Has Putin Gone Too Far? Plus, Who Won in Iowa Last Night?
Author: Greg Valliere
August 24, 2023
THERE’S AN INCREASING LIKELIHOOD that dissidents in Russia will attempt to assassinate Putin, but it’s very difficult to get near him; he is very well protected. So the status quo may prevail — a virtual stalemate in the war, with Ukrainian troops making modest gains. This go-slow path infuriated Prigozhin, a hawk who wanted a more aggressive military policy.
THE APPARENT ASSASSINATION OF PRIGOZHIN will raise this key question: Has Putin gone too far? A rebellion by the Russian military is more likely now — but it has to come quickly and decisively, because if its leaders delay, Putin will kill them also.
THIS APPEARS TO BE A PSYCHOLOGICAL VICTORY for Ukraine, which badly needed one. If dissent increases in Russia, it surely will affect troop morale as another winter approaches. With his crumbling economy and soaring casualties, Putin may have to ratchet up a domestic terror campaign to stay in power.
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WHO WON IN IOWA LAST NIGHT? It was a rowdy and entertaining debate with one very serious policy theme — a deep antipathy within the party toward China, with all factions embracing new sanctions. U.S.-China relations are in a deep dive, with both parties supporting new policies to restrict U.S. trade with Beijing.
RANKING THE CANDIDATES: The main point is that last night’s debate will not change Donald Trump’s staggering lead, which is up to 40% in many polls. But there are some fresh faces, perhaps pleasing an electorate that wants younger candidates. Here’s our quick take on the winners and losers, ranked by their performance:
1. Nikki Haley, the best debater by far, and a fierce advocate of a muscular U.S. foreign policy. Haley helped herself last night; she could be a major player for years to come.
2. Vivek Ramaswamy, not everyone’s cup of tea, was attacked repeatedly — a sign that he’s making a move. He’s weak on policy, especially on foreign affairs, but he has an energy level and the audacity to claim to be Trump’s heir later this decade.
3. Ron DeSantis had a solid, gaffe-free performance. Nothing particularly memorable, but he stopped the bleeding.
4. Mike Pence was forceful and self-assured, but he barely registered in post-debate polls of voters who apparently are moving toward the high-voltage Ramaswamy.
5. Tim Scott, a puzzling disappointment. He’s a nice guy, perhaps reluctant to plunge into the yelling at these brawls. We thought the debate could elevate Scott’s standing, but it did not.
6. Chris Christie, always provocative and fun to watch, elicited boos and heckling with his criticism of Trump. Christie’s chances of winning the nomination are close to zero.
7 and 8. Asa Hutchison and Doug Burgum left no footprints and are stuck at 1% in the polls.
BOTTOM LINE: There are real differences in the party on spending, abortion, Ukraine and other issues, which made this debate interesting. But Trump’s lead is so enormous that the GOP candidates are simply fighting for name recognition or a vice presidential nomination.
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