A week that included two more additions to the crowded 2024 Republican presidential primary field could prove to embolden the candidacy of former President Donald Trump, according to a political columnist.
Politico's Jonathan Martin wrote in a Friday column that Republican lawmakers, donors, and strategists most eager to stop Trump are depending on a plan that's "more fantasy than strategy."
The columnist said those GOP power brokers have said that an early presidential nominee contender will become clear in the national polls and early state primaries, and lagging candidates then will be convinced to bow out and support the strongest alternative to the former president.
"Such a plot always struck me as a bit far-fetched, for starters because politicians aren't known for putting party ahead of self," Martin wrote. "Yet the appetite among elite Republicans to move past Trump was and is so immense I thought there could at least be a do-the-right-thing effort.
"If Trump does emerge as the GOP standard bearer next year we will look back on this week to grasp why, just like in 2016, he was able to take advantage of a divided opposition."
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination on Monday, two days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis entered the race via a clumsy announcement on Twitter.
"Nobody was more thrilled about DeSantis' decision to begin his campaign on a balky Twitter stream than his current and prospective Republican rivals," Martin wrote. "Trump sees his fellow Floridian as weaker today than at any point since last year's midterm, and the other non-Trumps are hardly going to step aside anytime soon, even after DeSantis' eye-popping first fundraising haul."
Attendees at Scott's announcement included Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and billionaire Larry Ellison, who is prepared to finance the senator's campaign, which already has nearly $22 million in the bank.
Martin also mentioned Scott's speech.
"There was alliterative call-and-response ('Victimhood or victory?'), there was entering the crowd at the end, there were testimonials to America's greatness and there was the gospel of Jesus Christ, self-help and the power of positive thinking," the columnist wrote. "It was the Black church meets the mega church, set to a Lee Greenwood-Thomas Jefferson soundtrack while Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan smiled down from above over a Chick-fil-A lunch."
"In other words, Scott happily railed against wokeness without ever saying the word 'woke,' precisely the sort of messaging that will appeal to Republicans done with Trump who want a duller edge than DeSantis."
Also this week, Axios reported that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin again is considering a presidential bid.
"But, again, this is all delightful to Trump, who is thrilled about the prospect of more candidates carving up the opposition," Martin wrote. "Never one for subtext, the former president responded to Scott's entry by gleefully saying the primary 'is rapidly loading up with lots of people.'"
Martin noted that former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, another GOP candidate in the race, has attacked DeSantis instead of Trump.
"Perhaps most significant, Haley's criticism of the person in second rather than the one leading most state and national surveys by double-digits highlighted the central challenge non-Trump Republicans are confronting: their own voters," Martin wrote.
"After years of absorbing attacks on Trump from Democrats and the media — and the former president happily embracing, to borrow from Scott, the role of both victim and victor — the GOP rank-and-file is largely inured to frontal attacks on a man most of them have now voted for twice in general elections."
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