This isn’t by any means a NeverTrumper piece. Don’t take it that way. But it’s worth examining something in light of a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll which popped this morning which says that a generic Republican outperforms Donald Trump in a 2024 hypothetical matchup with Joe Biden.
A poll published on Wednesday found that almost half of those surveyed said they would vote for a generic Republican candidate over President Biden if the election was held now, but he would face a close race against former President Trump.
In a hypothetical match-up, the generic Republican candidate beat Biden by almost 10 percentage points in the new Politico-Morning Consult poll. When asked how they would vote, 46 percent of respondents said they would vote for the Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election, while 37 percent said they would vote for Biden. The remaining 16 percent had no opinion or didn’t know.
The respondents were more evenly split when Biden was matched against Trump, with 45 percent saying they would vote for the current president and 44 percent saying they would vote for his predecessor. Biden was also statistically tied in the poll when placed up against former Vice President Mike Pence.
The poll had Biden’s approval at 42 up, 56 down, which actually has it on the high side of the range where that question is concerned. It also tested Biden against Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis and found that he beats both of them by five points or more.
It ought to be recognized that the Harvard-Harris poll which came out earlier this week had significantly different numbers where a Trump 2024 campaign was concerned.
2024 Pres. Election:
(R) Donald Trump 46% (+6)
(D) Joe Biden 40%
(R) Donald Trump 49% (+10)
(D) Kamala Harris 39%
(R) Ron DeSantis 40% (+1)
(D) Kamala Harris 39%
1,815 RV | 1/19-1/20
— Election ‘God Bless the Truckers’ Wiz (@ElectionWiz) January 25, 2022
What does this tell us? The number one thing to glean from the polling data is that the American people don’t much like Joe Biden, really don’t like the Democrat Party in general and are looking for a reason to put Republicans back in office.
And so far, there isn’t an individual candidate with enough credibility to say “This guy (or gal) would win where Trump wouldn’t.” There are lots of people, your author being perhaps one of them, who look at DeSantis as someone whose stock will continue to rise to the point where he might be that white knight for the GOP in 2024. But we are very far away from the point where that’s actionable. DeSantis won’t run against Trump, and DeSantis has a re-election race to run this year in Florida in any event, so he won’t be laying any groundwork for a presidential bid this year like Trump will be.
As for Cruz, he’s already gone toe-to-toe with Trump, and that experience and those since have made relatively clear that the voters, particularly on the Republican side, like Cruz as something akin to an independent contractor but not so much as a high-level employee. Cruz’ recent experience getting a dressing-down from Tucker Carlson over his unfortunate characterization of the Jan. 6 protesters as “terrorists” was a great example of that.
There just isn’t enough love for Cruz to make him the guy. He’s destined to be a modern-day Jesse Helms within the GOP – never enough support to run for president and win, but enough stroke in the movement that it’d be hard to get the nomination without his blessing. Either that or he could jump into a job as Attorney General for the next GOP president and from there to the Supreme Court.
And Mike Pence wouldn’t last five minutes in a GOP primary, with Trump or without him.
So who would this “generic Republican” be if it’s not Trump? We have a theory at least on the characteristics voters are looking for, though we can’t take full credit for it. There has been a good deal of discussion on the subject, but this morning at American Greatness an anonymous writer identified as a former Trump administration official calling himself “Thelonius” offered a brutally honest critique of Trump’s first term which everyone interested in the idea of a second Trump term should read.
Indeed, if general awareness of institutional corruption is the prerequisite of reform, Trump is primarily responsible for raising the consciousness of ordinary Americans regarding pervasive institutional corruption and lighting the fuse of an America First revolution to take back the country from an elite leadership class that had betrayed their interests for decades.
But in terms of implementing the populist, nationalist agenda Trump brought to victory against all odds, his administration was a dismal failure in most respects.
On issue after issue, Trump was continually confounded and outmaneuvered by opponents of his agenda, even when the GOP retained a majority in both the House and Senate during the administration’s first two years. Democrats, of course, used the fraudulent Russia collusion hoax to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory and embroil the administration in endless investigations to the detriment of the White House’s focus on agenda items, but they couldn’t have done it without the collaboration of Republicans who also despised Trump’s nationalist-populist agenda and seized every opportunity to undermine it. Those Republican opponents of America First were not only in congressional leadership (personified by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), they were in every executive agency (even among the political appointees) and within the White House itself.
If personnel is policy, Trump made the fundamental and unforgivable error of farming out the staffing of his administration to people and entities (Chris Christie, Mike Pence, the Heritage Foundation) in fundamental disagreement with his agenda on every one of his key issues. Predictably, this led to his being undermined and slow-rolled at every turn by people who regarded his electoral victory as yet another opportunity to push the same old failed pro-corporate, neocon agenda. Whether because his talents and interest extended only to rallies of supporters and social media messaging or because of some misguided attempt at a “team of rivals” approach to governance in which one’s enemies are kept close and under control, Trump was constantly surrounded by people looking for ways not to carry out the agenda he had been elected to implement.
On issue after issue, they succeeded.
His experience in business may have led Trump to believe that, as the country’s new CEO, his underlings, dependent on his support and patronage no matter their ideology, would do his bidding. Anyone with the least familiarity with how things work in Washington immediately grasps just how absurdly naïve that view is. Deep state bureaucrats ensconced in the various federal agencies have long made a profession of putting up administrative and procedural barriers to any reforms being pushed by the White House, and they know how to operate the bureaucracy. They are prepared to wait it out as long as necessary until the storm passes, knowing that they are playing a long game.
The writer identifies Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as major liabilities; both of them worked in his inner circle and did a good deal of damage to the MAGA agenda, especially where it came to personnel decisions.
