Neocon and Trump-hater Bill Kristol interviewed Whit Ayres, a long-time Republican pollster, about the state of the Republican primaries. The interview is 53 minutes, but nevertheless worth watching, although Kristol, who is not a good speaker, doesn't let Ayres, who is an excellent speaker, talk enough. Still Ayres makes many good points, summarized as follows.
There are really three Republican Parties at the moment:
Ayres said that each of the not-Trump candidates is appealing primarily to one of the three miniparties above. Vivek Ramaswamy is Trumpier than Trump and appealing only to the Always Trumpers. He also has the problem that his hero is Neville Chamberlain and his answer to the red MAGA hat is a white flag. He is quite happy to give Putin as much of Ukraine as he wants. Ramaswamy has no chance because the Always Trumpers are always Trumpers. The same is true of DeSantis. Trying to out-Trump Trump won't work because Always Trumpers will always prefer the real thing over a fake Trump.
Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND), and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) are all aiming at the Maybe Trumpers. In greater or smaller measure, they support most of what Trump wants but say that because they don't have his baggage, they are more electable. Scott and Pence each have a shot at winning Iowa, because it has almost as many evangelicals as it has pigs. If one of the two can consolidate the evangelical vote, which is up for grabs, that person could win and go into New Hampshire with momentum. Burgum is wasting his time, but Haley did very well in the debate. If she comes off as the only adult in the room, maybe she could consolidate the Maybe Trumpers behind her. In any event, that is her assignment.
Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson are going after the Never Trumpers. They are not a large chunk of the party, but in an 8-way split, even 15% is a lot. Also, Christie is from the northeast and is well known there. In addition, there aren't a lot of evangelicals in New Hampshire but there are a lot of ornery people there. He could catch on with the Never Trumpers there. If Christie wins the New Hampshire primary, he could become a real force. Otherwise, he is dead in the water. Hutchinson is dead in the water already. (V)