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2024 U.S. Election of President and Vice President

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  • Originally posted by TopHatter View Post
    New candidate for Trump's VP pick: Kari Lake.

    Not like she's got a lot on her plate right now anyway
    Kari Lake lost, and Donald Trump is not likely going to closely associate himself with a loser. Trump is a narcissist, so regardless that Trump himself is a loser, and that many who were on team-Trump have now lost their election races, Trump will not closely associate himself with a loser.

    If Trump wins in 2024, you might see Kari Lake as Whitehouse Press Secretary. ...maybe. ...but nothing more than that.


    • Originally posted by JRT View Post

      Kari Lake lost, and Donald Trump is not likely going to closely associate himself with a loser. Trump is a narcissist, so regardless that Trump himself is a loser, and that many who were on team-Trump have now lost their election races, Trump will not closely associate himself with a loser.

      If Trump wins in 2024, you might see Kari Lake as Whitehouse Press Secretary. ...maybe. ...but nothing more than that.
      Mm, good point. Still, the list of people that Trump could conceivably pick is vanishingly small. Although he certainly doesn't need to burnish his Christian fundo credentials like he did when he picked Pence.
      “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


      • Originally posted by TopHatter View Post

        Mm, good point. Still, the list of people that Trump could conceivably pick is vanishingly small. Although he certainly doesn't need to burnish his Christian fundo credentials like he did when he picked Pence.
        It’s not vanishing small, it’s just instead of the bottom of the barrel he’ll be picking people from underneath it.


        • Originally posted by statquo View Post

          It’s not vanishing small, it’s just instead of the bottom of the barrel he’ll be picking people from underneath it.
          Or under the barrel
          “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


          • Originally posted by TopHatter View Post

            Or under the barrel
            More like a pile of shit
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain


            • Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post

              More like a pile of shit
              I mean, cockroaches are usually under the barrel, but I was under the impression he'd already endorsed them.
              Ego Numquam


              • ‘A Crazy Old Man Fighting With Himself’: Can Trump Do to DeSantis What He Did to Bush?
                He toppled one Florida governor to a win in 2016. He’ll likely need to do it again to win in 2024.

                To become president, Donald Trump had to vanquish a Florida governor. To become president again, he might have to do it once more.

                The most important story in politics in the coming weeks and months is the potential resorting of the Republican Party in the aftermath of a midterms in which the GOP was widely expected to win big and ended up winning hardly at all. Within this most important story, though, is a most captivating likely mano-a-mano matchup. Trump is going to have to try to do to current Florida governor Ron DeSantis in 2022, ’23 and into ’24 what he did to former Florida governor Jeb Bush in 2015 and ’16.

                Here, though, in the first few days of his third real run for the White House, the trouble for Donald Trump is that the Trump of today is not the Trump of 7½ years back, and neither is Ron DeSantis now the same as Jeb Bush was then. In the estimation of aides and advisers to all three men and dozens of insiders, analysts and operatives from Florida to Washington and beyond, DeSantis is arguably stronger than he’s ever been, while Trump is arguably weaker than he’s ever been. So much, in other words, is so different.

                Like Bush, yes, DeSantis packs imposing fundraising might, plus the apparent (and increasing) favor of elite consultants, media and money men of the right. But whereas Bush was a colossus in Tallahassee in his prime — “King Jeb,” some called him — he was 62 by the time he started running for president and had been out of office for the political eternity of more than eight years. He was, of course, also the son of a president and the brother of another — his family name less a helpful legacy than an anvil he dragged around in a cycle defined by an angry, anti-establishment bent.

                DeSantis, on the other hand, is 44. He went to Yale and then Harvard Law, but he grew up middle-class in the Tampa Bay area suburb of Dunedin. His father installed equipment for Nielsen. His mother was a nurse. And in this year’s elections in which no small number of Republicans were surprising losers, DeSantis was by far the biggest winner, cresting to a second term by an eye-popping 19 percentage points. People who didn’t vote for DeSantis in 2018 clearly voted for him in 2022. If Bush in 2015 was seen as the past, DeSantis now, in the cheeky new nomenclature of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, is viewed as “DeFuture.” In his victory speech in Tampa, in which he declared that he and his campaign team had “re-written the political map,” DeSantis stood in front of not the Florida flag but a giant American flag.

                It’s tempting, then, to see Trump, not DeSantis, this time around as more of the Jeb Bush — a has-been who’s done but doesn’t know it or doesn’t want to admit it. “He’s dead man walking,” longtime Florida-based, mostly Democratic megadonor John Morgan told me. “He’s lost three elections in a row,” Sam Nunberg, one of Trump’s earliest political advisers before and during his 2016 campaign, told me. “The majority of the country despises Trump,” Nunberg noted, “and the majority of the Republican Party is moving on.” It’s far from only Murdoch’s Post and Fox News and the Wall Street Journal that are blaming Trump for the spate of GOP losses and blaring a shift in preference. Previously supportive elected officials from the Senate to the House and down to the states have begun to edge away as well. Perhaps equally importantly, right-of-center talkers, bloggers and influencers like Mike Cernovich and Candace Owens have openly criticized a man they once lionized. Some of the most up-to-date polling is showing more Republican voters want DeSantis more than Trump.

                Anybody else would acknowledge this bald reality and fade away or at least take a break. But Trump is Trump. And for all the ways he so consistently stokes chaos, Trump, 76, is nothing if not predictable. He won’t let it go because he never has. He won’t admit defeat because he never has. He won’t willingly, much less graciously, cede the spotlight … because he never has — especially not to a seemingly able and ascendant heir. “He can’t accept that anybody else can do what he perceives he can do,” Alan Marcus, a former Trump publicist and consultant, told me. “And he also can’t accept walking away because that would indicate he’s a loser.” And so he’s going to attack DeSantis. He already is. Whether it works — whether he can do to DeSantis what he did to Bush — is very much to be determined. But what is almost certainly to come really is no mystery at all.

                “Trump will just fling himself at DeSantis, saying whatever, whenever,” said Mac Stipanovich, the Tallahassee fixture of a Republican operative who now is a registered independent on account of his distaste for Trump. “Anyone who would discount Trump at this point hasn’t been paying attention,” said Alex Conant, a GOP consultant who was a key aide to Marco Rubio during the 2016 presidential campaign. “I would never discount his ability,” Conant said of Trump, “to trample the competition and win the primary.”

                “DeSantis’ team is full of smart people,” anti-Trump Republican strategist and Lincoln Project co-founder Reed Galen told me, “but they’ve never faced a face-eating dragon before.”

                “Folks forget,” a close Trump adviser told me, “what DJT can do to somebody.”

                Trump’s initial taunts were all so long ago — two country-altering presidential elections, two midterms, a world-changing pandemic, an insurrection Trump helped incite — but it’s worth recalling the first time you heard them.

                “Crooked Hillary.”

                “Lyin’ Ted.”

                “Little Marco.”

                Trump called (subsequent sycophant) Lindsey Graham “an idiot.” He all but likened Ben Carson (later his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) to a child molester. “Look at that face!” he said of Carly Fiorina. The list is long. He said and has said lots of nasty things about lots of other candidates and lots of other people.

                But what he did to Jeb Bush was different. It was the original article and especially venomous. He didn’t ridicule his policies. He ridiculed him. He called him “weak.” He called him “desperate” and “pathetic” and “sad.” He said he was “not a guy who can be president.” He said he didn’t “have what it takes.” He said he was “an embarrassment to his family.” Above all else, though, and this is of course what stuck the most, Trump called him “low-energy” — “Low Energy Jeb.”

                Bush responded, in part, by enumerating for (my now colleague) Jonathan Martin his very busy travel schedule. He expressed a sort of bafflement that was in retrospect somewhat endearing but woefully naïve. He “just repeats it over and over again, it becomes the truth,” he once said of this nickname with which he’d been tarred. “It’s the weirdest thing in the world.” And eventually he tried during debates to go toe-to-toe. “You’re not,” Bush told Trump toward the end of 2015, “going to be able to insult your way to the presidency.”

                He was.

                He did.

                “He got there by destroying those who tried to go against him,” said longtime New York-based Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who’s been watching Trump for decades. “He cut all his opponents down, one by one, without remorse,” as a former Trump adviser put it to me. “He killed everybody,” Sheinkopf said. “But what he did to Jeb was he emasculated him.”

                Why Trump did what he did to Bush with such focus and ferocity was not hard to figure. He said so. “When I first ran, I hit him really hard because I thought he was going to be the guy,” Trump told Insider (which is owned by the same company as POLITICO) in an interview in Trump Tower that first November. “You know, he’s the establishment guy. So I hit him very hard.”

                All of this, at least back then, felt shocking. It was also just plain surprising. “And I don’t think you can pull that surprise twice,” reasoned Marcus, the ex-Trump publicist.

                “There was a Bush fatigue and Jeb got clobbered by that. There now is a Trump fatigue,” Ed Rollins, the veteran GOP consultant who managed Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign and chaired a pro-Trump PAC but now is pro-DeSantis.

                “Trump was new and interesting in 2016,” former Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo told me. “Now he’s become old and predictable.”

                “I’ve long said this: People tire of the Trump show,” Allen Salkin, the author of a book about Trump, The Method to the Madness, told me.

                “He manages to reinvent time and time again, though,” he said. “Does he have another act in him?”

                Past isn’t always prologue, but it almost always is with Trump. And he traditionally has been at his most ferally effective when it looks to many, if not most, like the jig is up and he’s backed into a corner and existential comeuppance seems nigh, and also when he has an easily identifiable and obvious enemy. Check. And check. For Trump, fights and foes are fuel.

                Even so, the rise of DeSantis has to smart. Because DeSantis had next to no chance of getting elected governor in 2018 without Trump’s endorsement. Like Trump, he had to beat in a primary an establishment-tapped frontrunner, and he couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without Trump. One way to see this is Trump made DeSantis, but the more accurate read is that DeSantis used Trump. Trump is “a user of other users,” the seminal Trump biographer, the late Wayne Barrett, wrote more than 40 years ago — and so DeSantis, comparatively uncharismatic but methodically strategic, stands at this juncture as a user of this user of other users. Even people who don’t like DeSantis have always said he studies hard. He figured out how to play Trump — “accruing the benefits,” as I wrote early last year, “while for the most part evading the frequent, familiar nicks and complications.” He got what he needed. He’s since been pretty savvy about keeping some distance. Now Trump is on the downslope, and DeSantis is on the upswing, and Trump appears to know it.

                In a pre-midterms rally in Pennsylvania — ostensibly to reaffirm his endorsement of the eventual loser Mehmet Oz — he for the first time called DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious.” (It’s no “Low Energy Jeb.”) Last week after a rally in Ohio — where he wanted to announce already that he was running again for president but was talked out of it by advisers — he floated a DeSantis-directed threat: “If he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign.” He didn’t congratulate DeSantis on his resounding Election Day win. He instead pointed out on Truth Social that he got in 2020 more than a million more votes than DeSantis did in 2022. And a day after that he shot off a 478-word statement in which he accused DeSantis of a lack of “loyalty and class.” This is probably only the beginning of the barrage.

                To this point, DeSantis has responded by not responding. He could do this for a while. His fresh reelection and its margin, say strategists, earned him more than an uptick in political power. It also bought him time. Trump is antsy. DeSantis is busy. The same day Trump issued his most extended attack on DeSantis, for instance, DeSantis held a briefing on Hurricane Nicole. Florida’s annual legislative session next year runs from the first week of March to the first week of May, and a GOP-controlled, DeSantis-dominated corps of lawmakers is sure to offer him bills to sign ready to be added to early-state stump speeches. Nothing if not disciplined, according to allies and enemies alike, DeSantis could attempt to put into practice some version of what so many people for so many years have talked about in theory. Could he in essence … ignore Trump to death?

                “Because then it’s just a crazy old man fighting with himself,” a Florida-based GOP strategist told me. Do it too long and maybe DeSantis starts to look weak. But for now? “If I were him, I’d just keep my mouth shut,” said one former Trump adviser. “It’ll drive Trump a little nuts,” said another.

                Plenty of politicos from Florida to Washington and beyond say Trump is the favorite until he’s not. Plenty of others are picking DeSantis even as they tick off what they perceive to be his faults (he’s had but one close race, he can come off as prickly, unlikeable and aloof, his head’s too big and his circle’s too small ...). Some see not another Jeb Bush but another Scott Walker, or Chris Christie, or Tim Pawlenty or Rick Perry — governors who were bandied about as potential presidents but never got close. But the most important comparison — for both Trump and DeSantis — remains Jeb Bush.

                Bush “was the perfect foil — a living testament to the political class, a darling of the establishment who had been a successful governor but who could not have been more out of step with what the base was looking for,” Republican strategist Liam Donovan told me. “Whatever you think of DeSantis he is none of that.”

                “Jeb was an easier target,” said Doug Heye, another GOP strategist.

                “DeSantis is his worst nightmare,” Nunberg said. “Younger, smart and accomplished.”

                Then again? “Picture them on the debate stage: DeSantis squat, dour and angry, as Trump towers over him physically,” Stipanovich told me. “DeSantis is not without talents, but agility and improvisation are not among them,” he said. “He is an engineer, not an artist.”

                “I’d still give the edge to Ron in a head-to-head, but we are way too early,” said former Florida congressman and former Republican David Jolly, “for the coronation some are now declaring.”

                Earlier this fall, well before the midterms, the flipping of polling from Trump to DeSantis and the announcement at Mar-a-Lago, I was on the phone with Rick Wilson, the Tallahassee-based Republican strategist and Lincoln Project honcho who wrote the book called Everything Trump Touches Dies. We talked about this coming clash. He voiced doubt that DeSantis had it in him to take down Trump but still played out the script.

                “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.’”

                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.”

                "Could he in essence … ignore Trump to death?"

                That's the only way to do it. Ditto Trump's apologists for that matter.
                “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                • A Letter to the DeSantis Fan-Boys From a Real Never Trumper
                  Level-setting on the New Precious.
                  In 2024, the chosen one will be Gov. Ron DeSantis. It has thus been decreed by the old-guard members of Conservative Inc. Or at least the ones calculating enough to have survived the MAGA takeover.

                  Rupert has dubbed him DeFuture. Republican hedge fund donors have taken their Trump tax cut and run. National Review is indistinguishable from a DeSantis Fanzine, lavishly extolling his virtues and wagging their finger at anyone who dares challenge their precious. Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire is not any less effusive and is already cashing in on the new bell cow.

                  To be honest, I understand this calculation. DeSantis is the golden ticket. He’s the one weird trick that will make all their Trump Troubles go away without their having to suffer any additional political pain or consequences from having made a deal with the devil. DeSantis 2024 will let them be members in good standing on the team again. He will eradicate any nagging doubts about whether they were empowering a man who might bring the constitutional republic they claim to love to its knees.

