Trump the Republican Candidate

Trump the Republican Candidate

The Republican Party will select its candidate for the November 2024 Presidential election at its National Convention in July 2024, after a long series of Primary elections beginning in January. Normally, seven months before the convention, there would be considerable uncertainty as to who might be the candidate, but ex-President Trump has taken over such complete control of the Republican Party and has such an overwhelming lead over his rivals, that even though we know unexpected events happen in politics, it is virtually certain Trump will be the Republican nominee in the 2024 Presidential election. In the last 50 years, no candidate ahead by 20 points at this date has ever lost a Party nomination, and Trump’s lead over his closest rival in the latest national polls is more than twice that!

Although the Republican Convention is likely to be a simple formality, it will nevertheless be a gathering of 2472 delegates selected by individual Primary elections from 56 jurisdictions: the 50 states, Washington DC and five US territories, each with its own set of complicated rules:

  • Most delegates are elected, but some are directly named by leaders in national or state Republican Parties (there is only one Republican Party, but each state has its own branch),
  • Most jurisdictions have secret ballot Primary elections, but some, including the first on the calendar in Iowa, have “Caucuses”, where discussion groups publicly identify their preferences,
  • Some Primary elections are “closed”, where only Republican Party members can vote, some “Open” where anyone can vote and some “semi-closed” with different rules for eligibility to vote,
  • Most Republican Primary elections are “winner take all” where the leading candidate gets all of the delegates, but some states have proportional allocation of delegates according to the share of votes, or mixed systems.

Voter turnout in Primaries is much lower than in Presidential elections: in 2016 and 2020 about 25% of eligible voters participated in Primaries as compared to 66% for the 2020 Presidential election. Voters in Primary elections tend to be older, wealthier, more strongly affiliated and holding more radical positions than general election voters. In the Republican Party, they tend to come from Trump’s base of faithful followers, representing an estimated 30%-40% of all Republicans.

How could Trump have gotten so far ahead, a man formally indicted for 91 different crimes, having lost every election since his surprising victory in 2016, having fomented an insurrection on January 6, 2021 to prevent accreditation of the 2020 election result?

The media, the Democratic Party and much of the world have consistently under¬≠estimated Donald Trump. He is an exceptionally talented politician, the dominant figure in US politics over the last decade, with an extraordinary ability to connect with people. His electorate believe that the former president “fights for people like me”, they are committed to him, personally. Almost every Republican who dared oppose him, quickly lost the next election.

Trump is loud, Americans like loud, Trump is entertaining, who doesn’t like to be entertained? And the line between entertainment and believing becomes blurred, particularly with the help of Fox news and various social networks, ideal platforms for Trump to proclaim untruths that people end up believing. When Trump is accused of some misdeed, he has the exceptional talent of turning the same accusation against his opponents: he is accused of lying, which he clearly does repeatedly, he invents the label “crooked Joe Biden”, and with everyone attached to their own media bubble, people forget who the inveterate liar is and focus on Biden’s occasional lapses into falsehoods. A recent NY Times Siena poll of key battleground states found the surprising result that 45% of Americans trusted Trump more than Biden to protect democracy, in spite of the fact that he threatened democracy by instigating the attack on the Capital on January 6, 2021 and proclaiming the “Big Lie” that he won the 2020 election.

In recent polls of Republican voters:

  • 76% have a favorable view of Trump,
  • 71% say Trump has not committed any serious crimes, the criminal charges against him are viewed as politically motivated,
  • Against a total absence of any evidence of significant voter fraud, an incredible 62% still believe Trump won the 2020 Presidential election,
  • 58% of Republicans think Trump should be the Republican nominee and a large majority think he will beat Biden in November 2024,
  • After each of his criminal indictments, Trump’s overall polling improved, Republicans rallied to support him whenever he was accused of crimes.

Trump’s remarkable resilience explains why only one candidate who is running for the Republican nomination has dared attack him (Chris Christie, who has attracted only 2% of Republican voters), the others hardly criticize Trump, for fear of riling his faithful base of voters, leaving him free to pursue his campaigning, above the fray, with none of his opponents polling even 20% against Trump.

In the meantime, the multiple criminal court cases against him move forward, some at the Federal level, subject to Presidential pardon, and some at the state level. None of the indictments, and even potential convictions, legally disqualifies him from running, and if he wins the election in November 2024, they will not prevent him from exercising power as President. In theory, as President he could pardon himself of any federal crimes, the state cases would be postponed until after his term as President.

In fact, running for President, and winning, represent the best legal strategy to minimize the impact of Trump’s multiple legal problems. His lawyers will also do everything possible to drag out the legal processes to delay final convictions beyond the November 2024 election, and even if he is convicted by that date, they will initiate appeals that will not be resolved until after the election.

We can already conclude that barring a major health issue that would prevent 77 year-old Donald Trump from running, he is going to be the Republican candidate for the 2024 Presidential election.

Will Trump be the Republican Candidate, Again?

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