The first Republican debate is less than a month away. It’s about to get real for Donald Trump, the overwhelming frontrunner, and the ten (and counting) candidates challenging him for the Republican nomination. Despite Trump’s 30 to 40-point polling advantage, only the pre-game show has begun.
So far, Trump and six competitors (Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie, Doug Burgum) have qualified for the debate. It’s possible a few more could meet the requirements in time.
One mystery is whether Trump will show up. Conventional wisdom for a candidate leading his closest competitor (who is almost broke) by a margin of three to one, and nobody else close to double digits, is to stay away and not elevate them to the same stage. But can Trump? History suggests he can’t stay away from television cameras.
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Bickering and name-calling aside, pre-Covid, most of Trump’s policies were good for Americans.
- Unemployment was as low as it is now, except the Labor Participation Rate was over 63 percent in January 2020. It hasn’t reached 63 percent since.
- Inflation was consistently low.
- Wages outpaced inflation between February 2017 and January 2020, as measured by the ECI (Employment Cost Index) and CPI (Consumer Price Index). The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates both.
- Most taxpayers received a tax cut.
- Trump became the first president since Jimmy Carter not to involve the U.S. in any new military adventures.
- He successfully brought at least 38 hostages held overseas home without pallets of currency.
- Trump moved the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which every presidential candidate of the two major parties promised to do since 1992. It has been official U.S. policy since 1995 when Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Yet, the three men who preceded him in the White House signed a waiver annually.
- Trump was instrumental in getting four Arab countries to recognize the State of Israel.
A Republican president with a more presidential demeanor would do even better. Looking to 2024, we need the victor of the Republican nomination to have Trump’s agenda without his baggage.
Trump’s base support is around 35 percent, maybe 40. Winning the White House requires winning independents, something Republicans have not done since 2016. It’s worsened each successive election as Republicans lost the House (2018), the Senate, and the White House (2020). The 2022 midterms were a massive disappointment for Republicans as nearly all of Trump’s hand-picked candidates lost.
Even if Democrats and media weren’t throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at him in an all-out effort to destroy Trump, a twice-indicted candidate with a likely chance of a third coming will have difficulty winning independents in 2024 after securing the Republican nomination.
Conservatives lambast the liberal elite for staying in their echo chamber. Trump die-hards must listen to independents and realize the futility of a third Trump presidential run.
Let’s respect Trump for hearing disenfranchised voters leading to his 2016 triumph. Let’s applaud the accomplishments he made in office. Let’s also get real about his limitations.
The 2024 campaign cannot relitigate the last election. Instead, it must focus on issues and a plan to improve Americans’ lives.
Republicans must stop believing that Trump lost the election because of widespread cheating. I believe a good deal of what Trump says. I don’t believe he lost six states because of voter fraud and failed in 62 out of 63 election fraud cases heard before 86 judges, including 38 appointed by Republicans. Most of the cases were thrown out as frivolous or without merit. The Supreme Court, where Trump appointed three of the nine justices, declined to hear Trump’s case twice.
The one case team Trump won was a small matter in Pennsylvania where the judge ruled that voters could not “cure” (making sure their ballot counted, including fixing minor errors such as signing it) their ballots if they did not provide proper ID three days after the election. The ruling had no impact on the final result in Pennsylvania.
For those still willing to believe election fraud is how Biden won, we know what the Fox News Channel anchors said off the air due to the Fox-Dominion case and the $787.5 million settlement. People who knew Trump best didn’t believe the fraud claims. Why should you?
Nominating Trump in 2024 will prove to be a mistake for the Republican Party and conservative ideas.
Trump’s base must decide if remaining loyal to Trump is more important than ensuring Biden doesn’t win a second term and, likely, result in the Kamala Harris presidency.
Voters clearly don’t want Biden either. A recent Yahoo News/YouGov survey revealed that 55 percent of U.S. adults believe Biden is unfit for the presidency.
Trump doesn’t fare any better; 53 percent say he is unfit to serve as president.
Biden’s job approval in the RealClearPolitics average hangs around 42 percent, and his disapproval at 53 percent. He is underwater on every issue: economy -19, inflation -26, crime -20, immigration -25. He does best on foreign policy, and that’s -11. These are all RealClearPolitics averages from late July.
Let Democrats nominate Biden, who voters say has done a lousy job, is too old, and has nearly equal numbers as Trump for “corrupt” after the media has pounded the “Trump corrupt” narrative for eight years. Republicans can find somebody who embodies Trump’s agenda without the baggage.
I know one of the qualities Trump fans admire most is that he fights back. It’s gone from an asset to a caricature of Trump-2016.
What’s certain is that voters don’t want to see a sequel to the 2020 election. In fact, 53 percent of registered Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents want Biden as their party’s nominee. Trump fares a little better among the Republican hardcore.
The head-to-head election trials typically show Biden with a slight lead, although Trump does win a few.
Several polls show a greater appetite for a third-party candidate than ever. The “No Labels” group could provide that possibility. It has Democrats apocalyptic. The party so concerned about protecting American democracy is doing everything possible to prevent ballot access for “No Labels.”
In Arizona, Democrats are suing to keep “No Labels” off the ballot, which is strange considering the group isn’t a registered party at this time and says it will decide in April 2024 whether to field a candidate (if it looks like Trump and Biden are the inevitable nominees).
It’s part of a no-holds-barred effort to keep Trump from winning the Republican nomination, which must be part of the calculus in choosing the Republican nominee. Trump’s base must decide if remaining loyal to Trump is more important than ensuring Biden doesn’t win a second term and, likely, result in the Kamala Harris presidency.
The Republican nomination campaign begins in earnest on August 23 in Milwaukee. I urge Republican primary voters to listen to the people on the debate stage. It’s a diverse line-up of people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Today, I don’t have a favorite. I’ll be listening closely to discover which candidate has the goals and agenda that align with Trump but don’t have the baggage or drama Trump brings and, more significantly, can win independents.
If Republicans zero in on that person, the incredibly unpopular Joe Biden and his even less popular Vice President have unemployment to look forward to on Jan. 20, 2025.
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President of Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). He can be reached by email at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.