deals and allow their alleged accounts of harassment or discrimination to become public. And from there, the situation only continued to spiral.

Warren repeatedly pressured Bloomberg to reveal how many agreements were signed and attacked his character and electability in light of the allegations, prompting the former mayor to issue defenses that many thought made him look worse.

“None of them accused me of anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” Bloomberg said at one point, prompting boos and gasps from the audience. He also declined to release women from the nondisclosure deals saying, “They signed the agreements, and that’s what we’re going to live with.”

Bloomberg was done, finished, obliterated while Warren was boosted. This sort of reaction was common:

On CNN, Van Jones stated “Bloomberg went in as the Titanic — billion-dollar-machine Titanic. Titanic, meet iceberg Elizabeth Warren.” Bloomberg went in to the debate as an extremely plausible Democratic nominee and came out shattered.

Warren had proven the giant-killer. Two days after the debate, the Nevada caucus was held and Bernie Sanders emerged as the most(more?) viable progressive contender for the nomination as he pulled down 46.8% of the voted. Joe Biden received 20.22%, Pete Buttigieg, 11.3%,, and Warren 9.7%.

The Massachusetts senator stayed in the race for a while but she was essentially eliminated after Nevada. She was done in by Nevada voters, who saw two Democrats fighting and decided that strife was not for them. Better to hold hands and sign "kumbaya," and eventually Sanders lost out to the milquetoast Joe Biden. That's the way it is with Democrats, anyway. "Can't we all just get along?"

Republicans may be different. Joe Scarborough and others in the mainstream media blather about Tim Scott having a lane in the Republican nominating contest because he exudes a cheery optimism reminiscent, they pray, of Ronald Reagan while Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are nattering nabobs of negativism. They fundamentally miss the rationale of the Senator's candidacy.

Republican voters believe the country is going to hell in a handbasket, a major reason they are attracted to DeSantis and especially Grump- uh, er, Trump. Many believe, additionally, that the latter is the once, current, and future President.

Although something has to happen to Trump if he is to be derailed, no Republican in the race is willing to criticize the 45th President. They all are waiting around wishing and hoping that the other guy (or gal) attacks Trump, erodes his numbers, and give them their opening.

Realistically speaking, there is one and only one (potential) candidate who would do that.  Someone confrontational, brash, and not a little nasty, perhaps somebody who exudes a bit of that Sopranos, stereotypical Jersey impulse.


Each- but especially a Tim Scott, who has better than a snowball's chance in hell- is waiting for former New Jersey governor Chris Christie He can be, candidates believe, a modern Jesus Christ- sacrificing himself to death (in this case of the political sort) on their behalf. Ironically, there are GOP candidates whose best hope lies in the possibility that Republican voters are similar to Democratic voters.

As a New Jerseyan, I can confirm that the only similarity between Chris Christie and Jesus Christ is in the first six letters of the former governor's name.  And yes, Tim Scott would like to demonstrate vote-getting ability in presidential primaries so he can become vice-presidential timber. However, Scott won't attain even that status unless someone puts a serious dent into the clear front-runner. A former prosecutor, Christie likely believes he can prosecute the case against Trump and, in either case, is probably the only one who can do so in the belligerent manner necessary for Republican voters to sit up and take notice.

It's conceivable that Christie will stay out of the race. He is, after all, more concerned with his own political future than anyone else's, a characteristic of most politicians. Nonetheless, he is a very good retail politician and unlike some candidates- such as Scott, DeSantis, and Nikki Haley- has no chance to be a vice-presidential nominee. He'd be in it to draw blood.

"If something changes," as Emily Jashinsky put it, it probably would be a fellow Republican getting into a figurative knife fight with Donald J. Trump.  Like Richard Gephardt and Elizabeth Warren, Chris Christie would take no prisoners. That would be a confrontation worth watching and provide the best opportunity for someone to thwart Donald J. Trump.


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