Back in 1983, I was press officer for the New York State Assembly leadership when Mario Cuomo began his first term as Governor. And at some point, I remarked to my boss, Assembly Speaker Stanley Fink, that Mario was getting very good notices in the press, which I found interesting since nobody thought he was all that good coming on the heels of Governor Carey.
To which Speaker Fink said to me, “Any politician looks good when nobody’s leaning on ‘em.”
I thought of this prescient remark today when I saw several polls which gave Trump double-digit leads over DeSantis and just about anyone else who might be considering a GOP Presidential run in 2024.
And when I say that Trump has a double-digit lead, I’m not talking ten points. The gap between Trump and the other 2024 GOP wannabees is like thirty(!) points. That’s not chopped liver, even in my book.
You would think that as candidate Trump instead of President Trump, that Trump would be fair game for every other GOP politician who is considering a 2024 run, but I can’t get over how Trump continues to get a blank check from both the media and his political contemporaries no matter how stupid, foolish, racist, and nasty he is.
In point of fact, the degree to which Trump has been handled with kid gloves from his initial campaign announcement back in June 2015, makes me wonder whether anyone in the GOP stands the slightest chance of competing with him in terms of the spread and extent of his media megaphone.
When Trump first started his 2016 campaign, Huffington Post announced they were switching stories about him from their entertainment section to their political page. Frankly, what Huffington didn’t understand from that day until now is the fact that Trump still considers himself to be primarily an entertainer, meaning he’ll say whatever it takes to excite a crowd. There’s was never any substantive content in any of the blasts that got him deleted from Twitter. After all, what other President would have ever used the term ‘shithole countries’ out loud?
At this point in the runup to 2024, the putative wannabees for the GOP Presidential nomination seem to be in a contest to determine who can come up with the strongest anti-woke narrative as a way to define their campaigns. We no longer need to be worried about the ‘ruinous’ inflation, or the breakdown of the supply chain, or even the pilfering committed by Joe Biden’s son.
The problem, however, is that trying to corral enough MAGA support to make yourself a factor in the early primaries becomes a problem if the guy who invented the whole MAGA approach to political campaigning is also running a primary campaign.
Which is why, sooner or later, the gloves will have to come off and anyone running against Trump in the GOP primaries will have to take him on, rather than promoting themselves as fashioning some kind of anti-woke campaign.
If you were to ask the average GOP voter to give you a specific explanation for woke, the best you’d probably get is some mumble about how it’s ‘not a good thing.’ Thy would have some vague idea that woke and Democrat(ic) ideas are one and the same, but that’s as far as it would go.
Voters in the 2016 GOP primaries didn’t like Trump because they necessarily supported any of his ideas. First of all, he didn’t have any real ideas. The reason they liked Trump was because he had the ability to make his audience feel that he empathized with their feelings about being pissed off. Why were they pissed off? Because everyone is always pissed off.
Remember how the crowds at Trump’s big rallies loved to chant ‘lock her up?’ Remember how they cheered when Trump would point at some protestor in the audience and tell the crowd that he would love to punch the guy out?
Trump's at his best when he pretends to be Roman Reigns bouncing into the ring for a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) championship match. If someone else in the GOP primary lineup doesn’t figure out how to lean on Trump, he’ll end up looking better than anyone else.