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The Not-Trump Candidates Audition

One of the earliest cattle calls for the upcoming presidential election is the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, the baby of Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Adelson didn't show up this past weekend at the Venetian Hotel because he was in Israel—about 2 meters under the ground—but the event happened without him. Most of the folks who see themselves as the Republican nominee did show up however. Ron DeSantis was the keynote speaker and he received a raucous reception when he announced: "The state of Florida is where woke goes to die."

But DeSantis wasn't the only presidential wannabe there talking to the donors, operatives, reporters, and others. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was taking selfies. Mike Pompeo was distancing himself from Donald Trump. Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) was there calling Trump a "loser." Nikki Haley was there, for some unidentified reason. Mike Pence has dreams that aren't going to come true, but he doesn't know that, so he showed. As we approach the bottom of the barrel, we encounter Chris Christie, also there. Even Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH)—one of the longest of longshots—showed up. Adelson's money made this event a must for Republican candidates for years. Maybe they don't know that he died 2 years ago and that his wife, Miriam, is not really that interested in politics.

One theme that we have pointed out repeatedly here was apparently also front and center among the potential candidates: the mechanics of the Republican primaries. Most of them award all the delegates to the candidate who gets the most votes. That means if Trump gets a consistent 35-40% of the vote and the rest is divvied up by half a dozen candidates in each contest, he will get all the delegates and the nomination. All the wannabes know this, but each one wants all the others to drop out.

The situation for the not-Trump candidates is not hopeless, though. The Democratic field in 2020 was also badly fragmented. But after Joe Biden swept South Carolina and Super Tuesday right afterwards, most of the others saw the writing on the wall and dropped out. That could happen with the Republicans in 2024, except that most of the wannabes have gigantic egos and all of them have much more loyalty to themselves than to the Republican Party. Nevertheless, they are all aware of the problem, and that is the first step to dealing with it.

In a more perfect world, all of them could make a pact now saying that after the delegates are awarded on Super Tuesday, everyone except the top two candidates will drop out. But that is not going to happen. Traditionally candidates drop out not when they think their chances are nil, but when the money dries up. If the donors were to agree to support only the top two candidates based on the delegate count after Super Tuesday, that would de facto also solve the problem. But don't count on that either. (V)

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