Thoughts on the eve of the first debate
by Rob Roper
Many Donald Trump supporters I have had conversations and interactions with share an intense feeling of being cheated over what took place in 2020 that can only be assuaged by running – and this time winning – a Trump/Biden rematch in 2024. While I share the anger and frustration stemming from the multiple injustices inflicted on the former president (and Republicans in general) over the past seven years, I respectfully disagree as to that remedy. A Trump candidacy in 2024 is not the best thing for the country, the Republican Party, or for that matter Donald Trump.
In order for justice to be meted out, Republicans need to re-claim all of the internal administrative levers of power necessary to reform the DOJ, the FBI, and other problematic areas of the federal bureaucracy, as well as, from the former president’s perspective, having someone in place to pardon him should that become necessary. This, of course, requires winning the presidency.
And let’s be honest, a man who is a 100 percent known commodity, who the voters have long ago made up their minds about, who lost his last bid for the same office, who is spending all of his campaign donations on legal expenses instead of campaigning, who has an approval rating in the 30’s, and a recent poll showed 53 percent of voters would not vote for him under any circumstances does not represent our best chance to win the upcoming presidential election.
Moreover, in addition to the presidency, Republicans must win back the Senate (as well as increasing – and not losing — their bare majority in the House), which is critical for confirming key presidential appointments, controlling the committees that have the power to investigate the crimes and potential crimes that have been perpetrated over the past several years, and passing any kind of a conservative legislative agenda.
And, again, let’s be honest. Donald Trump does not have a stellar track record when it comes to picking winning candidates and/or helping others win elections. With Trump as the head of the Party, Republicans lost the House in 2018, lost the Senate and the presidency in 2020, and in what should have been a wave Republican year in 2022, woefully underperformed, especially in Senate races. Another round of Hershel Walkers, Blake Masters, Dr. Ozs, etc. would be a disaster for the Party, the country, and the former president.
In 2020, Republicans lost the Senate largely because Donald Trump allowed his feud with the Georgia governor and secretary of state to overshadow, spill into, and negatively impact the two special runoff elections we needed to win to keep the US Senate in Republican control. The consequences of that failure were humongous.
It delayed, for example, any serious investigations into the Hunter Biden laptop scandal and hence the Biden family bribery scandal by two years until the Republicans were able to re-claim a house majority – barely – in 2022.
It also killed any chance of investigations into the very voting irregularities Trump was upset about to begin with, as well as the “Russia-gate” fraud, censorship of conservatives by social media companies, etc. It made it impossible for Republicans to stop the Biden Administration and the Democrats from passing their own devastating slate of legislative priorities, such as extended Covid lockdowns, the fraudulently named Inflation Reduction Act, and undoing Donald Trump’s own positive legacy on issues like border control and energy independence.
Too often the man gets in his own way and is his own worst enemy. Trump did, after all, appoint Christopher Wray to run the FBI taking advice from Chris Christie, no less! If there is any evidence that he has learned from these mistakes, that his judgement has improved, or that he has grown more disciplined as a result, I have not yet seen it.
I want to see the people who have abused the law and our institutions to mistreat Republicans, our agenda, and our country brought to justice. But, like the lawyer who has himself for a client, I am not convinced at this point in time Donald Trump is the right person to do this job.
So, as the other Republican candidates take the stage tomorrow night, I will be looking to see, first and foremost, who has the potential to appeal to a majority of American voters and win. Additionally, who has shown the ability to bring coattails to elections and help other conservatives win as well. Who can think and operate strategically not just for themselves but as the leader of a team. Who has a vision for the country that will turn us back toward small, constitutional government, and the managerial abilities to execute this vision through a series of policy successes.
Too much is at stake for this election to be about anything other than winning a broad mandate for a conservative policy agenda. If Republicans lose the House and fail to win the Senate in 2024 because the nominee for president drags down the ticket, all the investigations into the crimes of the past seven years go away, probably forever, and justice will never be served. Worse the agenda our country needs to heal itself will never have a chance to be implemented. In fact, quite the opposite — as we have witnessed over the past three years.