April 12, 2024

longer inevitable

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective                                                                     
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
No longer inevitable
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — Suddenly we have a race in New Hampshire. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley had already closed the gap with Donald Trump to single digits when Chris Christie announced he was suspending his campaign.
          Do the math, if Haley at 32 percent gets most of Christie’s 12 percent, she would overtake Trump’s 39 percent, as measured in the latest CNN poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.
          If Haley wins the New Hampshire primary, Trump has a problem. Momentum is a funny thing. It can burn through firewalls. Trump is still well ahead in South Carolina, where Independents, who favor Haley, cannot vote in the primary.
          But if Haley catches fire, those Trump leads could melt away not only in South Carolina, but in the Super Tuesday states that follow.
          It is far from a done deal. In a televised CNN debate from Iowa with Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the two candidates relentlessly and pettily attacked each other rather than going after Trump, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.
           “If you can’t call Trump unfit for the presidency, then you are unfit for the presidency,” Christie said, taking a swipe at Haley and DeSantis, who raised their hands at a GOP debate last August in Milwaukee to say they would support Trump if he were nominated.
          Pandering to the Trump voters, Haley has said that if elected she would pardon Trump from any federal crimes he has committed. And she refuses to say whether she would be his running mate if asked. That question would be moot if she overtakes Trump in the primaries.
          For his part, Trump says he knows who he is going to pick for his vice president, he is just not telling. In a town hall sponsored by Fox as a competing event to the CNN debate, Trump tried to soften his “dictator for a day” assertion, saying, once elected, “I’m not going to have time for retribution.”
          With Christie out of the race, the strongest anti-Trump voice is silenced. His campaign was based on telling people the truth about Trump, the lies he told and continues to tell, and why he faces 91 felony counts in multiple legal jurisdictions. Christie discovered the truth wasn’t a big selling point for Republican voters.
          Christie spoke eloquently about immigrants and why they walk hundreds, if not thousands of miles to reach this country. Like so many candidates when they reach the end of the road, Christie was at his best expressing his aspirations for himself and for the country.
          However, his high-mindedness was quickly overshadowed with audio from a live mic where he just moments earlier had said of Haley, “She’s going to get smoked,” adding. “DeSantis called me, petrified.”
          Meanwhile, Trump is not letting up on Haley. The Super PAC backing him released an ad in New Hampshire calling Haley “too weak, too liberal to fix the border.” It seizes on a comment Haley made in 2015 saying “we don’t need to talk about them (immigrants) as criminals. They’re not.”
           “Drug traffickers. Rapists. Poisoning our country. But Nikki Haley refused to call illegals ‘criminals.’ Illegals are criminals, Nikki. That’s what illegal means,” declares the ad’s narrator.
          Haley’s parents came to this country as immigrants, and they share her opposition to people “cutting the line,” she says.
          Trump’s mother-in-law just died, his wife Melania’s mother, who entered the country as part of “family reunification” policies that Trump has condemned as “chain migration.”
          Trying to out-Trump Trump on immigration is futile. He entered the presidential race in 2016 saying immigrants are bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, “and some, I assume, are good people.”
          The best that can be said at this point in the process is that we may have a real race on the Republican side challenging the power of Trump and Trumpism. His nomination is no longer inevitable.
          Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2023 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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