Old Man Trump Is Looking Weaker and Weaker—Sad!
People don’t want him to go away mad, they just want him to go away.
Is Donald Trump starting to lose his grip on the Republican Party?
National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar recently listed a few data points that suggest that his glow may be fading. First, Trump’s endorsed candidate, Sean Parnell, was forced to drop out of the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania. Second, Trump’s endorsed U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks, is losing ground to a younger candidate named Katie Britt. Third, the much-hyped Trump-Bill O’Reilly tour kicked off with a lot of empty seats. And fourth, Trump’s endorsed candidate in a Texas special election, Susan Wright, was defeated in a race to replace her late husband.
A fifth example, if I may, is in North Carolina, where, The Hill reports, “Despite winning the former president’s endorsement early on, [Rep. Ted] Budd has so far failed to become the runaway favorite in the GOP primary and has regularly trailed his chief rival, former Gov. Pat McCrory, in polling.”
This doesn’t mean that Trump won’t be the 2024 nominee, but a Pew survey conducted in September (published in October) shows that just 44 percent of Republicans want him to run for president again (and 32 percent want him out of politics altogether).
Before we get too carried away, some caveats are in order. Trump’s lack of coattails isn’t new, and defeating a Trump-endorsed Republican isn’t the same thing as electing a “Never Trump” Republican. Remember, in 2020, Trump’s endorsed candidate was thumped by Madison Cawthorn in a North Carolina runoff. Likewise, in March of 2020, Trump tweeted that voters should throw Thomas Massie out of office. Last I checked, Massie was still in office (and sending ridiculous Christmas tweets of his family with guns).
While it would be naive to believe the Republican Party will ditch Trump and go back to Zombie Reaganism, it would be likewise silly to assume the current paradigm will remain trapped in amber. George Will has been saying that our best hope may be that Americans have short attention spans and get bored easily. He has a point.
Anecdotally speaking, many of the same people who were the most passionate evangelists for George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” 20 years ago were ready to call Dubya a war criminal by 2016. Times change, and new characters are introduced into this political drama. We’re already seeing hints that, to some extent, the party is already moving on to younger leaders like Tucker Carlson and Ron DeSantis.
I’m old enough to remember when Sarah Palin was the straw that stirred Republicans’ drinks. Posting stories about her got clicks. She flirted with running for president (to sell books and stay relevant) and even got the media to chase her bus around the country. But she chose not to run for president (after choosing to step down as governor of Alaska), and eventually she became old news (for those who want Trump to go away, this is an admission against interest: If Trump’s goal is to continue garnering attention, he needs to run for office again).
Now, it’s true that Palin did not possess Trump’s resources or media savvy (nor was she president), but her prime shelf life lasted for about four years (2008-2012). At age 75, Trump is on year seven of largely dominating the news. How long can he keep it up? At the end of the day, Trump faces the same existential threat we all do: mortality. In his case, this means both his literal and political life.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Donald Trump is unstoppable in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, and that his hold over the party is absolute. But as Chris Christie advised Sunday on This Week (or was it Axl Rose?), “Everybody needs to have some patience.”
Trump, Christie noted, is hampered by the fact that he has no social media presence (whether it’s prudent that social media companies have the power to remove political figures is worthy of its own discussion), and keeps doing things like attacking former Israeli Prime Minister (and conservative hero) Benjamin Netanyahu. The spell will eventually break, but as Christie says, “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Christie, who decided not to run in 2012, and flamed out in 2016 (leading to his endorsement of Trump), wants to be elected president in 2024. This is to say, he has a conflict of interest when it comes to analyzing Trump’s staying power. But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.
Trends come and go, and people get swept up in them before moving on to the new, hot thing. Americans have a bias towards newness. Thrice-married Trump should appreciate this concept as the country looks like it finally might be ready to turn the page.