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In case President Donald Trump fails to remain in the White House, most Republicans expect him to return for another round in 2024 and are prepared to support him when he does, according to recent polling data.
However, chatter has begun to emerge over the prospects of someone else taking his spot in 2024.
According to syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, the better bet for the Republican Party would be to coalesce around someone “without [Trump’s] baggage.” At issue, Thomas opined this weekend in a column for Fox News, is Trump’s personality.
“There is still a remnant of old-fashioned values my grandparents’ generation embraced and tried to instill in their descendants. One was not to belittle, demean, talk down to, or call other people names,” he wrote.
“Trump has consistently ignored that advice. While a large number of Americans still support him and the number who voted for him far outpaced any other Republican presidential candidate, or incumbent president, it wasn’t enough. The reason can only be his personality.”
It’s not clear though whether Thomas has factored in the hateful opposition Trump has faced from the moment he announced his candidacy in 2015.
CNN slammed after Lemon’s cackling panel imitate, mock Trump voters as ‘dumb, illiterate rubes’ https://t.co/FCfK1AZGsG
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) January 28, 2020
“Most Americans expect a certain amount of dignity emanating from one who temporarily holds our highest office. Could Trump have achieved all he has without the name-calling? I think so. At a minimum, he might have resurrected a quote from a man who knew plenty about enemies, all of them domestic,” Thomas continued.
“I have referenced Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address before, but it is worth remembering, even memorizing. At the dawn of the Civil War, Lincoln said: ‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.'”
Thomas believes that had Trump embraced this congenial attitude, he would have somehow fared better. Yet history shows that when former President George W. Bush and failed 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney tried being nice, it didn’t work.
In explaining why Republicans voted for Trump despite his harsh personality, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro noted in a column of his own three years ago that the left “insisted Bush was the devil, that Romney was the devil.”
They also spent a considerable amount of time “calling Bush and Romney racist sexist bigot homophobes,” which are the same smears Trump has faced.
The media called Mitt Romney — MITT ROMNEY — a racist, a bigot, a sexist. Hard to now get people riled up about Trump, idiots.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 1, 2016
Media: Bush didn’t go to New Orleans. Incompetent! Racist! Uncaring!
Media: Hillary didn’t go to Louisiana. Caring! Genteel! Circumspect!
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 19, 2016
Media: I can’t believe this insane dangerous warmonger, President [Trump/Bush/Bush I/Reagan…]
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 11, 2017
Shapiro’s point was that every Republican is treated unfairly by the press. The only difference is that Trump has been the only Republican to actually fight back, even when that’s meant getting his hands dirty and partaking in some MUTUAL “name-calling.”
That being said, Thomas believes what’s needed for 2024 is someone with Trump’s policies but the congeniality of Bush and Romney.
“Republicans can continue to embrace Trump’s policies while getting behind someone without his baggage. Who might that be?” his column concluded.
“My view of the perfect candidate is Vice President Mike Pence, who has been loyal to the president without the name-calling, while preserving his own personality, dignity, Christian faith and kindness.”
But would Republicans even accept another Bush/Romney figure? Not if Trump enters the 2024 race, according to former Republican National Committee communications director Douglas Heye.
“There’s no one who has a leg up on Trump if he wants to do it,” he said to Newsweek.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell views things a bit differently.
“It all depends on whether Donald Trump runs, but obviously [Pence] has the support of social conservatives and fiscal conservatives — plus being the vice-president to Donald Trump for four years is a real bonus,” he said to The Hill.
He added, “He is a very strong candidate.”
Is he, though? A 2024 poll conducted last month found that only 12 percent of GOP voters would support him if he were up against Trump in the next GOP primary.
Politico/Morning Consult 2024 poll:
Trump Jr. 8%
So, yeah, it’s still the Trump(s) partyhttps://t.co/EAjBmJjjKe
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) November 24, 2020
The problem, according to an anonymous GOP strategist who spoke with The Hill, is that Pence has done nothing to really make a name for himself.
“It’s going to be a jammed field and he hasn’t really wow-ed anyone. He hasn’t really distinguished himself,” the strategist said.
Indeed, all the attention — both good and bad — has been on the president these past four years.
“He’s not a populist. He was put on the ticket because he is a Christian conservative — that’s where his lane is,” the strategist added.
True, though the last non-populist Christian conservative who got on the ticket — Sen. Ted Cruz — almost won.
“But Ted Cruz came fairly close to winning from there last time, and he’s not to be discounted. So Pence has to prove that he can outmaneuver Ted at his own game, which is not easy to do,” the strategist said.
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