December 6, 2023


Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Christie rising
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON —Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was supposed to be the anti-Trump, the candidate to overtake the former president, but through a series of missteps and blunders he lost ground with Republican voters and donors. Now he fired his campaign manager and is hoping to right his sinking ship.
          With DeSantis slipping, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie quipped that his rival is “Going in the wrong direction,” citing a New Hampshire Journal poll with the headline: “Trump holds big lead in NH, DeSantis drops to tie with Christie.”
          Politics is all about momentum, and DeSantis and Christie have momentum in opposite directions. At least in New Hampshire, Christie is breaking out of the pack. He could yet stall and fade. It has happened to others in previous elections, but at this point he is positioning to supplant DeSantis as the “One” who takes on Trump. He offers the clearest contrast between Trump’s MAGA base and Republicans who have had enough of the former president.
          Christie was once a supporter of Trump, but no more. He is unsparing in his attacks on Trump for putting himself and his need for power and validation ahead of the country. It is an interesting strategy. While other candidates tip toe around Trump for fear of alienating the MAGA voters, Christie is clearly going after the non-MAGAS.
          Suburban women are leading the exit from MAGA-ism in part because of the party’s extremism on the abortion issue, and because they have had enough of Trump. The decisive victory of abortion rights advocates in a hastily called election in Ohio last week showed once again voter anger at the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe. Christie, a practicing Catholic, describes himself as pro-life, but when he was governor, unlike DeSantis, he did not turn his personal views into a crusade.
          Numbers make this viable. In addition to momentum, politics is about addition. Trump’s anti-democratic behavior and his attempt to remain in office despite losing the election has alienated much of what was once the GOP’s moderate base which the New Hampshire poll just revealed. It has Trump with 43 percent of the vote while Christie and DeSantis tie for second, each with just nine percent. Christie seized on it as affirmation of his strategy.
          In 2016 Trump compiled an early lead in delegates by winning a plurality of the votes in the GOP’s winner-take-all primaries because a crowded field ensured that no one else would come close to his plurality.
          To avoid a repeat of that scenario, this year’s crop of GOP hopefuls will need to remain in low single digits or drop out, beginning with DeSantis.
          Trump claims residency in Florida now, and its primary is March 19th, two weeks after Super Tuesday when 14 states vote and typically clarify who will be the party’s nominee. But DeSantis may not be able to risk remaining in the race until Florida votes because a loss there to Trump would imperil both his base and his future.
           With DeSantis out, Trump may still command 35 to 40 percent of Republican primary-goers, but this leaves 60 to 65 percent up for grabs. Assuming any remaining candidates not named Trump or Christie only hold onto a total of 10 percent of the voters between them, the remaining 50 to 55 percent of primary voters – the non-MAGA voters – could stampede for Christie, a stampede being what momentum is all about.
          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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