Thursday, December 01, 2022


Five years after he was accused of multiple acts of sexual harassment, Mark Halperin writes a sad little Substack in which he attempts to be the insider savant he was widely seen as at the peak of his career. His posts occasionally show up on the news aggregation site Memeorandum, and when they do I sometimes read them, on the assumption that Halperin probably still has some insider contacts, which means that what he writes might represent conventional wisdom within a certain subgroup of political players.

Today Halperin wrote about the 2024 presidential election. He said this about Glenn Youngkin:
Might run. Might not. Might run and revolutionize the party’s image across a range of important dimensions. Might run and flame out quickly. Like DeSantis, still more myth than man, but has the potential to win the White House less like Trump did and more like George W. Bush did, which would warm the hearts of the Gang of 500 and the Chamber types. Also: despite a few missteps, could bring “nice” back to the GOP brand.
"Gang of 500" is a term Halperin has used for years. It refers to, in his words, "campaign consultants, strategists, pollsters, pundits, and journalists who make up the modern-day political establishment," "the 500 people whose decisions matter to the political news and campaign narrative we get from the major media."

Halperin used to know who mattered. I'm not sure he still does -- but I think at least some of the people he's thinking of continue to be important establishmentarians.

I bring all this up because the battle for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination should be a one-on-one contest between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump -- but I suspect that there are insiders who think Youngkin, not DeSantis, has the magic touch that will win the White House back for the GOP. I think that's crazy -- nearly everyone in the base loves Trump, DeSantis, or both, and DeSantis could beat Trump head to head, but in a three-way contest with Youngkin as the Establishment dreamboat, Trump is likely to win.

Here's another sign that some established Republicans are looking past DeSantis. Last night, Sewell Chan, the editor of the Texas Tribune, attended a discussion at the LBJ Library featuring right-wing graybeards Karl Rove and George Will. Their subject was "The Future of Conservatism." Chan reported on the discussion in a Twitter thread. One tweet caught my eye:

I'll ignore the absurd notion that voters in 2020 "wanted to blow things up." (We elected Joe Biden, for crissakes.) Notice the prediction that voters two years from now "will want a unifying, humble, moderate candidate." Rove can't be referring to DeSantis, who's all ego and divisiveness. But he could be referring to Youngkin, who isn't really unifying or humble or moderate but has been sold as all of those things.

If Republicans were smart, they'd just sell DeSantis nonstop. Many of them, particularly Rupert Murdoch, are doing that already. But I think a faction of the party intends to do a hard sell for a competing golden boy. If that happens, Youngkin and DeSantis will probably cancel each other out, and Trump will be the nominee.

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