Issues & Insights

The Republican Primary Is Wide Open — And That’s A Good Thing

After working hard to keep Ron DeSantis from entering the presidential primary at all, Donald Trump now is trying to make the case that the Florida governor has no chance of winning.

Trump might believe it – though his barrage of attacks against DeSantis suggests otherwise. But anyone who thinks that the Republican primaries are over long before they even get started needs a lesson in history.

When news broke earlier this week about DeSantis’ plan to enter the race, Trump immediately posted a series of links on Truth Social. One led to an article about Trump’s lead in the polls, another to a Gateway Pundit article telling DeSantis to stand down “for the good of the country.” Still another to a Fox News segment in which Brett Baier said that “right now former President Trump controls the environment, he controls the base, and he controls the messaging” and that “something has to change dramatically” for DeSantis or anyone else to have a chance.

But remember. It’s not even June. The Iowa caucuses are still seven months away. The conventions are more than a year in the future. And polls this early on are notoriously unreliable as a predictor of the eventual nominee, much less who will end up winning the election the following November.

Don’t believe it? Well, among Democrats, in the past nine open elections, polls from January through June in the year before those elections accurately predicted the nominee just three times.

Polls in June 1987 had Gary Hart well in the lead – eventual nominee Michael Dukakis was way down on the list. In June 1991, Mario Cuomo looked to be a lock, with Bill Clinton in the single digits. In June 2007, Hillary Clinton had an 11-point lead over Barack Obama. Rudy Giuliani had a commanding lead among Republicans in June 2007.

Heck, in June 2015, Jeb Bush was the clear leader in the polls among Republicans. Trump was polling at 3% before he officially entered the race. CNN reported at the time that Bush held “a significant lead over the second-place candidate Trump” and was “seen as the candidate who could best handle illegal immigration and social issues.”

Of course, Trump will be a formidable challenger for the nomination. He has universal name recognition, legions of die-hard fans, and the deep state’s attacks against him make him all the more appealing to his base.

He also has a solid record of achievement as president. But not an unblemished one.

Trump, after all, failed to deliver on the biggest promise he made when running in 2016: namely that he’d get a border wall built and Mexico would pay for it. While he did eventually get greater control of the border, he was able to do so only through executive actions, most of which Biden immediately overturned, leading directly to the massive border crisis we now face.

Trump’s handling of COVID is also a weak spot, one that DeSantis is pointing to indirectly by attacking “Faucism.” It was Trump who appointed Anthony Fauci to his COVID task force – and once praised Fauci, saying “He’s become a major television star for all the right reasons.” Trump also handed over a king’s ransom to Big Pharma to accelerate development of COVID vaccines that many conservatives have since attacked as doing more harm than good.

His busted Twitter campaign launch event notwithstanding, DeSantis has racked up a string of conservative wins that even Trump fans can’t deny. One of the articles Trump linked to said “Ron DeSantis is an excellent governor and I wish there were 49 others as responsible and courageous as he is.” Another says “I think he’s the best governor in America. Every day DeSantis does something fantastic in Florida.”

Still, are DeSantis critics right that he should sit this one out? Does DeSantis entering the race hurt Trump’s chances in 2024? Would it be better if everyone stepped aside for Trump, treating him as if he were again the incumbent seeking reelection?

You could turn that question around and ask whether Trump’s aggressive attacks on fellow Republicans will hurt the party’s chances of winning in 2024, should Trump not secure the nomination. On Wednesday, for example, Trump sent a number of adversarial messages, including this one:


In our view, healthy competition is good. Arguments and debates are clarifying. Primary battles are revealing. Which is why so few early front-runners end up capturing the nomination. Also, no matter what happens in 2024, Trump will eventually have to make room for the next generation of conservative leaders, and the primaries let them move into the spotlight now. So, the idea of short-circuiting the process now is short-sighted.

Besides, actual primary voters, not polls and pundits, and certainly not the desires of one candidate, are what matter. And it will be a long time before those voters have a chance to make their voices heard.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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  • I think you are right on most issues and I agree with you here also. What I like most about Trump is that he can self-fund, if necessary. What I like least about
    DeSantis is that he cannot and we don’t know who are funding him and their agenda.

    Trump had a RINO congress, many of whose members worked against him whereas DeSantis has a conservative legislator who create bills he supports. What would he do with an increasingly insane Congress should he win (unlikely with the fraud machine perfected)?

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