Whenever a political party greatly underperforms expectations, especially in a historical context, a lot of members, leaders, and media types ask: "What happened and whose fault was it?" For the Republicans, the finger pointing has started already. If the Democrats end up gaining a seat in the Senate, it will only get worse, since the president's party normally gets shellacked in the first midterm. So far, the finger pointing has been done quietly, in private, but it is bound to burst out into the open if the Democrats end up gaining a seat in the Senate, instead of losing three or four.
The private criticism so far has mostly focused on Donald Trump and his endless teasing another presidential run instead of on the Official Topics™ the Republicans wanted to talk about: inflation and crime. Also, he spent a lot of time visiting states he lost and complaining about how unfairly he was treated instead of visiting states where he is popular.
Republicans are also holding their breath about what Trump is going to announce tomorrow. If it is his candidacy, they are afraid that it will make him the center of attention again and suck all the air out of Herschel Walker's (R) runoff campaign in Georgia.
Some Republicans are beginning to say it is time to move on from Trump. Most of them are looking at Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) as their standard-bearer in 2024. These are mostly just murmurs so far, but one important Republican is going public with doubts about Trump, and it is a very important one: Rupert Murdoch. His New York Post ran this front page after the election:
There is no way the Post would have run that front page without Murdoch personally giving his approval. So far, Fox News hasn't followed, but if Fox drops Trump like a hot potato and jumps on the DeSantis bandwagon, Trump will be in big trouble. So far, the prime-time Fox hosts have been carefully avoiding taking sides. But that alone is telling. In the past, it was Trump! Trump! Trump!
No Republican wants a knock-down drag-out food fight between Trump and DeSantis, but the only way to prevent that is going to be to convince one of them not to run. The chance that Trump is so scared of DeSantis that he drops out is basically zero. Besides, he thinks that being a candidate may frighten AG Merrick Garland into not indicting him. His lawyers may be thinking about using the "witch hunt defense," telling the jury that Garland is prosecuting Trump because he is running for president. This works only if Trump is actually running. Plus, the former president loves his rallies and he loves seeing the donations roll in. So, we can't imagine him not running. In theory, DeSantis could wait until 2028, but he is now on a roll and Trump is weak. It doesn't make sense for him to wait until 2028, when he won't even be in office. Plus, if Joe Biden stands down and another Democrat takes over and wins, then DeSantis would be up against an incumbent in 2028. What could RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel offer DeSantis as a bribe to get him to wait until 2028? A promise of Uncle Mitt's support then? We doubt that will do the trick.
Tim Alberta, who is now at The Atlantic, has written a piece that not only points fingers, but points out some lessons the Republicans ought to take to heart going forward, as follows.
So it looks like a lot of fingers are going to be pointed at Trump. And he will point right back. It could get messy.
Could Trump really be knocked off his pedestal and be replaced by Ron DeSantis? Let's see what bettors over at PaddyPower think. Here are the betting odds for the top four candidates over at the Irish bookie converted to probabilities expressed as percentages.
Does this make sense? On one hand, these are people putting their own money on the line. On the other hand, the bettors largely aren't Americans. And those who are Americans certainly aren't a random sampling of the American public. These figures indicate that Trump and DeSantis are neck and neck right now, which seems about right to us. However, the notion that the Republicans have a 2-in-3 chance of winning the White House in 2024 is madness.
Also, for what it is worth, a new YouGov poll shows that 41% of Republican voters would prefer DeSantis as their presidential nominee in 2024 to 39% who would prefer Trump. If DeSantis is paying attention and thinks he could win, he will probably challenge Trump. (V)