Do tune in to Monday Night at 8:00 for the CNN Town Hall with Chris Christie. He has announced that his campaign is “going out to take out Donald Trump.” Sounds like exactly what the country needs – so we need to make sure he qualifies for the Republican debates. That’s where you come in.
Amid the flurry of candidacies for the Republican nomination announced in the past ten days, there came a decision not to run that may have been the most interesting.
Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire made the official announcement that he is not going to be just one more contorted invertebrate in the zero-dignity dunk fest that will unfold along the path to the Republican nomination.
The reason that Sununu’s announcement is so interesting is that he is one of the last great hopes for the “traditional” Republican Party in the 2024 election... and maybe ever, for that matter. In the style of Mitt Romney, Bush the Elder, and his own father, Sununu epitomizes a rare breed that deserves the protections afforded to any species in danger of extinction: He is an articulate, principled conservative with a strong record of election success. Perhaps most important, as a popular governor in the state of the nation’s first primary, he would have a very real shot at beating Trump at the opening gate.
But in a G.O.P. that turns a blind eye toward Donald Trump’s egregious assault on our Constitution and our Democracy, that is eviscerating distinctions between church and state, that is wobbly and weak-kneed on Ukraine, that wants to criminalize abortion while venerating AR-15s, and that embraces sexual predators and egregious frauds, Sununu knows he is not the life of this party. It – not he – is “Republican in name only.”
So he announced he was out before even getting in.
Chris Sununu knows the truth: There’s not a lot of daylight in the “Non-Trump Lane.” It seems to be just a long, expensive off-ramp that does not have enough voters to support one candidate, let alone a half-dozen. Even more baffling is the notion that some candidates are riding in the “Non-Trump lane” (Scott, Haley) thinking it will lead to the Vice-Presidency. Uh, not exactly… if Trump does win the nomination this time around, he will demand a VP who is proven to be willing to completely knuckle under. And, hey, Nikki and Tim, are you sure you want a job which carries the risk of getting hung by thugs in front of the U.S. Capitol?
Let’s be clear: By no means does Trump have a lock on the nomination. The 38 counts in the Mar-a-Lago documents indictment demonstrate Trump’s clear and conscious disregard and even disdain for very real national security issues… and represent a very real threat to Trump’s nomination. This is not something Republicans can wave off as they did Alvin Bragg’s belated frenzy about payments to a porn star. This is prison time...long prison time. This is the real deal.
The problem is that, with all his liabilities in plain view, no pretender to the nomination has figured out how to effectively challenge Trump. How do you hit him hard enough to take him down for the nomination without hitting so hard that you alienate his loyal base of voters needed to win the general election?
If you wanted to see a good glimpse of why the “Non-Trump Lane” is going to produce a bunch of “Non-Winning” candidates, you need only have watched Nikki Haley’s hula hoop gyrations as she wriggled through her CNN Town Hall with Jake Tapper. To be fair, Haley looked strong and confident, and had a barrel full of one-liners ready for all the obvious questions Tapper or audience members would throw her way. But at crunch time, she balked. Repeatedly.
Haley’s playbook: Soft peddle anything that would alienate Trump or his base while still trying to say that the party needs new leadership. Good luck.
Nikki Haley stated clearly that she did not believe that the 2020 election was stolen, but she quickly sought to appease the Right by asserting that many Americans had questions about the legitimacy of our elections… conveniently ignoring the obvious fact that the source of those questions was Donald Trump:
TAPPER: “I'm talking about the insane stuff we heard
about the Italians hacking into satellites and -- and, well, you know what I'm
talking about -- and the lies that Trump continues to say, the people's lives
that were put at risk, Democrats and Republicans. And I'm wondering how willing
you are to talk to the people, Republican voters, to say ‘That wasn't true;
that didn't happen?’"
HALEY: “I've been on the record to say that, while I think that we had issues, I don't think that any of them changed the election. I have also said, when he said it was a beautiful day, January 6th, I think January 6th was a terrible day.”
That’s it. Nikki Haley would only go so far as to disagree with with Donald Trump’s word choice in characterizing January 6. If she thinks that is a meaty condemnation of Trump’s attempted coup, you know all you need to know about the “Non-Trump Lane.” It has a giant double yellow line: do not cross... Trump.
