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Is Donald Trump Still King of the GOP? You Might Not Like the Answer

Image by Gage Skidmore. Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Former President Donald Trump remains the only major candidate to announce his intention to run for president.

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Even incumbent President Joe Biden has not yet announced whether he will run for reelection.

From the GOP, not one person has emerged to challenge Trump for the nomination formally.

But challengers will come.

There is no question. Trump is weaker than ever – as polls demonstrate, and as Representative Kevin McCarthy’s prolonged ordeal to earn the speakership demonstrates.

Polls show that GOP voters are moving away from Trump. And McCarthy’s ordeal occurred despite Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy as speaker.

The voters are ready for an alternative. So are elected officials, who are likely enjoying the ability to operate with increased latitude, without having to be subservient to Trump’s every whim.

Challengers will emerge to face Donald Trump. Who will the challengers be?

Who Will Challenge Trump?

The most obvious challenger to Donald Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has become one of the conservative political world’s most prominent figures.

DeSantis has gained notoriety, and conservative street cred, with a series of high profile moves – like signing the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill into law, flouting the CDC’s COVID recommendations, pushing back against Disney, and chartering a flight full of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

Conservative voters are eating DeSantis’s schtick up. Various polls have demonstrated that voters prefer DeSantis to Trump. Without question, DeSantis will enter the 2024 race – and he’ll be a serious challenger, capable of disrupting Trump’s GOP winning streak.

Former Vice President Mike Pence is also expected to challenge Trump. Pence was Trump’s lackies for years. But after the January 6th riots, during which Trump was supportive of rioters who were angry with Pence, Pence distanced himself from Trump in a way that would have been shocking at any other point during Trump’s first term. More recently, Pence has been posturing for a run; he published a memoir and has made comments suggesting the GOP is ready for new leadership.

Pence’s problem will be that he’s stuck in a weird middle ground. Pence’s claim to fame is being Trump’s lackey and vice president for four years – he’ll need to siphon Trump voters away from Trump in order to win. Yet, Pence has pivoted away from Trump and will need to market himself as an alternative to Trump, which will make winning over Trump voters difficult.

Senator Ted Cruz is also likely to enter the fray and challenge Trump. Cruz finished second in the 2016 GOP primary and has remained relevant ever since. Although Cruz will need to regain some dignity after executing an all-time capitulation to Trump in 2016; Cruz endorsed Trump after Trump called Cruz’s wife ugly. The Cruz capitulation was an early indication of just how powerful Trump had become and would become in GOP politics. Trump demanded obedience and he received it, even from people whose wives he had called ugly – for the alternative was political excommunication.

Can Donald Trump Win?

Yes, Trump can still win the GOP nomination. Victory will not be guaranteed. Trump will certainly face a densely packed field of challengers at a time when Trump is more vulnerable than at any point since winning his first GOP nomination eight years ago. But Trump is still Trump and he has a knack for eking out victories.       

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MORE: Ron DeSantis May Peak Too Early

Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.