In a replay of the 2016 Presidential Campaign, former President Donald J. Trump won’t sign the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) pledge that he’d support the Republican candidate for president, whoever it ends up being.
This is proving to be problematic for the RNC leadership, which has made signing the pledge a prerequisite for any GOP presidential candidate to appear on the debate stage at the first debate slated for August 23.
Ronna McDaniel, the head of the RNC, insists that she will not cave and break her own rules just because the frontrunner, Donald Trump, who has almost 60 percent of GOP voter support (compared to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ nearly 15 percent), refuses to sign it.
In 2016, Trump generated much buzz and ultimately won the day with similar antics.
It just might work for him again.
After all, Trump has already insinuated that he doesn’t want to go to any debate because none of the other GOP candidates come close to his lead in most polls. In other words, it’d be beneath the former president to give such small rivals a shot at the Big Dog. At least that’s how Trump wants people to perceive it.
In fact, Trump just doesn’t really want to debate. It’s too big a risk.
In his view, there’s no significant upside to debating.
Of course, I think this is a mistake on his part. If he’s as strong as the polls indicate (even though no votes have been cast), then the former president should welcome the opportunity to vanquish his foes early in the primary process.
Anyway, Trump is replicating his playbook from 2016 and he’s putting the RNC in a difficult position.
Clearly, the debate would be a waste of time in the eyes of many if the frontrunner were not there. It’d be a novelty act that had no real bearing in the minds of most Republican voters without Trump’s presence on stage.
And McDaniel issuing an ultimatum of sorts to Trump would backfire as well. Most Republican voters hate the party and relish whenever Trump attacks the GOP elite (in many cases, this love of bashing the GOP elite is justified).
But it is the Republican Party voters who are being wronged by Trump’s actions. Unlike the Democratic Party, the GOP doesn’t coronate leaders who the base dislikes. Whenever the GOP has tried to do this, the party has lost (remember Mitt Romney in 2012?).
Ron DeSantis is not someone to underestimate. He’s a smart guy. DeSantis is tough. The Florida governor is competitive. What’s more, he’s got an unbeatable record, something that even most Trump supporters cannot deny.
These factors explain why the forty-fifth president, trying to create an air of inevitability around his campaign (even as he’s been indicted for the fourth time), doesn’t want to risk an opponent like DeSantis getting a clean shot at him.
Yet, the Republicans need to get a read on all the candidates and the primary process—notably the debates—offer GOP Primary voters their best chance at seeing the candidates in ways that interviews and campaign ads could never provide.
Trump is denying the Republican voters this chance because he’s afraid to face DeSantis (and Chris Christie, for that matter).
It’s incredibly disrespectful to the GOP voters.
Alas, Trump has crafted for himself a powerful narrative that he is both the most victimized political figure in American history as well as the greatest president in modern history.
At least a chunk of the GOP base seems to be buying that.
So long as Donald Trump can keep that mythos strong and prevent his voters from seeing him bleed, he will fundamentally short-circuit the Primary process. The real quandary surrounds what the GOP leadership will do.
If they don’t back down on their demands for all candidates to take the pledge in order to show up at the debate, then Trump won’t go, and the only ones hurt are the other candidates, the Republican voters, and the RNC leadership.
But, if they do give into Trump, then they’ve just shown that they are impotent; the GOP is not a party anymore. It’s simply an entity supporting Donald Trump’s endeavors.
In the long run, that becomes a serious concern.
After all, there will inevitably be political life after Donald Trump in America. He’s effectively gutting the party.
It’s a total disaster.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.