The Republican Party’s challengers are fragmented. Biden’s coalition weakens. What can stop Trump now?

Republican presidential candidate, former governor of New Jersey.  Chris Christie, left, talks with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, right, during a commercial break during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NewsNation on Wednesday, Dec. 12.  August 6, 2023 at the Moody Music Hall at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

The Republican Party’s challengers are fragmented. Biden’s coalition weakens. What can stop Trump now?

Opinion piece, Elections 2024

Scott Jennings

Dec. 7, 2023

In August, at night

before the first Republic

blican presidential


At the debate, Donald Trump led the Republican field, polling at 55.4% in the Real Clear Politics national average. On Wednesday, as his final four challengers took the stage in Alabama, he remained at the top, with an RCP average of 61%. It would be unprecedented if a candidate currently polling 60% nationally in a presidential campaign fails to win his party’s nomination.

The GOP debates helped two people: Trump, who attended all four and

former UN ambassador and

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who used them to improve her national standing. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ numbers are essentially flat, and Vivek Ramaswamy has lost ground with each of his stellar performances (Wednesday was his

worst and

most annoying yet).

During the fourth debate, some interesting, if loose, alliances took shape. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie scored points for himself by defending Haley against Ramaswamy’s bloviations, and DeSantis joined Ramaswamy in attacking Haley. It was the pre-Trump GOP versus the post-Trump


Christie hammered DeSantis for not saying Trump was unfit for the presidency. DeSantis dove on Christie

while they debated

transgender operations for minors and parental rights. He’s not flashy, it’s the DeSantis system


actually produces debate content that is squarely in the center of Republican opinion. Haley had a fantastic moment in the fight against anti-Semitism on campus.

A friend texted me mid-debate: Does Christie sound like a guy who is thinking about quitting and supporting Haley? Christie says no, but it’s hard to see any outcome for him other than playing spoiler for Haley in New Hampshire. As for Ramaswamy, his candidacy has failed.

Since ’tis the season of wishes, here’s how each of the other GOP campaigns hopes the primaries will unfold:

Haley rides late momentum to a surprising second-place finish in Iowa, using the caucus as a slingshot for New Hampshire and ultimately South Carolina. DeSantis powered his way to a surprise victory in the caucus and showed everyone that Trump can bleed. He kicks Haley out of the race before she reaches her home state. Trump crushes Iowa and New Hampshire by more than twenty points, effectively ending the race.

Overall, the Trump camp is ecstatic. His superpower was the fragmented field, and even

some consolidation could benefit him



that is, me

f DeSantis disappears, his supporters

may flow to Trump instead of Haley).

Beyond the primaries, Trump’s advantages are increasing.

CNN’s latest poll, released this week, tells a grim story for President Biden. He has a general track clearance


and he may struggle with key subgroups such as independents (36%), blacks




), Latino




) and Americans aged 18-34 (

34 33

% a big yikes). The coalition that propelled him to the White House in 2020 is shattering.

The latter number is especially problematic for Biden. It appears to reflect young progressives’ dissatisfaction with the president’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas. Even the White House


harass Biden over the so-called defense as a Palestinian genocide. The president is facing pressure on both sides, his young base, which is focused on Hamas, and his reliable Jewish supporters, shaken by the October attacks. 7 terrorist attacks.

Biden ran for president in 2020, he said, to unite the country after Charlottesville.


with his chants of Jews will not replace us, and to rid our politics of Trump. But dozens of Charlottesvilles have sprung up across the country, where left-wing anti-Semitism is on display on college campuses, in front of Jewish-owned restaurants and in public spaces. Meanwhile, Trump leads Biden in the national polls. as the majority say Biden has failed on the economy, immigration, crime and other issues.

So far, the president’s slogan is: it could be worse. Not exactly a visionary re-election argument, though it did carry weight with independent voters in the 2022 midterms and may still resonate.

With the Iowa caucuses


in a month, Trump will remain the Republican Party’s big favorite, and the slight favorite against Biden. If third-party candidates gain voting rights in key states, Biden’s chances could become even weaker.

But Republicans shouldn’t count their chickens. The prospect remains that Trump could be a convicted felon by November next year, which would undoubtedly reduce his chances of defeating even a weak Biden.

Here’s the best bet for the upcoming election year: The country remains dissatisfied with a 2020 rematch that no one really wants.

Scott Jennings is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a senior political commentator at CNN. @ScottJenningsKY


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