4 May 2023
Battle of the Titans
by J.R. Thomas
Yes; the headline is indeed more than a little satirical, though neither Mr Biden or Mr Trump would read it that way. Joe has finally declared he will run in ’24, and that does seem to have reinvigorated him; at the White House Lobby Correspondents Dinner he was on good form, joking and teasing, mainly of himself. But you cannot forget this man is his age – his speaking voice is becoming a bit mumbly and he is very pale, almost waif like. Donald, only 3 years younger, looks very much fitter, and to prove it, is bouncing round Scotland this week, inspecting his golf course empire. He told the adoring (joking, joking) bunch of journos gathered at the foot of his personal jet steps that it was good to be home, reminding them his mother was from the Isle of Lewis. Which raises the question: FURIS? Fail in USA, Run In Scotland. There does seem to be an opening in Scottish politics and Don could mug up on the SNP, personally refinance the sorry mess, and take over as leader and First Minister. Make Scotland Great Again!
But at the moment his campaign to resume his POTUS role is going pretty well. Ron DeSantis must be rueing sticking his head above his Florida parapet so early. Donald may be a Florida resident and voter, but he has notably failed to be supportive of the Governor. Ron was of course a great supporter of Don in his day, and has been a highly popular governor, but Mr Trump is not going to move aside for the young whipper-snapper (Mr DeSantis is 44). He (Donald that is) thought of the rather apt nickname “Ron DeSanctimonious” which picked up a thread of the Governor’s character previously not really noticed. (Mr Trump in another life would have been a highly successful comedy scriptwriter.) And the Trump demolition machine has continued to focus on poor young Ron, pointing out, for instance, that Ron is not a very good speaker unless delivering a carefully prepared script; go off the text and he stumbles and hesitates and is often ill-prepared. So much damage has been done that it now seems that what some Republicans thought of as the potential GOP dream team – Don + Ron – is simply impossible.
Which, in a way, from the GOP’s point of view is a pity. The men are well suited to work together; they are both dubious about foreign adventures such as Ukraine; they both would like less government though in Donald’s case this seems a bit theoretical; Ron has certainly done that in Florida; they are both for lower taxes and are business friendly – so long as the business is not the Disney Corporation. There are big arguments against this dream ticket too – Mr DeSantis is very anti-woke; Mr Trump rather less so. They are both male and caucasian. And they are both from Florida, even if Mr T started life and made his money and reputation in New York. For both the Presidential and the Vice-Presidential candidates to hail from the same state is pretty much a no-no.
Mr Trump is not likely to go back to New York, where so far he seems to be fighting off the various cases pending in the Big Apple courts with reasonable success, but there seems to be a lot more to come, and being resident in the state would be a risky strategy. Florida is really the Trump and MAGA heartland; New York is the antithesis of that. So Donald is a declared runner, and Ronald is still thinking about it, as his poll ratings fall almost daily.
This might seem the moment for a quick run through other possibilities than Don and Ron. But none have so far declared, though some have hinted, and others have denied in that sort of “aw shucks” way that politicians do when they mean “probably”. That leaves a formidable list of possibles and anybody used to the inner workings of the Republican Party and its controlling old guard of anti-Trumpers will suspect there may be some manoeuvring going on in the hope that support will coalesce around a strong alternative to Mr Trump. We know that it won’t be Mike Pompeo who says, in a determined, not aw shucks, way that he will not run. Mike Pence might and as a former Vice President, a pretty decent guy, a middle of the roader, and a man who very skilfully detached himself from his boss during the March on the Capitol of January 2020, he would be the ideal mainstream candidate. But the question has to be, does the Trump demolition machine have anything on him – or even a funny and apposite nickname? Nikki Haley would also be a good candidate, formerly Governor of South Carolina, a former member of Trump’s inner circle but also now semi detached. She has lots of potential voter appeal – except she is not very well-known. She is a reasonable speaker, is the correct sort of age – 51, is a woman when increasingly Americans think it is time for a woman president, has a record in Federal and State Government, and is a sort of moderate Trumpite with lots of room for manoeuvre in her political philosophy. No known nickname has yet being allocated by Mr Trump, and although we all howled with laughter at Pocahontas Warren and Lyin’ Hillary, insulting women too unpleasantly, even in this woke age, is a dangerous thing – “Pocahontas” was after all brilliant and “Lyin’” was rather on the money.
We might just mention Chris Christie, a former high flyer and former two term Governor of New Jersey, and a very ambitious man. He was damaged whilst running NJ by the George Washington Bridge hoo-hah – hoo-hah because nothing was proven in spite of extensive legal and journalistic enquiries, the allegation being that the Governor caused extensive traffic jams to inconvenience a political opponent. When recently asked if he was considering another presidential run – he had a go in 2012 and again in 2016 – he said not “aw shucks” but “sure”. We take that to mean “if he can raise the money.” Mr Christie is jolly and a clever operator but he does carry some political baggage and is probably a bit too closely aligned to Mr Trump for the tastes of the grand old men of the Grand Old Party.
No doubt as the months pass we will draw your attention to other contenders for the All-comers Trump challenge; but with this column’s record on forecasting we are not going to put our money on anybody at this stage. Nor do we wish to gain a funny nickname by coming to Mr Trump’s attention.
Next month we will review a much more straight forward battle for the nomination – that combination of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris which so turns off the average voter. And ask, if that is so, why choose them as your candidates?