Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley must find the strength to attack Trump

Photo illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Photo illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Media reports suggest that Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are laying the groundwork to launch bids for the 2024 presidential primaries. While there are sure to be more entrants (John Bolton has already announced a bid, and Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo are both making noise), DeSantis and Haley are two of the most serious adversaries Donald Trump is likely to face. But the question remains: are they willing and able to launch a sustained attack on Trump? The verdict is out.

The case for naming DeSantis is precisely which is as tough and “MAGA” as Trump, but more competent. Beyond that, DeSantis also has a specific opening: “I think the killer blow of blood in the water is vaccines,” former conservative radio host John Ziegler told me recently, “because Trump is deluded enough to believe that vaccines — because he wants to take credit for them — were the greatest thing ever. That’s where, with more than 50 percent of the Republican base, DeSantis can strike a decisive blow.”

Because Trump would easily crush DeSantis in battle today

In a rational world, Operation Warp Speed ​​would be something worth bragging about. But the Republican primary electorate is not a rational world. Therefore, the green light for the COVID-19 vaccine is potentially serious vulnerability for Trump in a Republican primary. Meanwhile, DeSantis, who wants to appoint a grand jury to investigate the wrongdoing of COVID-19, is positioned to present such an attack. But will he do it?

Nikki Haley’s strategy is less straightforward and more complex. She bills herself as the “Goldilocks” candidate, who has just the right amount of sugar and spice mixed into her MAGA of hers. Her attacks, such as they are, are generally made by inference.

A recent appearance on Fox News’ Special report seemed to foreshadow it. Haley spoke about the importance of “generational change,” a line of criticism that can be aimed specifically at Joe Biden, while also obviously targeting Donald Trump. She also reminded us that he has “never lost a race” (this stat also has the benefit of reminding everyone that TRUMP IS A LOSER).

You get the point. Unlike Trump, Nikki Haley is young. Nikki Haley is a winner.

And there’s more: Nikki Haley wants to “let the best woman win.” (Yes, pointing out the fact that she is a woman is an odd thing to do in a party that apparently hates identity politics. But let’s be honest, the Republican Party loves identity politics!)

It will be up to voters to decide whether his passive-aggressive campaigning style is brilliant or too fluid. Regardless, Trump is already launching preemptive strikes against her and DeSantis.

On Saturday, Trump reminded reporters that Haley “said publicly that ‘I would never run against my president, he was a great president.'”

Reading between the lines, Trump is working to define Haley as ambitious, cloying and phony. And based on his history of criticizing Trump, just to frown and suck it up, this line of attack has the advantage of verisimilitude.

Meanwhile, Trump is trying to set the record straight about DeSantis’ vaccine record. “There are Republican governors who haven’t shut down their states… Florida has been shut down for a long time,” Trump said, adding, “They’re trying to rewrite history.”

Whining to referees usually doesn’t work. I also can’t recall a time in the past where a rival has come to Donald Trump’s right on a cultural issue like this.

Score one for DeSantis.

However, the outstanding question is whether DeSantis (or anyone else) will actually strike Trump. So far DeSantis has avoided any direct confrontation with the former president.

Perhaps this is a prudent and strategic example of keeping his powder dry.

But the fear is that DeSantis may make the same miscalculation that Ted Cruz and others did in 2016: that Trump will vanish on his own, and then you can inherit his supporters.

We all know how that worked.

“Someone will have to convince him [Trump] he cannot be the candidate in 2024 in the Republican Party,” said conservative John Podhoretz in a recent episode of The Commentary Magazine podcasts. “And that person has to be the one taking down Trump. It’s got to be DeSantis or Nikki Haley or something.

Otherwise, Podhoretz predicted, “the second level [candidates] they will turn on each other, attack each other in an attempt to make the news, and leave Trump alone at the top. And he, in the winner-takes-all milieu of the Republican Party nomination process…he’s going to win.

Again, that’s exactly what happened in 2016. When it came to attacking Donald Trump, Republican candidates echoed Homer Simpson’s campaign slogan, “Can’t Someone Else Do It?”

For Ron DeSantis, I suspect the answer is “No.”

Trump is weakened now, but he won’t go down without a fight. To defeat the defending champion, someone has to attack Trump, keep attacking Trump, give his nose a bleed, and then survive the counterattack. And while it’s tempting to try to do it on Twitter or behind a microphone, anyone who tops Trump will have to square off against him on a debating platform.

In the words of Ric Flair, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”

Does anyone dare to try?

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