                  For most of them, the desire for this trick to succeed is a refreshing change from the last 7 years, because it’s completely authentic. It’s in their bones. The sight and sound of a cherubic, nasal-voiced Ivy Leaguer giving local journalist “elites” the what-for gives them a Matthewsian thrill up the leg. For them, the highlight of 2022 was seeing the triggered libs complain about how Ron had tricked desperate Andres into getting on a plane to Massachusetts as part of an Andover-style prep school prank at the expense of the haughty Martha’s Vineyard librarian who canceled Alan Dershowitz.

                  That is their shit. Reagan’s revolutionaries had the air traffic controllers, Ron controls his human trafficking by air.

                  And, hey, who am I to deny them their fun. Might not be my cup o’ joe. Give me a shot of Larry or Liz instead. But we can agree to disagree. Fan-girling for a politician is every content-creating American’s birthright.

                  The issue for me arises when the DeSantis propagandists turn their fire and start issuing Principled Never Trump purity tests on the OGs. Making demands of those of us who did not spend the last seven years trying to titrate precisely how much lib-owning we needed to do to balance out a few precisely worded tip-toes away from Mr. Trump.

                  What these folks are trying to do is set up shit-tests in which True Never Trumpers must accede to the DeSantis Dominion—or else they are tarred as being just as hack-ish and disingenuous and grift-y as the anti-antis have been.

                  Over at the Dispatch, the man formerly known as Allahpundit addressed the psychology of this tete-a-tete quite deftly, explaining the disdain that those of us who have been stalwart on the Trump matter feel for the cowards who danced around it and their loathing of us for our purity tests.

                  But I wanted to be a bit more forward looking and prescriptive. Offer the “Ron johns” (their stan name is still a work in progress) a guide to how I will treat his campaign against Trump should he pursue one. This way, if they have any doubt about whether I am adhering to Muh Never Trump Principles, they can check back in on it from time to time.

                  Here goes.

                  Dear Residents of DeSantistan,

                  It’s nice to hear from you. I notice you have had some harsh words for Mr. Trump of late. You might even think he’s a Bad Orange Man? Concur! So lucky for you to have been awoken from your torpor on this matter at the most convenient time imaginable.

                  Before we get to the meat of my correspondence, I do have to mention that we missed having you on board these past few annums: During the 2016 general election, Impeachment One, the 2020 Republican primary, the 2020 general election, the alarming interregnum, the 2021 Georgia run-off, Impeachment Two, opposing the Trump election deniers in the 2022 midterms, and the recent FBI raid on the former president’s home.

                  Better late than never.

                  It’s especially nice to hear that your candidate plans to challenge and defeat Mr. Trump once and for-all. Though you might forgive a bit of tepidness in our anticipation for this event given that he hasn’t actually done anything yet and we’ve been disappointed by your ilk so many times before (see above).

                  You also might forgive those of us who have spent seven years fighting Trump if we are not super thrilled to jump on board with someone described by Rich Lowry as being not just from the “Trump Wing” of the party but the “Trump fuselage, wing and landing gear.” (This was intended, I believe, as a compliment).

                  Bearing all that in mind, I want to put forth what I, as a charter Never Trumper, will do and not do in order to provide the aid and comfort you are demanding for your chosen candidate’s campaign against the former president.

                  We’ll start with the will nots (natch).
                  • I will not be a human shield for Ron to protect him from all the hard (and not so hard) questions about Donald Trump. For example, you might feel like it is not strategic for him to state clearly that it’s bad for the man he supported for president twice to have had dinner with one of the nation’s leading white supremacists. I, for one, am not certain that this convenient silence is good strategy. Maybe it’s true he might need the votes of anti-semites, maybe it’s not. But I am sure that it’s not too much to ask a prospective president what they think about it.
                  • I will not give him a pass when he refuses to provide an answer, any answer, about whether or not he thinks Donald Trump’s coup attempt was a good thing or a bad thing. Given that his only comments to date were supportive of the coup, it feels like his updated views on the matter are something we should hear about before we give him the keys to the kingdom.
                  • I will not practice strategic silence while he exhibits every single behavior of enablement and collaboration with the crazy that got us to Donald Trump in the first place. Here is a good book about the dangers of this approach that I would recommend you check out if you disagree on this point.
                  • I while not shine his turds when he enacts despicably cruel public policy stunts that serve zero purpose for his constituents, such as tricking Venezuelan asylees into getting on planes from Texas to Massachusetts just so he can earn plaudits from Fox & Friends and the speakers at Kari Lake rallies.
                  • I will not demand that popular and viable Republican governors who have classically conservative principles and acted with a modicum of integrity during the Trump era should stand aside because their presence might hypothetically hurt the candidacy of someone who showed no such courage or fortitude.
                  • And, finally, being Never Trump does not require I participate in your efforts to prop up a man who cut the single most obsequious ad in service to our nation’s worst president. If you haven’t watched that ad in a while, please take a moment to do so now.
                  Ron DeSantis has released an ad indoctrinating his children into Trumpism

                  Yikes. Speaking of grooming, I wouldn’t let the person in that video coach my kid, for fear she might be groomed into this creepy cult.

                  That type of ostentatious service to the irredeemable monster who wanted to turn this great country into an autocracy shows a lack of judgment so extreme that for me—and I suspect many other Never Trumpers—it is forever disqualifying.

                  But even in spite of alllllll that. Despite his use of state-power to go after people and companies whose politics he doesn’t like. Despite his targeting of families like mine with needlessly spiteful anti-gay legislation. Despite his status as Mr. Trump’s number one ball fluffer. Here are the things I will do when commenting on Ron DeSantis’ primary campaign against a man I still believe is an existential threat to the country:.

                  Number one: If a hypothetical primary campaign between Trump and DeSantis remains competitive 15 days before the California primary and Ron/Don are the only viable options, I will suck it up, re-register as a Republican, and vote for your man in my states’ nominating contest. I will cast this vote despite his myriad transgressions against decency and Never Trump orthodoxy outlined above (and cut for space). I will write about this vote publicly to explain why it is important to support Trump’s opponents, however imperfect they may be. I will do this before the election, not weeks after the fact when it makes no difference. (Caveats: (1) If there is a competitive Democratic primary in which I have a strong preference, that may change the calculus. (2) If Ron runs a campaign where he pledges to Muslim Ban even harder than Trump did, or some noxious equivalent.)

                  Not only will I do that, but . . .

                  Number two: I am willing to go a step further and offer you another olive branch. If your candidate ever shows even the vague outline of a pair of balls and stands up to the man you now agree is a grave threat, I will compliment him for it.

                  That is right. I will praise Ron DeSantis!

                  For example, maybe this week DeSantis might consider following in a few of his prospective competitors’ footsteps and saying something to the effect of: “You know, I don’t appreciate that Donald had dinner with two anti-semites, one of whom is the most despicable nazi scum in our entire nation, and if I was president, racist douche canoes such as that would get no hearing from my White House.”

                  Should DeSantis try something like that on for size, I will provide the heartiest of atta boys. (And if DeSantis doesn’t say something like that, then maybe you should ask yourselves who and what DeSantis thinks his base is?)

                  I’m not holding my breath, but hey, who doesn’t love being pleasantly surprised?

                  So that’s it, that’s the best you’re gonna get from a Never Trumper. If I were you, I would take that deal and run!

                  But if these terms aren’t amenable because you’d rather have us as foils to curry favor with your MAGA pals—well that’s fine, too. And I understand that you have to preserve your viability in case the DeSantis thing doesn’t work out. So in the meantime, good luck with the fanzine, hope Ron makes the maneuvering easy for ya out there on the trail.

                  “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                  • Yes, He Will Burn It All Down
                    If Donald Trump can’t dominate the party, then he will seek to destroy it.

                    Nearly two years ago a prediction was published here, a warning to Republicans that “Donald Trump is going to destroy their party. Not because he wants to or even because he’s trying to. But because the destruction of the GOP will be required in order to fill his psychological needs.”

                    That prediction was published before Trump tanked the two Georgia Senate runoff elections, handing the majority to Democrats; before he incited a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol; and before he threatened to leave the Republican party during his final hours in office.

                    And yet all of that was subsequently forgiven and whitewashed by the same Republicans who are now desperately trying to dump Trump.

                    What’s odd is that Republicans are behaving as if Trump will take the hint, react appropriately to the roast they have coordinated, and go away. Team Normal even seems to think they can create a virtual smoke-filled room and convince the other potential 2024 contenders to keep the field small so Trump can’t win the nomination with a plurality of the vote like he did in 2016.

                    Given what they have experienced since 2015, and what they have consented to, why do Republicans think this can work?

                    Donald Trump is not afraid of his former attorney general Bill Barr, who warns that Trump will “burn down the GOP,” insists his former boss “step aside,” and now calls for a Reagan-style revival for Republicans.

                    And Trump doesn’t care that Paul Ryan and Larry Hogan now call him a loser. Or that Chris Sununu predicts Trump will be “just one of a dozen” candidates. Or that his former National Security Advisor John Bolton said Trump’s “act is old and tired.” Trump is probably laughing at Mike Pompeo, who suddenly coughed up the courage to criticize him—but only implicitly, without saying Trump’s name. They can take all the shots they want at him but Trump is not going to sweat establishment Republicans who have no currency with MAGA voters.

                    These Republicans attempting to isolate Trump don’t seem to understand that their own voters nominated hundreds of election deniers just a few months ago. And they do not seem to have an actual plan for how to turn these voters against Trump. They seem to think that Mitch McConnell can simply give a command and then Republican voters will do what they’re told.

                    Even though Republican voters have not done what they were told for going on seven years.

                    Meanwhile, Trump is busy enjoying a new business relationship with the murderous regime in Saudi Arabia and has signed a deal with the government of Oman. And even though he’s running, we can’t be certain that he actually wants to be president again. But “being president” isn’t really the point. The point is that Trump is running to remain relevant and continue getting paid. His interests—both business and personal—are much more centered around dominating Republicans than returning to the White House. And if he can’t dominate the party, then it will be in his interests—again, both business and personal—to burn down the GOP so it cannot win without him, either.

                    Republicans who think that their sternly worded warnings to Trump will be effective seem to have forgotten that this man purposefully endangered the life of his own vice president. So no, he will not be loyal to a political party, endorse the nominee, and encourage his voters to support the winner in 2024. Ronna Romney McDaniel, who has rigged the RNC for Trump (after he tried to steal an election) by paying his legal bills, buying Don Jr.’s books, and censuring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, has no secret plan to keep Trump on the team. Nor does anyone who could defeat her for RNC chair.

                    On January 20, 2021 when Trump told McDaniel he was leaving the GOP, he explained it would be punishment for Republicans who supported impeachment and refused to overturn the election, according to the account in Jonathan Karl’s Betrayal. “This is what Republicans deserve for not sticking up for me,” Trump told McDaniel. She managed to back Trump down by threatening to withhold payment of his bills and an email list he was using to raise millions. But Trump won’t back down now; he will not simply accept the promise of a potential future pardon from Ron DeSantis and go home quietly.

                    When attorney general Merrick Garland announced a special counsel to manage the Trump probes, the former president warned his party twice in a Fox News digital interview: “The Republican Party has to stand up and fight.”

                    Fight, or else.

                    When Jonathan Karl recently asked Paul Ryan about the threat of Trump filing for an independent candidacy, Ryan replied, “then he gives the left the country. And I think he would not want to be blamed for doing that.”

                    Again: Republicans who have never—ever—seen Donald Trump motivated by shame cannot base their plan to exile him on shame. In 2016, he accused Ben Carson of having a pathological temper and showed up to debate Hillary Clinton with women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and assault. Complete and utter imperviousness to shame is one of Trump’s superpowers.

                    Trump is already going after the new GOP Golden Boy, slapping a nickname on the Florida governor and threatening to spread dirt about him. He actually shared at least some of that dirt with Rolling Stone, which stated in its reporting about his effort to tar DeSantis: “Rolling Stone is declining to repeat what Trump has said.”

                    At his tired Vegas lounge act of a campaign announcement on November 15, Trump read from the prompter and it was so boring people tried to leave early. He was being disciplined and didn’t even mention the Big Lie—but he still included his essential ingredient, the persecution complex. “I’m a victim. I will tell you, I’m a victim,” he said. And this is what binds his most fervent supporters and remains his most potent weapon. Because his base knows that Trump is not just a victim of the Department of Justice, or a district attorney in Georgia, or the attorney general of New York—he is a victim of the RINOs complaining about his role in the midterms and coordinating to puff up DeSantis just because they can’t bring themselves to admit that overturning Roe had electoral consequences.

                    Trump has, at worst, about an even-money chance to win the Republican nomination. Before the midterms, Vanity Fair reported DeSantis was willing to wait for 2028 so he wouldn’t have to take on Trump. That was before he ran up the score in his re-election contest. But beating Charlie Crist in an increasingly red state while successfully ignoring Trump isn’t the same thing as beating Trump for the nomination. Just as releasing a campaign video claiming “God made a fighter” isn’t the same as actually fighting Trump, either.

                    And look at the rest of the Republican field: What’s their argument? None of them are running against Trump’s lawlessness or tyrannical instincts and they aren’t likely to distinguish themselves from each other on policy. What they think they can do is position themselves as polished Trumpists—savvier, more sophisticated culture warriors willing to dabble in illiberalism or authoritarian socialism, like using the state to attack the private sector. If the candidates nominated in 2020 and 2022 were more Trumpy, not less, the 2024 Republican contenders will likely run as Trump-lite, not as alternatives. If they do, then Trump has the best shot to win.

                    And Republicans have another handicap in their attempt to unseat Trump: They have to worry that if Trump falls behind in the primary polls and another clear leader emerges, he will leave and trash everyone. He won’t wait to lose the nomination, since he cannot permit an actual defeat. He will eject himself in advance and campaign against the party.

                    Chaos always wins. Trump can just grab Kari Lake or Marjorie Taylor Greene or whoever the MAGA Girl Wonder is that month and go nuts. He can pretend to start some candidacy somewhere, raise money, and sabotage the GOP nominee. And some portion of his voters will believe he has been cheated again, sold out by RINOs, and that voting Republican would be no different than voting for a woke socialist.

                    Trump has prepared perfectly for this final conflagration, because his supporters know fraud follows him everywhere. When Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses it was rigged. When Hillary Clinton won the popular vote it was rigged. 2020—obviously rigged. And so the 2024 contest is his to be had—or it’s rigged, too.

                    Most importantly, this campaign is a shield for Trump. He trusts his supporters will believe that any criminal charges he faces will be fake witch-hunts. He expects to raise a lot of money off of the outrage, and he also expects these developments to flummox his Republican opponents and adversaries.

                    Because if there is a reckoning and Trump faces justice, are his Republican opponents going to defend the Biden Justice Department or Fani Willis, and tell Republican primary voters that the charges are credible and Trump’s conduct was criminal? Will they tell the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to chill out and stop threatening the lives of law enforcement and prosecutors and judges and their families?

                    How could they? These same people spent the last five years defending Trump from “witch hunts” and “fake news” and all the rest. They helped prime Republican voters to believe this stuff.

                    Trump understands that anyone who dares to get into the race with him will have to agree that yes, it’s all a political persecution and Trump is innocent and that the best way to own the libs is to vote for him again. He’s the best middle finger available. They will have to say this because if they don’t, then they will either lose the primary or lose some sizable percentage of Republican voters.

                    Trump rode to power by fighting the Republican establishment because he understood that it was weak. He realized that whatever Republican elites might say, they’ll always come to heel. Grab ’em by the insurrection. You can do whatever you want.

                    Does the Republican establishment seem more powerful today than it was in 2015? And if, for some reason, Republican elites do hold out this time and line up against him, is there any reason to think that Trump will not torch them all on the way out the door?

                    When Republican elites say they want to move on from Trump because he hurts their party’s electoral chances, they’re telegraphing their own vulnerability. They’re admitting that they care more about winning Republican seats than anything else. Donald Trump does not care if the GOP ever wins again. And this gives him leverage over them.

                    If Republicans don’t understand this already, they soon will.
                    “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                    • Trump camp bets a crowded primary field lifts Don over Ron despite DeSantis surge

                      A crowded primary field will guarantee a Republican primary win for former President Donald Trump, his 2024 campaign operation believes, despite a string of recent national polls that show him trailing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in a head-to-head matchup.

                      More than a half dozen Trumpworld advisers, former administration officials, and campaign operatives told the Washington Examiner that support for DeSantis will slowly erode as more Republicans declare for 2024. Three specifically likened a yet-to-be-announced DeSantis run to former Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker's ill-fated 2016 bid. Back then, the two-term governor dropped out of the presidential race just months after entering the field as the odds-on favorite.

                      Operatives believe Trump firmly carries a third of the Republican electorate. Though DeSantis currently matches or beats Trump head to head in many national polls, Trumpworld predicts the Florida governor will fizzle as former Vice President Mike Pence, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tim Scott (R-SC), former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, and others all potentially jump into the race.

                      "The die-hard MAGA supporters won't vote for anyone but Trump. Everyone else who gets in dilutes support for DeSantis," one person stated. "Basically, we're praying Nikki Haley runs."

                      A number of polls taken over the past month back up those claims despite Trump's disastrous campaign rollout.

                      Politico and Morning Consult conducted a poll between Nov. 18-20, the days immediately following Trump's announcement, that showed Trump and DeSantis pulling 45% and 30% respectively, while Pence, Cruz, Haley, and six others notched single-digit support.

                      Morning Consult's poll from mid-December also gave Trump a 15-point lead over DeSantis. That survey showed Trump now polling at 48%, DeSantis at 33%, and Pence, Cruz, Haley, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), Pompeo, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD), and Scott all clocking in at 3% or lower.

                      A Harvard-Harris poll from Dec. 13-15 gave Trump an even larger 23-point lead over DeSantis in a field that again saw Pence, Haley, Cruz, Pompeo, and Scott fight for scraps.

                      And as of Wednesday, the RealClearPolitics polling average shows Trump leading DeSantis and the rest of the pack by a whopping 18.2 points.

                      MAGA world also claims that Trump maintains a major cash advantage over his budding rival. DeSantis pulled in an eye-popping $200 million for his 2022 reelection bid but spent more than half of it to secure his landslide victory over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.

                      Trump operatives note that DeSantis's biggest donor in the previous cycle was the Republican Governors Association, which pumped $20 million into the reelection effort over the past two years that will serve as a "onetime" infusion for a DeSantis 2024 run.

                      Meanwhile, Trump is betting on repeating his history of outpacing other Republicans with small-dollar donations. His own fundraising spiked in the month following his third campaign announcement, including $4.1 million in the two weeks after his Mar-a-Lago launch on Nov. 18. The former president has banked nearly $120 million for 2024, though Open Secrets reported after the midterm elections that he only had access to just over $13 million of that sum.

                      One Trumpworld figure predicted that should DeSantis enter the race in the spring of 2023, he'd be facing major funding problems by year's end and drop his bid before primary votes are even cast.

                      "Even the NFTs, which everybody in the media mocked, sold like hot cakes," one former Trump adviser told the Washington Examiner, adding simply, "He's still got it."

                      Trump will rip DeSantis and his wife into tiny pieces just as easily he did the rest of the Republican lineup in 2016
                      “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                      • DeSantis is often described as 'Trump without the baggage,' but there are plenty of differences between the two Republicans. How they play up their contrasts will decide who wins in 2024, GOP insiders say

                        Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.Alon Skuy/AFP via Getty Images and Scott Olson/Getty Images
                        • DeSantis could end up running for president in 2024, and he's widely viewed as similar to Trump.
                        • But the two men have a lot of differences, and they'll need to sharpen them in the months ahead, operatives said.
                        • They include upbringing, policy positions, and how they handle the press and opponents.
                        Plenty of pundits, donors, Democrats, and even other Republicans see similarities between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

                        At first glance, the parallels are easy to spot: DeSantis and Trump are both combative, have a flair for showmanship, and eagerly stoke the culture wars.

                        In lengthy news profiles, DeSantis often gets defined in relation to Trump. He's "Trump without the baggage," "Trump with a brain," Trump "without the drama," and "Trump's Mini Me."

                        The Trumpy nicknames are popping up in focus groups, too. Gunner Ramer, political director for the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project, told Insider that a participant recently described DeSantis as "Trump not on steroids." The Democratic National Committee is playing up DeSantis as a Trump twin, with a recent email to reporters slamming DeSantis' "Extreme MAGA Agenda."

                        The pile on is a problem for both men should DeSantis join Trump in the ring for the 2024 nomination contest.

                        After all, why vote for "Trump's Mini Me" when you can have the real thing? Why vote for Trump himself when you can have someone younger who could be in the White House for eight years instead of four? Why vote for either if you hated Trump's term in office?

                        In a 2024 contest, it'll be crucial for both men to highlight their differences. One of the most well-known, important rules for winning in politics is that candidates have to define themselves early. They can't let anyone else — particularly opponents — do it for them.

                        "If we go down this path, DeSantis is going to spend a whole primary showing how he's different," Sean Spicer, who was White House press secretary for Trump, told Insider.

                        As it turns out, taking a closer look at both men shows there are plenty of ways they differ. They have radically different backgrounds, they diverge in how they handle criticism, and have distinct ways of working and making decisions.

                        "DeSantis is his own man," Saul Anuzis, managing partner of Coast to Coast Strategies, LLC, a political consulting firm, told Insider. "It is an oversimplification to somehow imply that they're in the same lane."

                        So how, exactly, are the Republican men not interchangeable? Insider asked GOP strategists and people close to both men for their insight. Here's what they had to say:

                        Born to wealth v. working class family
                        One of the most immediately recognizable differences between Trump and DeSantis is their backgrounds.

                        There's Trump: The rich 76-year-old real estate tycoon who took over his father's business, rolled through several bankruptcies, and became a reality TV star. He used to donate to political campaigns. A few days after his 69th birthday, he announced his own.

