by Jeffrey Lord
As Ronald Reagan might say — there they go again.
The “they” this time around is the Never Trump chorus insisting that not only can’t former President Donald Trump win the 2024 election, but he shouldn’t even be trying.
Whether it’s Bush-cheerleader Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal, or, in the same place, Ruth R. Wisse, a professor emerita at Harvard University, or the esteemed Andrew C. McCarthy over at National Review, or more scattered over the political landscape, the Trump naysayers are out in force, predicting, of course, that the former president’s reelection bid is dead in the water — or should be, if it isn’t already.
And they would be wrong. As this CBS News/YouGov poll of a Trump–DeSantis battle shows, Trump is rolling along in the polls, with a 36-point lead over the Florida governor.
It is important here to note the hard reality of American politics. When anyone — say again, anyone — gets the Republican nomination for president, the media and its Democratic Party allies will absolutely pillory that GOP nominee, whether it’s Trump or anyone else.
Curiously, in setting up his anti-Trump case, Rove unintentionally makes this point exactly. His column is titled “Will Trump Prove to Be Another Romney?” Describing what happened when Mitt Romney began to gain traction to win the 2012 GOP nomination, he writes:
The Obama high command quickly swung into action, blasting Mitt Romney well before he had won the long, contentious and costly nomination battle on April 24. Team Obama recognized that extolling Mr. Obama’s first-term record and outlining his vision for the future were insufficient.
So on April 11, it opened up on Mr. Romney with an advertising blast depicting the former Massachusetts governor as a heartless plutocrat. Democrats kept this up for nearly seven months, pounding Mr. Romney as filthy rich, out-of-touch and indifferent to people’s everyday struggles—even as mistreating his dog. It worked.
And this tough-guy strategy will in fact be used again in 2024, no matter who the GOP nominee is. If Donald Trump vanished from the 2024 race tomorrow, the Democrat strategy used to smear Romney in 2012 would be rolled onto the political field whether the nominee’s name be Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Vivek Ramaswamy, or any other GOP candidate not named Trump.
As I noted in these pages way back there in 2015, this “Trump can’t win” business has a serious predecessor. That would be from the “Reagan can’t win” crowd in both the media and the Republican Party Establishment during the rise of the actor-turned-California governor. As I noted, the Never Reagan crowd of the day was unhesitating. Some samples to remind:
New York Times: Reagan’s candidacy is “patently ridiculous.”
- New Republic: “Reagan is Goldwater revisited…He is a divisive factor in the party.”
- Harper’s magazine: “That he should be regarded as a serious candidate for President is a shame and an embarrassment for the country at large to swallow.”
- Chicago Daily News: “The trouble with Reagan, of course, is that his positions on the major issues are cunningly phrased nonsense — irrationality conceived and hair-raising in their potential mischief… Here comes Barry Goldwater again, only more so, and at this stage another such debacle could sink the GOP so deep it might never recover.”
- Illinois Republican Senator Charles Percy said Reagan’s candidacy was “foolhardy” and would lead to a “crushing defeat” for the Republican Party. “It could signal the beginning of the end of our party as an effective force in American political life.”
- Former Republican President Gerald Ford said that “Mr. Reagan would be a sure-loser in November.”
There was more of this drivel — oh, so much more.
To his decided credit, Trump persists, paying no attention to this kind of nonsense when applied to him. Nor should he.
Can he win? Of course he can.
But the point here is simple. The Never Trumpers, having not learned their lesson — just as the Never Reagan crowd had not learned theirs — are still out there.
And the best thing to do is ignore them and move forward.
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at [email protected]. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
Photo “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Election Day” by Phil Roeder. CC BY 2.0.