Haley waffled on her position on abortion, ducking Tapper’s simple question about whether she would sign a six-week or fifteen-week law, knowing that either choice would alienate one of two factions of Republican voters she needs. Haley strutted her “honesty” in striking a pose that the retirement age would have to be raised to preserve Social Security, and Tapper asked her how much the retirement would have to be raised. She whiffed. So much for honesty.
Then came her worst moment: when she was asked to define “woke:”
TAPPER: So, woke, the word woke used to be used by progressives to talk about an awareness of inequities and historical inequities, but obviously it means something else to conservatives criticizing it. What does it mean to you? How do you define woke?
HALEY: There's a lot of things. I mean, you want to start with biological boys playing in girl sports. That's one thing. The fact that we have gender pronoun classes in the military now, I mean, all of these things that are pushing what a small minority want on the majority of Americans, it's too much. It's too much. I mean, the idea that we have biological boys playing in girls' sports, it is the women's issue of our time. My daughter ran track in high school. I don't even know how I would have that conversation with her. How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms? And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year. We should be growing strong girls, confident girls.
Yes, as utterly disgraceful as it was, Nikki Haley actually tried to blame female teenage suicides on allowing “biological boys” to play in “girl sports.” Why? Culture wars are the only safe place for these faux leaders to sound tough. Everything else is just so much equivocation to placate Trump.
Then there was Mike Pence’s turn at the announcement plate. Pence, too, had moments of strong condemnation of Trump, but – like Haley – he always had an equivocation at the ready, leaving Pence more twisted than a fresh pretzel. At his campaign launch event, Pence had said, “I believe that anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be President of the United States and anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be President of the United States again.” Good stuff, Mike! Then, two days later on CNN, Pence said that he would absolutely “support the nominee of the Party,” who, uh, currently seems very likely to be Donald Trump.
Asked about the Florida documents case, Pence said that Trump should not be indicted, because that would send “a terrible message to the wider world.” Hey, Mike… did you think allowing a former President to steal top secret documents might also send a terrible message to the world? How about the message we send in telling the world that “equal justice under the law” does not apply to the rich and powerful? Ah, Mike Pence. Once a poodle, always a poodle.
That, folks, is the problem with your “Non-Trump Lane.” It's where you’ll find the candidates who are too cowardly to go straight up Trump’s nose, but who are all too eager to score cheap Right-Wing points by blaming trans people for teenage suicide. It is a bunch of posers who deliver their caveats and equivocations with passion and intensity, hoping that Right-Wing wing-nuts will mistake style for actual strength.
You may love or hate Ron DeSatan, but at least he knows that the only way to defeat Donald Trump for the nomination is to go hard at Donald Trump. He knows that winning the nomination means winning the war for Trump’s own base. It is the Fight for the Right, the Thrilla of Vanilla, the White Supremist’s Brawl.
DeSantis has put together a reasonable strategy for attacking Donald Trump.
--He is positioning himself further to the right than Trump himself. The people who vote in primaries are the more extreme and involved members of the Party: The candidate who pries the hard Right from Trump will win the nomination.
--He is attacking Trump on governing effectiveness, claiming that he has been able to actually enact a Right-wing agenda in Florida. The contrast he will make is that Trump never delivered on his promises: There is no wall, and Mexico did not pay for it.
--He is telling Republicans that Donald Trump is a loser, and that in 2024, the Party cannot afford another 2018, 2020, and 2022. It may be his strongest message – and it is an implicit acknowledgement that these elections were not “stolen.”
--He is focusing on the cultural issues that make Red State blood boil: He invokes his “war on woke” every other sentence. He is pouring gasoline on the Right’s urgent need to hate.
--DeSantis is picking and choosing the issues where he can go
hard against Trump without appearing to side with liberals. The Florida governor reacted to the Mar-a-Lago documents indictment by hewing to the Trump playbook... he issued predictable accusations that the DoJ is politically motivated and trite Hillary Clinton "what about-isms."
It is the oldest trick in the book: Win the primaries by firing up the extremists, then do your best to appear sane in the general election. The fundamental theory is sound: Once you have won the nomination, you stop worrying about the extremists and try to broaden your appeal, but you mostly focus on getting out the vote. DeSantis is betting that Trump’s base would be mad that DeSantis beat Trump, but they will never vote for Biden. And given how much they hate Democrats, they are not going to stay home on Election Day.
The issue with DeSantis is not his strategy, it is his execution. He keeps making stupid decisions. His Florida abortion bill is going to come back to punch him in the cul-du-sac, as suburban women abhor its six-week limit, making it a de facto ban on abortion. DeSantis’s Twitter meltdown was the biggest candidacy announcement disaster since gaffe-spree Joe Biden characterized Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” on the exact day he filed his candidacy papers for the 2008 campaign.