                        Trump won the presidency once before going on to lose the next one without conceding, and was impeached twice including over incitement of the violent riot on January 6, 2021.

                        Then there's DeSantis: A 44-year-old who grew up in the small town of Dunedin, Florida, raised by a mom who was a nurse and a dad who installed Nielsen TV rating boxes. Baseball and good grades got him into Yale and then Harvard Law.

                        After serving in Navy, he went into politics where he was a US congressman that didn't gain much fanfare. Then the spotlight of the Florida governor's office turned him into a conservative darling.

                        His 2021 financial disclosures showed he had almost $319,000 in the bank and more than $21,000 student loans. (A not-yet-disclosed book advance in 2022 is expected to have vastly increased his personal wealth.)

                        "The contrast is clear — an athlete, veteran, conservative that knows how to govern versus a non-ideological, transactional former president that lost to Joe Biden," Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist and former advisor to the US Chamber of Commerce, told Insider. "The GOP is sick of losing and is searching for a forward looking-conservative."

                        But Trump supporters see DeSantis' early entrée into politics as a potential area of vulnerability. Lately, right-wing media and major donors have been siding with DeSantis, which could help elevate Trump's "outsider" status and pin DeSantis as a member of the establishment.

                        "He's a career politician," Alex Bruesewitz, a Trump supporter and CEO of X Strategies political consulting firm, told Insider of DeSantis. "And the America First movement hates career politicians, and people don't know that about Ron." He predicted DeSantis, a favorite of megadonors such as Citadel investment firm CEO Ken Griffin, would be "beholden" to them.

                        A poor legislative performance by congressional Republicans could also affect DeSantis' chances while being out of his control, Jennifer Carroll, who was lieutenant governor under DeSantis predecessor GOP Gov. Rick Scott, told Insider.

                        "Folks are gonna wonder: 'Should we trust the establishment anymore? Because we gave them a chance and they did nothing,'" she said.

                        Former President Donald Trump endorsed then-candidate Ron DeSantis when he ran for governor in 2018. The backing helped DeSantis seize the GOP nomination.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

                        Compulsion v. control
                        Trump is famous for being impulsive, saying what he thinks in the moment when asked, and firing off big decisions over Twitter that sent his aides scrambling.

                        Meanwhile, DeSantis is a careful planner who turns off the combativeness at times. For instance, he welcomed President Joe Biden's help after Hurricane Ian, and sat alongside first lady Jill Biden during the one-year anniversary of the Surfside building collapse.

                        DeSantis has the "ability to understand moments that transcend politics," Brian Ballard, president and founder of the powerhouse lobbying firm Ballard Partners and a longtime fundraiser for DeSantis, told Insider.

                        "There's plenty of time to have the typical political debates, arguments, and infighting," he said. "But in times of national emergency and crisis he has governed exceptionally and in a bipartisan fashion."

                        DeSantis also reads studies and gets into the minutiae of legislation, whereas Trump tends to be focused more on the big picture. Still, DeSantis, like Trump, explains complicated policies in a simple way when he's in public.

                        "He's measured where Trump is not," Carroll said. "And he does understand that you don't need to respond to everything, particularly at the time that people want you to respond. I believe he has a very good communications crew that he listens to, that affords him the luxury of doing that."

                        Direct v. subliminal
                        Trump began attacking DeSantis publicly just before Election Day. He nicknamed him "Ron DeSantimonious" then lashed out at the governor for being disloyal after DeSantis left open the question over whether he'd run for president.

                        For Trump's base, his directness is a good thing. "What's so great about Trump is he's transparent," Bruesewitz said. "He's a real person. He doesn't have these people that say, 'Sir, you have to say this at this time.'"

                        DeSantis hasn't directly hit back at Trump. He instead blamed the press for stirring up division. Yet he was also viewed as taunting Trump indirectly when he said Republicans should "check out the scoreboard" on Election Day — when he did well and Republicans flopped nationally.

                        On December 13, DeSantis announced several anti-COVID vaccine measures, taking aim at one of Trump's top presidential accomplishments but one his base despises due to the Biden administration's shot mandates. While he never mentioned the ex-president, he made the announcement geographically close to Mar-a-Lago, the oceanfront private club and estate where Trump lives in Palm Beach.

                        "He knows how to not only get things done, what the people want, but to shove it in his opponents faces specifically when its their weaknesses," said Sam Nunberg, who advised Trump's 2016 campaign.

                        DeSantis often holds major announcements at locations that carry subliminal messages. On the January 6 anniversary, he held a press conference again in West Palm Beach on an unrelated matter, but when Insider asked him about the Capitol riot he was prepared to answer, saying the press was working to "milk the attack." His comments made national headlines.

                        "So much of what we do in politics has to do with tone and image and how you present yourself, versus what you say," Anuzis said.

                        Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Sioux Gateway Airport on November 3, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. TStephen Maturen/Getty Images

                        Humor v. policy
                        Trump knows how to make his audience laugh, which made him relatable to the middle class, Carroll said. When he talked about his vision for the US, it was simple and easy to understand.

                        "Trump's comms skills are some of the best comms skills you'll ever see a major politician ever have because he knows how to speak to America," Nunberg said. "He's not interested in being lawyerly or political."

                        While there's a major swath of voters who despise Trump, he retains a loyal base that feels personally invested in him, in part because of who he is as a person.

                        In contrast, DeSantis is more policy-oriented, Nunberg said. As DeSantis has gotten more attention, several news outlets have reported comments from sources who say he's a social misfit. That's something Trump supporters are quick to point out.

                        "He's not likable," Bruesewitz said. "And it's going to be difficult when you go to these grassroots meetings and you're trying to get people to like you."

                        Anuzis, however, said that humor can sometimes backfire because it may "belittle the office and the seriousness of the situation." Voters may be in a place in 2024 in which they're looking for "sanity, calmness, and strength of leadership," he said.

                        DeSantis doesn't crack many jokes when he's at a podium. He starts on time, takes a victory lap over his accomplishments, and comes with prepared remarks. When hard questions come, he's ready for them.

                        "They are very different candidates in terms of charisma," Nunberg said. "You're not going to have your socks knocked off with Ron DeSantis, you're just not. And you have to accept that."

                        But DeSantis can still shape how voters see his personality. Spicer described DeSantis as a "fun guy," recounting a game of catch, darts, and a golf cart race with the governor after a Newsmax town hall.

                        "We know what we get with President Trump," he said. "You have to have been living under a rock to not know what you're going to get. DeSantis is still new."

                        On the media: Personal v. explaining
                        Trump and DeSantis both know how to effectively use and criticize the media.

                        But that's where the comparisons on their press strategies end.

                        "They might have the same 50,000-foot approach, but when you get down to 1,000 feet you realize there are big differences," Spicer said.

                        Trump got significant free air time in 2016, when cable news outlets would air his rallies in full. He criticized major news outlets as "fake news," and when he got to the White House he insulted reporters viciously and personally.

                        Despite all this, Trump sat down with mainstream outlets and even with authors who wrote books about him — no matter how scathing they turned out to be. And he keeps doing it.

                        "He's very direct in saying whatever he wanted to say about the media, which at times really turned people off and then also made the media mad at him because they didn't feel like he was respectful," Carroll said. "But they had access."

                        In contrast, DeSantis' sit-down interviews are more limited to conservative press, though after Hurricane Ian he interviewed with CNN and local outlets. He appears often on Fox News, which receives exclusives of major announcements.

