Opinion | Chris Christie, Glenn Youngkin, Chris Sununu: Who Can Save the G.O.P. in 2024?

At this point, it seems a little gratuitous to pick at the scab of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s not-so-dazzling presidential campaign opening. Let us just stipulate that when your long-anticipated announcement jump-starts #DeSaster trending on social media, things could have gone better.

The feeble rollout wouldn’t much matter if the Florida governor were otherwise dominating the Republican primary race, or even holding steady. But he isn’t. Slipping poll numbers, questionable policy moves, the people skills of a Roomba — his multiplying red flags have landed the Republican Party in the odd position of having not one but two problematic front-runners: its original MAGA king and the lead runner in its Anyone But Trump lane.

So where does the race go from here? Most likely nowhere new, unless someone steps up with a fresh approach to the Trump problem. Because so far, the pack of pretenders to Donald Trump’s throne reeks of weakness. And nothing delights the MAGA king more than curb-stomping the weak.

A presidential field without a strong front-runner invariably invites a pile-in of challengers. Every Tim, Nikki and Vivek — and Asa, Doug, Larry, Mike, etc. — surveys the scene and thinks: Heck yeah, why not me? Why not, indeed. Given the topsy-turvy state of the political terrain, is it really much more ridiculous for Vivek Ramaswamy, the upstart tech entrepreneur, to think he has a shot at the nomination than for Mike Pence to? No rampaging MAGA mob has ever brayed for his hanging, so in some regards, he has a critical edge on the former vice president.

A host of seasoned politicians, along with characters no one has ever heard of, are out there right now poring over the results of test polls and focus groups, talking with players in Iowa and New Hampshire, huddling with big donors and strategists. Fueling the frenzy, twitchy donors are casting about for a more promising champion than Mr. DeSantis, pressuring their favorite white knights to join the tournament. Listen closely and you can hear the phones chirping in the offices of popular Republican governors such as Chris Sununu, Glenn Youngkin and Brian Kemp.

Even as the mass of pretenders to Mr. Trump’s throne grows, the energy from the field remains stubbornly subdued. The pretenders have adopted a stance of nonaggression, an unwillingness to come hard at the MAGA king. The reasoning behind this is no secret. The former president feeds on conflict like a vampire on virgins. But the result is a collection of challengers trying to sell beta-male energy to a voting base hooked on outrage, machismo and blood lust.

The whole vibe of the Republican contest feels increasingly passive-aggressive, with the pretenders giving Mr. Trump the side eye as they throw varying degrees of shade. The most direct (like Asa Hutchinson) somberly discuss the former president’s character flaws and lament that his antidemocratic behavior has disqualified himself from high office. Far more often, the candidates lard their electoral pitches with veiled criticisms about how governing is about more than salty tweets or how the presidency isn’t about building a personal brand — all while avoiding Mr. Trump’s name, of course.

Even Mr. DeSantis, who fancies himself a fighter, won’t risk a full-frontal assault. His people have said he plans to be strategic with his criticisms — more shiv than sledgehammer. How cool. How strategic. But you know what happens when someone takes a sledgehammer to a shiv, right?

If Republicans are serious about dislodging Mr. Trump, this race needs a jolt. Soon. No one knows exactly what might do the trick, but those weary of groveling before him would do well to start experimenting — for the sake of the party more than even their own ambitions. At the very least, someone needs to climb into the ring with the willingness and disposition to throw a direct punch. Metaphorically, of course.

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, has been making noises as if he wants to be that guy. In a recent interview with Politico, he vowed that if he runs, he will tackle Mr. Trump’s weaknesses head-on, from the character troubles to the record of losing. (So much losing.) “I don’t believe that Republican voters penalize people who criticize Trump,” he asserted.

To pull this off, Mr. Christie would need to go all in on his no-nonsense, in-your-face, Jersey tough-guy shtick — the one where he yells at people to sit down and shut up — and quash the sycophantic streak that had him smooching Mr. Trump’s backside for years. If he could go bully-a-bully with the former president, things could get interesting for the first time in forever. In 2016, no Republicans went hard at Mr. Trump because no one took him seriously. This time, most are too afraid of him. They are still hoping to find some magical way to woo his voters without his noticing or fighting back.

Good luck with that.

This race needs a brawler in the mix — if not Mr. Christie, then someone else with that inclination.

Omar Little, the drug-dealer-robbing philosopher on “The Wire,” once observed, “You come at the king, you best not miss.” But if everyone is too chicken — excuse me, too strategic — to seriously come at the king at all, how can anyone expect a regime change?

Check out our Latest News and Follow us at Facebook

Original Source

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *