Trouble Among the Old Folk

An American Bald Eagle looks fierce in front of the Stars & Stripes flag

1 February 2024

Trouble Amongst the Old Folks 

by J.R.Thomas

Donald Trump (aged 77) won in Iowa, as we expected.  But he also won in New Hampshire, rather unexpected.  And so he is out of the starting stalls and away down the track, with seemingly a winning lead in the 2024 Presidential stakes.  It’s all over, bar the actual election, in November this year.  That’s what the mainstream media thinks anyway, and this time they could be right.  But actually, Mr Trump is not quite as much ahead as you might think.  He has 32 delegates, Nikki Haley (aged 52), now condemned to doing a tortoise impersonation, has 17, and Ron DeSantis 9, with Vivek Ramaswamy 3.  The latter two aspirants have dropped out of course, and presumably their delegates will go to Ms Haley, giving her 29.  So the race for the Republican candidacy has not even begun yet, and if Mr Trump should fall at the many other primary election fences yet to come (or be borne down by a torrent of litigants and legal actions) Ms Haley could easily catch up, supposing she has the determination and the money. 

Mr T may win through all his legal difficulties, but he does have one trouble which must give Ms Haley hope.  Donald has been banned from being on the primary ballot papers in Maine and Colorado over the march on Congress; there are a further dozen or so states where applications are proceeding to try to ban him. It seems unlikely that it will actually stop him running anywhere as the existing two cases have been referred to the Federal Supreme Court, and no doubt any more bans will be similarly referred. As there is a Republican-leaning majority in the Court it seems unlikely that they will support the dump Trump attempts; but; but; but… The Court has of course in the past supported state’s rights (rather than Federal intervention) and could refuse to overturn decisions taken by states’ Supreme Courts. That would throw a spanner in the Trump works, one perhaps being prayed for by the old men of the Republican Party machine.

We have not covered here the various other GOP candidates who have stepped up in hope and then stepped back as their overdrafts became unsustainable or their reputations trashed (we do not have the space), although they included a number of distinguished persons (Chris Christie; Asa Hutchinson; Tim Scott, to name but three).  There are, though, still three runners in the race.  You will not have heard of them, we had not heard of them, they have won no delegates, and indeed, so far as we know, have not done any campaigning yet. 

And before we leave Camp Trump (we will in just a moment, we promise) one further factor that may be driving Ms Haley on, is that one way of Donald dealing with this annoying bee buzzing at his heels could be to nominate her as his Vice Presidential running mate.  Mr Trump has said he won’t, his senior advisors have said he won’t, everybody thinks it is unlikely.  So it won’t happen.  Well, it might.  They worked well together in the first Trump presidency.  And another thing.  It is Donald’s habit to find funny and undermining nicknames for his opponents – “Pocahontas” Warren remains our all-time favourite, but “Sleepy” Joe is good and “Lying” Hillary did not help that lady at all.  So far Nikki has not attracted that Trump mark of scorn, which could be because it would be a mistake to hand such a card to the Democrats about a lady who then appears by your side as a proposed Veep. Just saying. 

Now onto the blue side of the score card, the Democrats.   

Old Joe (aged 81) has so far won only New Hampshire, the only primary for the Democrats so far.  Which is not to say there are no alternative offerings. That well known kayaker and falconer Robert Kennedy Jr (aged 70) did file his papers in April last year to run as a candidate in the Democrat primaries (he was the fifth descendant of Joe Kennedy, his controversial grandfather, to do this) but he pulled out in the fall and said he would run as an independent.  Whether he will or not, whether he can raise the funding, and whether his eccentric life will withstand the glare of the media spotlight we would not like to say.  At the moment he is keeping fairly quiet – as befits a man with a voice impediment, another potential difficulty in running for a job that requires a deal of public speaking, though you might argue Mr Biden has not overdone that aspect of the job description.

When we say there are alternative offerings there are in fact more than 160 persons who have registered to run as a Democrat presidential contender. Most of them you will struggle to recognise – in fact in many cases their next-door neighbours might struggle to recognise them – but there are a couple of more serious contenders, Dean Philips, aged 55, and Marianne Williamson, aged 71.  Ms Williamson we have covered before in this column, when she ran in the 2020 contest, effectively vanishing without trace.  But she is back for another go, and had the support of about 4% of New Hampshire Democrat primary voters.  A more serious threat, albeit at the moment a remote one, is Mr Philips. In New Hampshire 20% of voters gave him their support (Joe B won 70%), and he is a sensible seeming candidate with a nice way about him.  He runs the substantial Philips Distillers company, is reasonably but not too rich, and has had some success in elections, being Congressman for Minnesota since 2018.

The interesting possibilities here lie in the much conjectured possibility of Mr Biden not making it in some shape or form to November.  Though his polling is poor among the general public, Joe is popular with many Democrats and is unlikely to face any internal challenge now.  But supposing he cannot go on?  The nearer things advance to election day – nine months away now – the more it seems likely that Kamala Harris as Vice President would be chosen to run instead.  But as we covered in these pages before, December 2023, Ms Harris remains unpopular both in the Democrat Party and in the country.  If the vacancy occurred at the right time it is possible that a good candidate could have a chance of seizing the nomination.  If it happened before the Democrat Convention (Chicago 19th -/22nd August if you are considering holiday arrangements) then the battle for the nomination would probably be decided at the Convention.  The last time this happened was also in Chicago, in 1968.  It did not go well; Hubert Humphrey, vice President to the retiring President Lyndon Johnson, was challenged at the Convention by Eugene McCarthy over the Vietnam War and American military involvement world-wide, a cause picked up by a number of angry Leftist and dissident groups.  The attentive reader will see an uncomfortable number of parallels with modern times and will not be comforted by the knowledge that the Convention was accompanied by a week of violent and destructive rioting. 

The Democrats lost in November 1968 and in came Richard Milhous Nixon for the Republicans.  Mr Trump may be reading the history books with a certain gleeful air.  But history does not repeat itself.  Or does it?

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