Trump, DeSantis, Giuliani: One-Hit Wonders?

MSNBC has been running a four-part series on Rudy Giuliani, “When Truth Isn’t Truth: The Rudy Giuliani Story.”  There is one more episode to go. It’s been pretty good, although it hasn’t shown me anything new. However, I had forgotten that Rudy Giuliani was, briefly, the frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. This was in 2007, before the primaries had started. By December 2007, he was fading.

There were a number of reasons for the fade. News stories had come out about misappropriations of funds while he was mayor, for example. There were a lot of criticisms of his primary calendar stragtegy. He seemed disinteresed in rural areas far from NYC, for example. But a larger reason, the series said, may have been that he didn’t have anything to run on other than September 11. His past positions on the culture issues, especially abortion and gay rights, was way to the left of the party, so he couldn’t go that route. Instead he went to one campaign event after another talking about Islamic terrorism and how he had handled the September 11 attacks. He was like a one-hit wonder whose hit was now an oldie. He was stuck in the past.

Trump seems to me to be falling into a similar hole. His current campaign seems largely to be based on his 2016 campaign, as the outsider who is promising to go to Washington and bust up the old, corrupt regime. It’s as if he wants us to forget he was POTUS for four years already. But at the same time, he also is running on getting revenge for 2020.

The big polling companies don’t seem to be polling on the alleged fraud in the 2020 election any more. The most recent poll I could find was from last July. But that poll and those that went before pretty consistently showed that just under a third of respondents believed the Big Lie, and close to two thirds did not. Add to that the fact that election deniers overall flamed out in the 2022 midterms, I’d say this is not a viable issue for the 2024 presidential race.

As in 2020, Trump is making promises he doesn’t know how to keep (“Nobody knew health care could be so complicated”). Now he’s promising to end the war in Ukraine. Anyone who cares what happens in Ukraine surely would not trust Trump with any part of it. Those who trust Trump probably don’t give a hoo-haw about Ukraine, one way or another.

I admit I didn’t believe Trump could win in 2016 until election night. But subsequent analysis of voters showed us he got the “what the hell” vote, people who really weren’t supporters of either candidate and made up their minds at the last minute. That’s much less likely to happen in 2024. People know him now.

And then there’s Ron DeSantis. DeSantis was in California this weekend running against covid restrictions. I don’t know how Californians overall feel about covid restrictions, but now that they’re all lifted, exactly what point is Ron making here, other than he’s willing to sacrifice lives for the sake of the economy? Florida has a much higher death rate (402 per 100,000 people) from covid than California (255 per 100,000 people). Someone who could do math could probably calculate the number of Floridians who died who wouldn’t have died had they lived in California.

DeSantis seems to be running on gender issues more than Trump, although Trump is running against drag queens and trans women in sports too. I’m not seeing much in the way of recent polling on gender issues. What percentage of Americans are likely to cast votes based on candidates’ positions on drag queens, I wonder? I have no idea. But I doubt the drag queen issue will have the same traction next year as, say abortion.

I’ve already said DeSantis has peaked already. I could be wrong about that. But I’m not seeing anything about his campaign that would appeal to normal people. He and Trump are both competing for the same voting block, seems to me, but that voting block isn’t big enough to carry a national election, I don’t believe, barring some real meltdown by the Democrats.

Where is the Right going now? I liked this description of the recent CPAC convention by Ben Jacobs at New York:

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was once a marquee event on the political calendar where Republicans seeking the favor of the party’s conservative base would attempt to woo a crowd of right-wing activists and diehards. In 2015, the last time there was a competitive Republican presidential primary, a dozen candidates showed up, representing all wings of the party from Chris Christie to Ted Cruz. And they weren’t the only ones there, it was a marquee event for the entire right-wing ecosystem with seemingly every group represented. Eight years later, the vibe was entirely different. The 2023 CPAC felt like a mall after all but one of its big department stores has shut down — an emptier, jankier, lower-rent version of conferences past. The rooms were more deserted, the vendors more downmarket, and speakers a little less important.

On the other hand, Molly Jong-Fast writes at Vanity Fair that Trump and his tribe are still dangerous. She says the vibe at CPAC was more authoritarian than in the past. “Rather than ‘Make America Great Again,’ the vibe, at times, was more like ‘Let’s Make America Hungary.'” And Trump is now explicitly running against the Republican party. “We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks, neocons, globalists, open-border zealots and fools,” he said. “But we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush.”

I don’t think this “movement” has anywhere else to go but into terrorism and violence.

That said, this is just for fun.