DeSantis has tons of money in the bank, so he has plenty of time to recover. But the guy is more wooden that Pinocchio, has not demonstrated the killer instinct needed to defang Trump, and his holy culture wars – don’t ever forget that shameless stunt of manipulating helpless migrants in Martha’s Vineyard -- make him appear unspeakably cruel. Dumbest of all: He is trying so hard to out-right Trump that he could make himself toxic in the general election.
Which brings us to the man who actually won last week: former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
“Let me be very clear,” he said. “I am going out there to take out Donald Trump, but here’s why: I will win. And I don’t want him to win.”
Chris Christie announced his campaign as a heat-seeking missile programmed to crucify Donald Trump at every turn. How’s this soupçon:
“A lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog is not a leader. The person I am talking about, who is obsessed with the mirror, who never admits a mistake, who never admits a fault, who always finds someone else and something else to blame for whatever goes wrong — but finds every reason to take credit for anything that goes right — is Donald Trump.”
Remember we salivated at the idea of Liz Cheney declaring her candidacy for the sole purpose of destroying Donald Trump? Guess who showed up to actually take on the job?
But Christie claims that he is not pursuing his take-no-prisoners attack on Trump in some Cheney-esque sacrificial lamb for the good of the country. He believes this is how to win the nomination. He may be right.
“The reason I’m going after Trump is twofold. One, he deserves it. And two, it’s the way to win.”
Indeed, he may have the best strategy for taking on Donald Trump. Unlike the weak-kneed sissies in the “Non-Trump Lane,” he knows that the only way to beat Trump is to go at him, hard, direct, and mean. And unlike DeSantis, Christie is not prostrating himself to the Right to beat Trump. Sure, Christie has more baggage than Tumi, and the more he succeeds in tarring Trump, the more Trump’s base will hate him. But Chris Christie is embarking on a holy war, and seems to see a vision of personal redemption in martyrdom.
Best of all, Chris Christie is signing up to do the job that all of us Democrats are desperate to see: Someone on the Republican debate stage gleefully ripping into Donald Trump.
More from Christie’s speech announcing his candidacy:
“The grift from this family is breathtaking. It’s breathtaking. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Kushner walk out of the White House and months later get $2 billion from the Saudis? That’s your money he stole.”
And -- in a sea of Republicans who are lining up behind Trump to accuse the DoJ of political intent -- Christie said this of the Smith indictment: “The conduct is bad. And it is bad for anybody in this country to do it, but it’s particularly awful for someone who has been president and who aspires to be president again.”
I, for one, simply cannot wait to see Chris Christie on a Fox News debate stage, poised to go full Chernobyl on Trump the minute the first question is asked. And I can only imagine the scorched earth rhetoric Christie will relish if Trump fails to show up on the debate stage.
Here’s the problem, folks. Chris Christie must meet four RNC requirements to qualify to be on the first debate stage on August 23, 2023:
1.Must be a declared candidate who has filed with the Federal Election Commission.
2. Must have earned one percent support in three national polls, or in two national polls and at least one July or August poll in one of the first four Republican Primary States.
3. MUST HAVE AT LEAST 40,000 UNIQUE CONTRIBUTORS to his or her presidential campaign committee, with at least 200 from 20 states and/or territories. (All caps mine.)
4. Must pledge to support the GOP’s eventual nominee, agree to a data-sharing agreement with the RNC and pledge to not participate in debates not approved by the RNC.
Ok, Dems, here’s where you come in. Suck it in and do your patriotic duty. We need 40,000 of you to send in one dollar to Chris Christie’s campaign. Get him on the debate stage. Let’s keep Chris Christie’s candidacy alive as long as we can. Then let’s enjoy watching the new reality show, The Biggest Losers, as Chris Christie rips into Donald Trump throughout the primaries.
One of the best things we can do now to protect our democracy is the help get Chris Christie onto the Republican debate stage, so that Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax are forced to carry a fusillade of anti-Trump truth to their viewers.
So tune in Monday night, 8:00 pm, on CNN. Let’s see just how vicious Chris Christie can be in his effort to destroy Donald Trump.
Because if it is half as good as it promises to be, it’s worth it for 40,000 of us to send him a buck each and make sure he’s on the debate stage come August 23.
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