GOP Field is Shrinking as Trump Consolidates Power
Author: Greg Valliere
April 18, 2023
TWO POTENTIALLY SERIOUS CANDIDATES dropped out this past weekend. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the “the timing wasn’t right,” as he seemed disinclined to spend all his time and money in a futile run; and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin shut down his low-keyed operation. He’s worth about $500 million but that wasn’t enough to keep Youngkin in the race.
ONCE YOU GET PAST TRUMP, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, there are only a handful of serious challengers left: Mike Pence, whose polls are stuck below 10%; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who may not top 5%, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, well-liked but — as he showed last week — not particularly sure-footed on issues like abortion.
THAT LEAVES THE LONG-SHOTS: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a scathing Trump critic, and New Hampshire Gov.Chris Sununu, a moderate conservative who has not concealed his ambitions. Also on this shrinking list: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and perhaps South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem; they’re essentially running for vice president, as is Haley.
IS TRUMP A SHOO-IN FOR THE NOMINATION? Almost, he’s clearly the prohibitive favorite. Part of this is because of his iron grip on the party’s base, and part is the inability of DeSantis or Haley to generate much enthusiasm.
WHAT IF TRUMP IS INDICTED LATER THIS YEAR on charges stemming from the Georgia election, his refusal to return top secret documents, or the Jan. 6 riots? There is no reason to believe that would hurt Trump; his popularity rating usually rises when there are fresh controversies. What about his age? Trump will turn 77 later this spring, but his energy level is exceptional.
THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IN WASHINGTON is that Trump would get defeated handily in the general election, and that surely is possible. But we’re continually amazed by polls that show less than a third of Democrats want Joe Biden to run. He’s too old, they say, and hasn’t accomplished much (which is demonstrably untrue).
A THIRD PARTY REBELLION is possible, which could scramble the outlook (probably helping Trump), but third parties have never gotten much traction in the U.S.
WE WROTE EARLIER THIS YEAR — and got pushback — that there’s a plausible case for Trump’s re-election. It’s too early to make that call, but the first part of the scenario — Trump winning the Republican nomination — seems likely. In a general election anything can happen, as recent history confirms.
**Updated on April 20, 2023. An earlier version of this article incorrectly referenced Kristi Noem as “North Dakota Senator”. Kristi Noem is South Dakota Governor. Our sincere apologies for this error.
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