Just some off-the-cuff notes:
- Vivek Ramaswamy is a shrill twerp. But he’ll do well with the young segment of the Republican base who really believe the federal government can improve education by abolishing the education department. I like the fact that he thinks his first job in government should be as president. Like Reagan, on his first day on the job he’ll ask where the “War Room” is because he watched “Dr. Strangelove” once.
- Pence did better than I thought he would– but it won’t help him because he torpedoed Trump on January 6 and the MAGA base will never forgive him.
- Haley is aiming for the general election. She was rational, thoughtful, smart, and astute. Doomed in the primaries, but, curiously, not setting herself up for VP as I thought she would.
- Christie fell flat because Trump, his main target, wasn’t there, and attacking Ramaswamy puts him in “shoot the messenger” territory. He didn’t charm or even amuse anybody.
- Asa Hutchinson and Doug Burgum might as well pack up and go home.
- DeSantis shut down Florida just like everyone else did at the start of the pandemic. Forget that, please. Those in the audience with short memories cheered his claim that he never did. He was probably the most brazen liar in the bunch. His abrasive style didn’t fool anybody: he’s also a nerd.
- Republicans are counting on voters to not know– as they surely do– that the vast proportion of illegal drugs come right through the ports of entry in many of the millions of vehicles that cross every day, and not in the pockets of illegal migrants.
- The idea of “defunding the police” has never had traction within the Democratic party but the Republican base loves to think it has.
- It is absolutely stunning to me that Mike Pence, of all people, has abandoned a position on abortion he has always declared to be inviolate and now advocates a 15-week limit. Absolutely stunning, and that tells you how worried Republicans are about that issue in the upcoming election. His problem is that the state legislatures aren’t listening to him. It also reflects poorly on his sincerity as the most forward Christian in the group.
- I keep reading that Tim Scott is supposed to be the sunshine candidate in this group. He was the one that sounded like ChatGPT mindlessly trotting out those stale Republican tropes about “weaponization of the Justice Department”, blah, blah, blah. I think he blew his one chance to make himself stand out.
- Where was “woke”? Where was CRT? LGBQ issues? Nobody picked up DeSantis’ favorite whipping boys. Worried about the general election, gentlemen? Not much about Hunter Biden either.
- Haley did Biden a favor with her very forthright endorsement of U.S. support for Zelensky and Ukraine.
I’m puzzled about where this is all heading. Trump’s lead is kind of insurmountable so conventional wisdom is that most of these candidates are lobbying for the now vacant VP nomination. Ramaswamy is going to be too toxic. Hutchinson and Burgum bring nothing to the table. Pence and Christie are obviously right out. Haley would seem well-positioned as long as she is careful about what she says about Trump. She’s a woman, a minority, and she has some appeal to independent voters and soft Democrats. Tim Scott is in the right position– sucking up to Trump enthusiastically– and he is more in the Pence mode which Trump might prefer to the sometimes electrifying Haley. Trump will not have anything to do with a candidate that might upstage him.
How does it all end? Ramaswamy picks up support in Iowa, as does Haley. Hutchinson and Burgum go home. Christie runs out of money. Pence and Scott hang in there for the first few primaries then drop out. DeSantis slowly, painfully, mercilessly fades out as primary voters discover that they just don’t like him very much. Then, if Trump really is as smart as his fans think he is, he makes Nikki Haley his running mate and she starts quietly laying the groundwork for a run in 2028. If Biden stays reasonably healthy and inflation continues to drop, Trump loses the election; Haley is president in 2028.
I’d lay equal money on Trump signing up Scott as his running mate. I don’t think that will play well and I doubt the two would have the slightest genuine rapport.