And Thelonius is awfully rough on Trump where COVID-19 is concerned…
Enter the Wuhan lab leak of the novel coronavirus in late 2019. Intentional or not, the criminal enterprise in charge in Beijing immediately recognized the potential of a global scare over the virus to reverse the dynamic of the Trump years and make China ascendent again. Through a combination of carefully choreographed media propaganda about their own lockdown measures, an almost total lack of information sharing about the virus and its origins, and a seeding of the virus abroad by means of an intentional diaspora of infected residents around the world before Western nations had gotten a handle on the situation, Beijing set the stage for the global catastrophe that was about to ensue.
The Chinese could not have accomplished their ambitious end of shutting down the economies of their competitors, however, without the collaboration of their pawns at the World Health Organization, and at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who had secretly sponsored the calamitous “gain of function” research responsible for creating COVID-19.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic and its consequences throughout the watershed year of 2020 illustrated, in dramatic fashion, every single one of his weaknesses as the leader of the MAGA movement. His initial instincts to shut down travel from China were sound, and he followed through with it on the advice of China hawk Peter Navarro and over the objections of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the pro-China contingent over at the NIH and the CDC. But the travel ban did not extend to infected Europe, and it proved too little too late since the virus already had been intentionally seeded worldwide.
Trump appointed the treacherous Pence as head of the Coronavirus Task Force, preferring to spend his energies at directionless and combative daily press conferences sparring with a press corps that saw its opportunity to finally bring down the hated Orange Man with a disastrous pandemic on his watch.
As his task force moved towards the hard economic lockdowns promoted by China and their useful dupes ensconced at the WHO and throughout the U.S. health establishment, Trump objected that the “cure” of economic lockdowns shouldn’t be worse than the “disease” of the pandemic. The president put Dr. Scott Atlas (who had argued persuasively that the economic, social, and public health costs of economic shutdowns, including school closures, were completely unjustified by the risks of the virus) on the task force. Atlas was quickly marginalized by the Fauci-led cabal, and was subsequently destroyed by Fauci and his minions with orchestrated attacks in the media and back at Stanford University where he had, before accepting the fateful appointment, been a tenured professor in good standing with his peers.
As “two weeks to flatten the curve” of infections (supposedly risking a hospital system overwhelmed with COVID patients) morphed into indefinite general shutdowns of business and social activity in state after state, grinding the national economy virtually to a halt, Trump watched helplessly as Fauci became the de facto policy maker not only on public health, but on social interaction, economics, and even whether Americans could safely celebrate holidays together or visit family members on their deathbeds. As schools shut down that spring amidst the generalized panic (stoked by the task force’s prognostications of millions of COVID casualties), the warnings of Atlas and others about the social and psychological costs to shutting down all of society over a virus went unheeded. The results were, again, utterly predictable.
It’s painful to read, but nothing in there is untrue. Trump did a lousy job with COVID, and the worst of it is that he did a lousy job despite his instincts being correct. He knew it was a Chinese virus, he knew the right public policy was to attack the virus with treatments that would keep people out of the hospital and he knew that the cure would be worse than the disease when it came to lockdowns. And yet he let the Swamp dictate policy to him instead of clearing it out and putting people in charge who echoed his positions.
Thelonius, whoever he is, does NOT like Pence. He also is no fan of Trump’s campaign guru Brad Parscale, who’s still on Team Trump after botching the 2020 campaign and failing to address the corruption of election processes in a number of states which ultimately decided the election through irregularities with mail-in ballots and vote counting. The time for Team Trump to “stop the steal” was in the summer of 2020 when the unusual and mostly illegal degradation of standard electoral integrity practices were being put in place thanks to a flood of money from Mark Zuckerberg and others into local elections offices in Democrat areas of swing states and “emergency” changes to election laws by courts and Secretaries of State without passage by state legislatures as the Constitution requires.
Trump screamed about rigged elections, but he was the president of the United States. His team needed to stop the rigging in advance. That was his responsibility and he didn’t do it.
What to make of this?
We’ve said from the beginning that Donald Trump didn’t create the MAGA movement. It was the Tea Party movement before he came along, and this year it’ll be what we’re calling the Revivalist movement (hence the book I’m about to turn into the publisher titled The Revivalist Manifesto). There is a deep reservoir of populist/reformist sentiment which has been brewing among center-right voters for more than a decade – in truth, it’s been with us since it manifested itself as the Reagan revolution and then simmered during the Bush-Clinton-Bush years as Pat Buchanan/Ross Perot voters and others before its resurgence of late. Trump merely tapped into it and gave it a higher profile.
And if we’re to believe that Morning Consult poll showing the “generic Republican” beating Biden 46-37 while Trump is in a statistical tie with him, the theory here is the public knows on some level that Thelonius’ points are valid.
What they want is someone who can finish Trump’s plan to drain the Swamp, and to do so without all the undisciplined verbiage of Trump’s first term. They’d rather have a quiet killer than a bombastic counterpuncher; a Trump 2.0.
But there isn’t one ready to assume that mantle yet, and meanwhile Trump is now calling himself the 45th and 47th president, the clearest indication yet that he’s going to be running in 2024.
Which means that the movement Trump purports to lead (and rightly so; he’s the most prominent figure among the populist/revivalist/MAGA conservatives out there) has to demand more of a Trump second term, from the campaign to the transition to the legislative agenda to the governance. The movement might need to lead Trump more than he leads it, at least for a time.
And that’s a good thing, because when Trump had a clear understanding of what his voters wanted, whether it was China and trade, immigration and the border, patriotic education and other such issues, he performed quite well. When he didn’t have such clear direction and he had to listen to those around him, mistakes were much more frequent.
And we can’t afford mistakes in the next term. One year into the Biden presidency, we’re buried under a mountain of them.