                        This year, his team barred numerous reporters from a fundraiser, and his team has explained on Twitter that they won't cooperate with press they view as biased.

                        Yet there is one way DeSantis is accessible: When he holds press conferences he answers questions even if they are off topic. And his team also livestreams the exchanges and posts them to social media. That means even national outlets that don't have correspondents in Florida can tune in.

                        During these events, DeSantis can sometimes have tense exchanges with reporters — but they're on the substance of their question rather than who they are as a person. One CBS "60 Minutes" response debunking a story about his COVID vaccine rollout went viral.

                        "When he takes on the media he's calling them out, but he does it in a way in which rather than personalize he says, 'That's not true. Here are the facts,' and puts them in their place," Anuzis said.

                        Carroll said she noticed that DeSantis' communications team will also attack the media for him, including by posting screen shots of press inquiries on Twitter or mocking stories.

                        "His communications people tend to do it more so than he directly," Carroll said. "So it gives him more of a cushion in his pushback on the media, having an intermediary."

                        According to Ramer, DeSantis' approach is working to get his name ID out. People in focus groups even in other states such as West Virginia bring up his name as favorite for the 2024 nomination.

                        But Bruesewitz saw a weakness in DeSantis' strategy, which he called "calculated" and "theater."

                        "It's all scripted," he said. "You can't be scripted in a debate against Donald Trump."

                        Then-President Donald Trump campaigns with Ron DeSantis at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, on November 3, 2018.AP Photo/Butch Dill, File

                        Voting rigidity v. voting malleability
                        The way Trump and DeSantis encourage voters to cast their ballots could be crucial to how they perform in a primary.

                        Trump has trashed mail-in, absentee, and early voting, even during the 2020 presidential election, when the COVID-19 pandemic made it harder for voters to leave their homes. Republican political arms, however, are beginning to concede that they're at a disadvantage if Democratic voters have more time and can more easily cast their votes.

                        While DeSantis tightened Florida voting laws as governor, including setting up a police unit dedicated to investigating voter fraud, he has benefited from certain rules that make voting easier.

                        For instance, at campaign stops during his 2022 reelection, DeSantis urged people to vote early in Florida, even to do so on their way home from that very rally.

                        At the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting in November, DeSantis even pushed Republicans to engage in "ballot harvesting." The governor was referring to state voting laws that allow third parties to collect and deliver completed ballots on behalf of people who can't get to polling stations.

                        In Florida, DeSantis pushed the legislature to limit ballot collection by non-family members. But he said at the Las Vegas-based RJC meeting that Republicans should try to benefit from election laws in other states.

                        "Whatever the rules are, take advantage of it," he said.

                        Tested v. untested
                        DeSantis won a historic, 19-point victory in Florida on Election Day, all without Trump's help. It was the one "red wave" Republicans got out of the 2022 midterms.

                        But whether DeSantis can replicate that success nationally is still an open question, political insiders say.

                        Carroll said that DeSantis' Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, wasn't particularly standout during his time in Congress. He also had been "all over the map" and "was not well trusted" because he used to be a Republican governor, and then an Independent, before settling on the left, she said.

                        "If DeSantis had run against a candidate that was likable, recognizable, or was more credible, it may have been a different turnout — it could have been the same, but we really have to put it in context in terms of who was running against whom," she said.

                        Crist, the Florida Democratic Party, and national Democratic political arms also didn't put up much of a fight, Bruesewitz said.

                        "Ron has never been tested," he said.

                        Should DeSantis enter the 2024 contest, other GOP candidates are more likely to pile onto him as the runner up so they can try to get head-to-head with first-place Trump. What will it look like when millions of opposition research and ads go into attacking the Florida governor?

                        As for Trump, it's widely accepted that his MAGA base isn't going anywhere. Trump invokes a "deep-rooted personal connection," Nunberg said. "It's something you rarely see." They've followed him through numerous personal, legal, and political scandals, and perhaps even a pending indictment.

                        "He has a base that's unquestioned, that has stuck with him through thick and thin for the past six years," Ballard said.

                        While a few news outlets have described Trump as "diminished," Ramer from the Republican Accountability Project said it was still possible for the former president to get stronger ahead of the 2024 election. He noticed in focus groups that Republicans were souring a bit on Trump during the Select Committee's hearings about January 6, because it reminded them of all the baggage that came with his presidency. But after the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, there was a "rally-around-Trump" effect.

                        Whether it be DeSantis or anyone else, the ex-president is unmatched in getting away with scandals that would torpedo most people's political careers.

                        "He was a one-of-a-kind politician in our generation," Anuzis said.
                        “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                        • Trump shares article teasing third-party bid if GOP rejects him in ‘24
                          Former president Donald Trump has approvingly shared an article on his Truth Social account which argues that he should mount a third-party bid for the presidency if Republicans fail to award him the GOP nomination in the upcoming 2024 election.

                          On Wednesday, Mr Trump, who last month declared himself a candidate in the 2024 Republican primary, shared an article in the right-wing journal American Greatness on his Truth Social page. The article compares his theoretical third-party run to the 1912 candidacy of Theodore Roosevelt, whose campaign on the “Bull Moose” or “Progressive” party line split the GOP vote and led to William Howard Taft’s defeat at the hands of Woodrow Wilson.

                          The author of the editorial, Dan Glernter, writes that the inevitable consequence of a Trump third-party bid would be to hand the 2024 election to the Democratic candidate. Mr Glernter suggests that the result would be justifiable as a punishment for the GOP’s rejection of Mr Trump should he lose the party’s nomination to another candidate.

                          "The RNC can pretend Trump isn’t loved by the base anymore, that he doesn’t have packed rallies everywhere he goes. But I’m not buying it: Talk to Republican voters anywhere outside the Beltway, and it is obvious that he is admired and even loved by those who consider themselves 'ordinary' Americans,” Mr Glernter wrote, adding that he has “no intention of supporting a Republican Party that manifestly contravenes the desires of its voters”.

                          Recent opinion polls show Mr Trump losing ground among the GOP faithful, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis emerging as the top choice of most self-identified Republican voters.

                          Mr Trump has flirted with politics outside the two major parties before. In 2000, he started an exploratory committee with the stated aim of seeking nomination by the Reform Party, the third party which emerged from H Ross Perot’s two independent campaigns in 1992 and 1996. Though, he never seriously sought political office before announcing his candidacy for the GOP nomination in 2015.

                          He also briefly considered starting his own political party in the waning days of his presidency out of anger at the failure of many Republicans to back his attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss.

                          In his book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, ABC correspondent Jonathan Karl wrote that Mr Trump had actually told Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel that he was “done” with the GOP and was starting his own party.

                          In response, Ms McDaniel told him: “You cannot do that — if you do, we will lose forever.”

                          The soon-to-be ex-president replied: “Exactly — you lose forever without me. I don’t care. This is what Republicans deserve for not sticking up for me”.

                          Mr Trump reportedly withdrew his threat after being told that the RNC would withhold use of the massive email list he’d built during his two campaigns, as well as refuse to pay his legal bills. He later claimed the report of his aborted exit from the GOP was “fake news”.

                          Suggestions for the new party name:

                          The Autocratic Party
                          The Sedition Party
                          The Give Me More Money For Me Party
                          The Milking America's Gullible Assholes Party
                          “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                          • The GOP's 2024 freeze

                            Questions about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' political resilience — and fears of going toe-to-toe with former President Trump — have all but frozen the 2024 Republican field, delaying most of the leading prospects' timelines for entering the race.

