Saturday, November 19, 2022


Politico's Michael Kruse spoke to Rick Wilson, who believes (as many people do) that Donald Trump will set out to destroy the Republican Party if Ron DeSantis beats him in the 2024 primaries.
“Let’s say you beat him. Let’s say you whip his ass so bad in every debate. Let’s say he shits the bed in every debate and DeSantis is articulate and brilliant and funny and does all the things that you would need to do to convince primary voters. Let’s say that happens,” Wilson told me. “What,” Wilson asked, “does Donald Trump do?”

“I know what he doesn’t do,” I said. “He doesn’t disappear.”

“Correct,” said Wilson. And here, he added, is what else Trump doesn’t do: “Donald Trump says, ‘I was beaten, fair and square, by this brilliant young man, Ron DeSantis. I believe that he is the future of our party and our country. I look forward to doing everything I can to ensure that he is elected president in 2024. And because of that I’m turning over my email lists and my political operations to do whatever I can to help him win.’”
Wilson is right about Trump not making a graceful exit or being supportive in defeat, but I don't think he's right about this:
I reminded Wilson of this part of our conversation when we touched base last week. “He is a political suicide bomber,” Wilson said. “All Trump has to do is say, ‘OK, you don’t like me? I’m going to run as an independent.’”

Which presumably would make it hard — impossible? — for a Republican, for any Republican, Ron DeSantis or not, to win the White House in a general election.

“Let me tell you something,” Wilson said. “Donald Trump would rather Joe Biden be president for a thousand years than Ron DeSantis be president for five minutes.”
This feels true, but I think it's wrong.

Trump was rejected in Georgia this year -- Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger both won Republican primaries after refusing to help Trump overturn Joe Biden's 2020 victory in Georgia. And what did Trump do as an act of revenge? Nothing. Oh sure, he took one swipe at Kemp (more than a year before the general election), saying "Stacey, would you like to take his place?" onstage during a rally in Georgia. But Trump didn't help Stacey Abrams in the governor's race. He didn't endorse her. He didn't tell voters during the heat of the campaign that they should stick it to Kemp by voting for her. The same is true for Raffensperger's Democratic opponent.

One reason Trump didn't do this is that -- like your grandparents in Florida -- he watches Fox News hours a day and, as a result, believes Democrats are pure evil. He's not going to help one win, even to get back at an enemy.

But the main reason Trump didn't do this is that his obsession is making himself look like a winner. Dragging an enemy down doesn't accomplish that.

Here was Trump on Truth Social after we'd learned the results of the midterms:

Looking like a winner is his greatest need in life.

If he's lost the presidential nomination, he'll probably claim the voting was rigged in multiple states, and he's likely to challenge the results in court and elsewhere. But that won't be revenge. That will be because he always thinks there's the possibility of finagling a favorable outcome that he doesn't deserve.

Assuming it doesn't work -- the party and its donors will want him to go away -- he won't run as a third-party candidate. As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake notes, doing that would be hard:
Getting on the ballot can be difficult for independents, depending on the state, and would involve gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures. And some states even have “sore loser” laws that prohibit running as an independent after losing a party’s nomination. These laws generally don’t appear to apply to presidential candidates running as independents, but they might in key red states such as Ohio, South Dakota and Texas. That could severely hamper any real path to victory for Trump....
He might continue to insist that he won the primaries. He might continue to insult DeSantis. But we have to imagine a party rallying around DeSantis the way it rallied around Trump in 2016. We have to imagine Republican voters desperate to remove history's greatest monster, Joe Biden, from the Oval Office. If they've voted for DeSantis, they'll close ranks around DeSantis.

Now, that might not include some diehards -- people who don't like politics that much, but love Trump and only Trump. They would vote for Trump if he ran third-party. But even Trump's most sycophantic aides won't be able to massage the internal poll numbers showing Trump trailing badly in a three-way race. So he won't run -- and therefore some of his diehards won't vote at all.

That's subtle sabotage, and it might be enough to cost the GOP the election. But it will be passive-aggressive sabotage -- Trump refusing to endorse DeSantis or pass the torch to him at the convention, with the result that some of his voters stay home. What he won't do is run third-party and risk being a loser twice in one year.

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