Thursday, April 27, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Trump's Inevitability?

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

The invisible primary buzzword of the last 24 hours or so (if not longer) has been inevitability. As in, the impression is forming that Trump is looking like the inevitable Republican presidential nominee in 2024. It pops up in The Washington Post. And there it is in Politico as well. If one is in Trump World's orbit, then that is likely the impression they want. 

The slow yet methodical drip, drip, drip of endorsements over the course of the last few weeks may have been engineered to serve as a symbol of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's flagging support, but during the same span of time, his poll numbers began to dip and the former president's rise. It has been a well-played move by the 45th president's team before DeSantis even formally enters the race. And with no one else even threatening to break into double digit support as the invisible primary marches on, that certainly buoys the notion of Trump as inevitable. 

But is he? 

The first thing to note here is that there just is not a long and deep history of losing presidents coming back to run again. Not in the post-reform era anyway. And honestly, that trend stretches back much further into the 20th century than that. But FHQ raises that fact to suggest that as far as inevitability goes, a former president, in the abstract, would be well-positioned (if not best-positioned) to be granted inevitability status. And that has been the case for Trump. That has not changed. 

What has changed is that the attacks on DeSantis have put the governor on the defensive and he has not exactly answered the call (yet). Those attacks have worked. Additionally, Trump has been indicted. And those charges against the former president in court in Manhattan have done what threats to Trump did during his presidency (and post-presidency): they have rallied Republican support (in the near term).  

So, as long as endorsements keep coming in for Trump and his poll numbers continue to rise, there will be fuel to stoke the fires of inevitability chatter. And that may be enough. That perception may be enough stunt the growth of and effectively end any challenge to Trump for the nomination even before one vote is cast. That is definitely what Team Trump wants. But it is still relatively early -- even if it can get late early in the invisible primary -- and best-positioned though Trump may be at this time, the one thing the former president continues to invite is uncertainty. 

We may be getting a clearer picture of how a former president may do if he or she were to run for renomination for the first time in quite some time, but Trump is unique because of all the baggage he brings. He is polarizing for starters, but he also has additional potential criminal charges looming over him. He may be or become inevitable, but that uncertainty will continue to animate support for alternatives in the Republican nomination process. Voters and donors will look around now and into the future, and possible candidates will in the near term entertain if not act on their ambitions to challenge the former president. 

And those two forces -- inevitability and uncertainty -- will continue to collide over the next month or two as the field of candidates solidifies. Both bear watching.

Number of the day: 62. FHQ is often quick to dismiss polls at this stage of the invisible primary. That does not mean I do not look at them. It means I do not put too much stock into them at this point. Still, sometimes those surveys catch my eye. Take the recent Emerson poll of the Republican primary race and the Fox News poll of the Democratic presidential field. In the former, Trump is at 62 percent. And in the latter, Biden sits at 62 percent. Those numbers from individual polls do not necessarily mean anything, but folks will talk about those two 62s very differently. Trump's 62 suggests, well, inevitability while Biden's 62, some would argue, shows weakness. 

Nevertheless, he persisted. Trump may be inevitable, but there has not been any reporting to suggest that DeSantis is second-guessing a bid for the Republican nomination. In fact, with the Florida legislature set to wrap up its work early next month, that sets up the governor in the Sunshine state to throw his hat in the ring in the not-too-distant future. NBC is reporting that DeSantis will waste little time and announce an exploratory committee soon after the legislature adjourns. 

Additionally, The Guardian discusses the staff assembling in Tallahassee for an actual (not super PAC-run shadow) DeSantis campaign.

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • Those presidential primaries or primary moves in Hawaii, Missouri and Ohio? Well, the week has not been kind to any of the efforts across that trio of states. All the details at FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work.

On this date... 1976, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter (D) and President Gerald Ford (R) won their respective primaries in Pennsylvania. North Dakota Democrats caucused and Pennsylvania Governor Milton Schapp (D) withdrew from the Democratic presidential nomination race. 1992, Republicans in Utah held caucuses. 2004, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (D) took the Pennsylvania primary. 2016, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), trailing Donald Trump in the delegate count for the Republican nomination, named former candidate Carly Fiorina his running mate on a short-lived ticket that did not fundamentally alter the race heading into the Indiana primary the following week.


No comments: