As time goes by, ambitious Republicans will look for ways to wiggle away from Trump’s domination

For members of the Democratic Party it is a difficult time, handling the national and international challenges that the party’s elected officials face.  Donald Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic left the economy in a serious mess.  He destroyed long-standing and valuable international alliances.  He sowed doubts about the need for vaccines, masking, and testing for COVID which have carried forward to the present day, making the fight more difficult.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who fancies himself as the leader of the anti-vaccine/masking/testing brigade in the name of freedom, last week took some masked students to task at an event, telling them to take off their masks.  Evidently freedom for DeSantis does not extend to those individuals who see value in taking precautions.  Freedom for me, but not for thee.

The most aggressive Republican trying to break away from Trump is none other than the most loyal of lapdogs, Mike Pence.  The irony of Pence’s positioning is amazing, considering that Trump loyalists were out to hang Pence on January 6th.  The schadenfreude is almost unbearable.

Pence recently told a Republican audience that “there is no room in this party for apologists for Putin… Elections are about the future.”  Sorry Mike, but there is whole lot of room in the Republican Party for Putin apologists who are focused on 2020.

In an attempt to either backtrack, or to confirm his lack of coherence, Trump at a meeting of the Republican National Committee donors this past weekend, according to Politico, “offered up his own suggestion for the Ukraine situation: He said that the U.S. should label a bunch of its F-22 fighter [planes] with Chinese flags — then ‘bomb the shit out of Russia.’  And then we say, ‘China did it, we didn’t do,’ he said. “‘China did it,’ and then they start fighting with each other and we sit back and watch.”  Memory test for the former guy:  repeat the words “person, woman, man, camera, TV.”  Reply: “Vlad, tanks, bombs, recordings, dead.”

Republicans are twisting themselves into all sorts of pretzels, acting aggressively about Ukraine while looking over their shoulders for the unforgiving Trump.  DeSantis, whether he says it publicly or not, is angling to get out front of the core of ambitious Republicans who want a shot at the presidency in 2024.  The year 2028 is just too far away to wait.  DeSantis is undoubtedly betting that between now and the time in 2024 when the party’s presidential candidate is chosen any number of political, legal and/or medical problems may occur which could remove any possibility of a Trump ’24 candidacy, or at least diminish Trump’s support among the party faithful (which is already beginning to peel away), making the former guy a less than formidable candidate.

Other 2024 Republican wannabees are much less bold than DeSantis and it must be killing them to suppress their political interests less they be seen as attacking fearless leader.  If they cannot bring themselves to go after Trump, imagine how ill equipped they would be to deal with the Russians and Chinese.

Among the wimpy who are probably beginning to panic about their political futures:

  • Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Rick Scott
  • Governor Greg Abbott
  • Former U.N. Ambassador Niki Haley
  • Former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo

All the above are overflowing with ambition, raising tons of cash, dropping in at early primary states – but all the while pledging allegiance to fearless leader.

Political ambitions, of course, extend to candidates and party leaders on the state and local level too, but political realities force many of them to dance a kabuki dance around Trump, acting loyal to Trump while being smart enough to know that a Trump connection can for some of them turn out to be the kiss of death.  Witness the New York State Republican Convention last week where party leaders suggested that Putin ass-kisser Donald Trump would have handled the Ukrainian War so much better than Joe Biden.  Trump would have (figuratively) been at the border saluting the invading the Russian troops.  Note to Chairman Nick Langworthy:  please drop the line trying to equate the Convention activities of the party at a Long Island hotel with the brave Ukrainians who are giving their lives to preserve their country and their freedom.

Ambition is a very powerful motivator.  It is certainly not unique to Republicans.  There are Democrats wondering about 2024 too but supporting the current president is easier and more appropriate than tying your wagon to a party leader who cannot flip the calendar forward.

The year 2028 is just too far away for Republicans who want to be president to have to wait.  Look for them, as they observe Pence and DeSantis, to crawl out from their basements to start taking steps to promote themselves.  While they do so, they will show their party and the country that there is not much there there. 

Follow me on Twitter @kenkruly