Yuma Sun

Trump is a monumental problem for Republican­s

- BY CARL GOLDEN Copyright 2023 Carl Golden, distribute­d exclusivel­y by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Carl Golden is a senior contributi­ng analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton university in new Jersey. You can reach

Aside from occupying the White House itself, former president Donald Trump is exactly where he wants to be – at the center of the national political dialogue, a dominating media presence and a controllin­g influence in the selection of a Republican presidenti­al nominee in 2024.

He was impeached twice, lost re-election to an opponent who seldom left his basement, remains under at least two Department of Justice investigat­ions, is the subject of civil and criminal inquiries into his personal and business dealings and stands accused of encouragin­g a violent assault on the U. S. Capitol.

Despite what appears to be insurmount­able baggage, he leads the field of potential Republican nominees, and in some polls holds a lead over President Biden in a hypothetic­al 2024 contest.

By any measure, his status is extraordin­ary, a testament to the most massive ego in modern political history. It’s also revealing about the overwhelmi­ng power of social media, which has supplanted traditiona­l media as the primary source of news while traffickin­g in rumor, uninformed opinion and conspiracy theories.

For the Republican Party leadership establishm­ent, sensing an opportunit­y to regain the presidency and control of Congress, Trump is a monumental problem, the essence of a deep fear that his candidacy would drag the party to crushing defeat.

A campaign whose central theme would be allegation­s of a fraudulent 2020 election produces heartburn among top party leadership, who blame the former president for the dismal showing in last November’s Congressio­nal midterm elections.

Trump’s hold on a portion of the party base remains fairly strong, but signs of erosion have surfaced, notably polling that reveals a majority of Republican­s prefers someone other than him as the candidate.

His most recent rallies were held in small venues to avoid televised coverage of rows of empty seats and, while the audiences were responsive, the atmosphere lacked the energy, passion and electricit­y of prior appearance­s.

Increasing­ly, leading Republican­s have broken their silence and become more outspoken in their criticism of Trump, calling for new generation­al leadership while major donors, including the powerful Americans for Prosperity, have indicated withholdin­g support.

Potential candidates, while making coyly encouragin­g noises, have remained in a holding pattern concerned with offending Trump’s dedicated base or becoming a target for his vitriol.

Only former South Carolina governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has committed to a candidacy, while speculatio­n swirls around others, notably Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, who is running a strong second to Trump.

There is no question the former president’s influence on the decisions and strategies of potential competitor­s is considerab­le. His frequent verbal grenades rolled into Desantis’ office await anyone who poses even a minimal threat.

Party leaders, however, can no longer stand by wringing their hands and bemoaning the disaster that awaits if Trump repeats his feat of 2016 when he navigated a field of 16 candidates who splintered party support in the primary election grind and opened the path for him to secure the nomination.

Difficult though it may be, it is imperative the establishm­ent shrink the field and convey to potential candidates whose appeal is narrow they should put their ambitions aside in furtheranc­e of the larger and more crucial cause.

The primary season could assist in that winnowing, but the risk of Trump racking up small margin victories from state to state – as he did in 2016 – until he’s the last candidate standing remains genuine.

He will, of course, continue to bully and bluster, insulting his competitio­n, embellishi­ng and exaggerati­ng his record and insisting he would have been re-elected if only he had received a fair count.

He’ll not be persuaded to stand down; his ego won’t permit that. It is necessary to marginaliz­e him, to construct a reality that he is no longer the controllin­g element, that events have passed him by, his relevance has vanished and he should follow.

Trump may be where he wants to be at this early stage, but to suggest he is the party’s savior is an attempt to rescue a drowning man by throwing him both ends of the rope.

If the party relies on that attempt, it will slip beneath the surface. And deservedly so.

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