                            Why it matters: Despite dominating polling among Republicans looking for a Trump alternative, DeSantis hasn't been tested in the klieg lights of a presidential election. His Republican detractors see him as a paper tiger who lacks the charisma necessary for a national campaign.
                            • "Everyone not named DeSantis is having a hard time figuring out their way around him. So they are waiting for him to screw up or fade," said Republican strategist Scott Jennings. "So far, he's doing neither."
                            • "No one wants to take slings and arrows from Trump," said another adviser to a top 2024 contender. "Whether they get in early or late isn't going to matter if they have a built-in network of donors."
                            State of play: DeSantis himself is unlikely to make a final decision about running for president until at least May, after Florida's legislative session ends.
                            • Former Vice President Mike Pence, who spent the holidays with family discussing his future political plans, isn't planning to make any presidential announcement soon. "It's in his interest to wait longer. He's always available as an option later," one top Pence adviser told Axios, calling him "a known commodity."
                            • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is at the start of a critical legislative session that will determine whether he can secure conservative policy victories with a divided legislature. Any Youngkin presidential decision would come later in the process.
                            • Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will be one of the first Republicans out of the gate. She's already staffing up her future presidential operation, with top advisers making plans to move to her home base of South Carolina.
                            • Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's book comes out on Jan. 24, and he's heading on a nationwide tour to promote it over the next couple of months. Any presidential announcement wouldn't come until May at the earliest, according to those familiar with his thinking.
                            Between the lines: DeSantis is already taking some hits on his right flank from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem over abortion. Florida currently has a 15-week abortion ban in place, but pro-life activists have been advocating for stricter limits.
                            • At the same time, DeSantis has offered more red meat for the MAGA movement lately — including calling for COVID-19 vaccine makers to be investigated for potential wrongdoing.
                            • By trying to maneuver to Trump's right, DeSantis could be opening up space for a more pragmatic conservative to gain momentum.
                            Reality check: Even with a lackluster start to his campaign, Trump is still the Republican front-runner in primary polls.The bottom line: We're likely to see a historically slow start to a presidential campaign, with many "known unknowns" about the size and nature of the field.
                            • The first Republican primary debate for the 2016 presidential election was held in August 2015. Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out that September.
                            • By January 2019, nine Democratic presidential candidates had already declared campaigns against Trump.

                            Can DeSantis compete with Trump? No, he can't. Not until after Trump is pushing up the daisies or is completely incapacitated.
                            Is DeSantis the heir-apparent to the GQP throne? Absolutely he is.
                            “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                            • Trump on the possibility of Ron DeSantis running against him in 2024: 'We'll handle that the way I handle things'
                              • Former President Donald Trump during a podcast Monday sent a warning to Ron DeSantis.
                              • Trump said he had heard DeSantis "might want to run" against him.
                              • "So we'll handle that the way I handle things," Trump said.
                              On Monday, former President Donald Trump phoned into the conservative podcast "The Water Cooler" and issued a warning to his prospective presidential rival Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

                              "So now I hear he might want to run against me. So we'll handle that the way I handle things," Trump said.

                              Trump also claimed credit — as he has repeatedly done in the past — for DeSantis having clinched the governorship in 2018, saying, "I got him elected, pure and simple."

                              DeSantis has not announced that he will run for president, but he has hinted that he might. During a debate in October, DeSantis did not commit to serving four full years as Florida's governor. Insider's Kimberly Leonard also reported in November that DeSantis is releasing his first autobiography, a key indicator that he is looking toward a White House run.

                              DeSantis has also become a prominent frontrunner to challenge Trump for the Republican presidential ticket. In a YouGov poll of 413 Republicans three days after the 2022 midterms, 42% of the respondents said they would rather have DeSantis as the GOP's 2024 nominee. Only 35% said they prefer Trump.

                              Meanwhile, Trump has not held back from insulting DeSantis. In November, Trump dubbed the governor "Ron DeSanctimonious" during a rally and blasted him as "average" on social media.

                              In private, Trump also does not appear to be DeSantis' biggest fan. In January 2022, Axios' Jonathan Swan reported that Trump was trash-talking the governor behind closed doors, slamming him for his perceived ungratefulness and saying DeSantis has a "dull personality."

                              DeSantis, meanwhile, has avoided addressing Trump's insults and refrained from hitting back. At a November 16 press conference, DeSantis told people to "chill out" about a possible GOP civil war between him and the former president.

                              Representatives for DeSantis and a spokesman at Trump's post-presidential office did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

                              The way he handles things? Illegally and underhandedly? Blatantly authoritarian with a whiff of fascism? Probably a few misogynistic insults about Mrs. DeSantis for good measure?
                              “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”


                              • Trump takes aim at DeSantis in first major campaign swing, says he’s trying to ‘rewrite history’ on his Covid-19 record
                                Former President Donald Trump took aim at Ron DeSantis Saturday, claiming the Florida governor and his team are “trying to rewrite history” regarding their Covid-19 pandemic response, and called the potential presidential run by his GOP rival “very disloyal.”

                                “There are Republican governors that did not close their states,” Trump told reporters while aboard his plane. “Florida was closed for a long period of time.”

                                “They’re trying to rewrite history,” he added. CNN has reached out to DeSantis for comment.

                                In March 2020, the Florida governor issued an executive order closing bars and nightclubs, urging people to follow US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to limit gatherings on beaches to no more than 10 people. By that September, DeSantis signed an order clearing restaurants and bars to fully open, which drew criticism from public health officials due to the Covid-19 spike that fall.

                                Trump defended his management of the pandemic, saying he left decisions to governors.

                                “I had governors that decided not to close a thing and that was up to them,” he said. The former president also took aim at DeSantis’ shifting posture on vaccines, saying the Florida governor had “changed his tune a lot.”

                                That claim comes after DeSantis called on state lawmakers this month to make permanent existing penalties for companies that require all employees get the Covid-19 vaccination.

                                The rivalry with Trump hangs over every move DeSantis makes. Their relationship traces back to the governor’s 2018 primary campaign, when an endorsement from Trump helped the little-known congressman win the nomination. A viral ad featuring DeSantis and his family, including two young children, highlighted his allegiance to Trump.

                                But as talk of 2024 swirled in recent months, as Trump again declared his presidential candidacy, and DeSantis won re-election in a 19-point landslide in November, the pair grew increasingly at odds. Before and after the midterm election, Trump derided DeSantis as an “average governor” and mocked him with the would-be nickname, “Ron DeSanctimonious.”

                                On Saturday, during his first major campaign swing to New Hampshire and South Carolina, Trump took credit again for helping elevate DeSantis during his 2018 bid for governor, saying “Ron would have not been governor if it wasn’t for me.”

                                “So when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal,” Trump said.

                                While taking aim at DeSantis, Trump told reporters aboard his plane that Nikki Haley – who served as his ambassador to the United Nations – called him in recent days to inform him that she is considering launching a 2024 presidential bid.

                                “I talked to her for a little while, I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run,’” Trump said. “She’s publicly said that ‘I would never run against my president, he was a great president.’”

                                Trump said he told Haley that she “should do it.”

                                Haley, who recently relocated her top aides to Charleston, is said to be weighing the timing of a campaign launch at this point, not wanting to be the first one to take on Trump by herself. In 2021, she said she would not challenge Trump if he ran again for the White House in 2024.

                                CNN has reached out to Haley for comment.
                                “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”