The kicker: the candidate won’t be Donald J. Trump.
And that is a really big deal.
From CNN back in February:
“The deep-pocketed network associated with billionaire Charles Koch is preparing to throw its money and weight behind a single Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential primary – in a move that could significantly reshape the GOP field.
Americans for Prosperity Action, the main political arm of the Koch network, “is prepared to support a candidate in the Republican presidential primary who can lead our country forward, and who can win,” Emily Seidel, the CEO of Americans for Prosperity and a top adviser at AFP Action, wrote in a memo released Sunday.
The memo does not mention Donald Trump, but an official with AFP Action confirmed to CNN that the network is not planning to support the former president’s White House bid.”
Could the Koch network have the money and influence to beat Donald Trump?
A short answer: no. And even if they did, it could backfire – bigly.
I say that because Donald Trump transformed the Republican Party from being a pro-business, low taxes party to a MAGA-centric populist party.
While the Koch network and MAGA share some similarities – they both want a restrained foreign policy (there are some exceptions for sure) and share some libertarian commonalities – that is where the similarities end.
Where the Kochs and Trump diverge in a major way is trade. Team Koch was very much against China tariffs and is very much for free trade across the board, with no exceptions – like the GOP was before Donald Trump ran in 2015.
The challenge for the Koch Brothers is Donald Trump brought in so many new voters into the GOP that those voters are uniquely tied to him. Even if Koch could sway the 2024 GOP primary and somehow hand the election to, say, Mike Pence or Nikki Haley or someone else we all know, MAGA voters would be enraged. It could even be enough to get Donald Trump to go Teddy Roosevelt and form his own version of a Bull Moose Party and run as a third-party candidate.
Tred carefully, mighty Koch brothers.
Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) serves as President and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. He has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues. His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum. He holds a graduate degree focusing on International Relations from Harvard University and is the author of the book The Tao of A2/AD, a study of Chinese military modernization. Kazianis also worked for a large telecommunication firm for ever a decade before his career in national security.