Trump’s Missed Opportunity; In the fight for the Speakership, Trump is missing a golden opportunity. He could break this Speaker’s race open by withdrawing his support for McCarthy.
In the fight for the Speakership, Trump is missing a golden opportunity. He could break this Speaker’s race open by withdrawing his support for McCarthy. If Trump announces that McCarthy doesn’t have the votes, withdraws his endorsement and then asks for someone else to step up, it would be a game changer. Right now, the vote is largely bogged down. The rebels have increased from 19 in the first round to 21 after six rounds and counting. While moving 2 votes is good, it is going to probably take a lot more to get McCarthy to remove himself from the race. This process needs a boost. Short of another chunk of Congressmen breaking off, Trump would provide the most juice. While I don’t think he really moves many votes, the public relations hit to McCarthy would be massive. Trump can’t really move votes, but he can move the perception of the race by using his bully pulpit.
Once McCarthy withdraws, a consensus candidate can emerge. We will not have a viable option until McCarthy withdraws. As much as I’d love Donalds, Biggs, Jordan, etc as Speaker, they are all way too conservative to win 218 votes with the current makeup of the Republican House caucus. The Representatives voting for McCarthy are not going to throw their name in the ring until McCarthy is out. That must happen first.
Trump has enough allies in Congress to be informed when a deal is struck on a replacement who can get 218 votes. Trump could then offer an endorsement once that candidate has the votes and make it appear that he is the muscle man of the GOP that makes it move. Even if it wasn’t true, and Trump was reacting to events rather than driving them, most of the public would buy the timing and the appearance that Trump was driving the entire House. Right now, it doesn’t appear that Trump is the leader of the GOP. He is influential, but he is not driving anything substantial and either siding with the establishment (McCarthy/McDaniels) or losing (opposing McConnell). He needs to look like he is still the big dog that is driving the party if he wants to be the 2024 nominee.
In order for Trump to do this, someone in his orbit is going to have to convince him that McCarthy can’t win and won’t win. If they can do that, Trump will toss him under the bus faster than you can blink. I don’t think Trump has any special loyalty or fondness for Kevin McCarthy, he just simply thinks he will win and would rather be on the winning side as the losing side. Trump will have to be shown how pulling this off is a win for him.
The risk to this strategy is that Trump’s endorsement might blow up a deal, but that isn’t likely. Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, only two are left in the House. Even though there are several members who don’t want to associate with Trump, I don’t think they would back out of a deal Trump was not involved in simply because he moved to their side of the issue. There is risk that Trump could pull the endorsement and then the rebels strike some deal and McCarthy wins anyway. The solution to that is simply for Trump to take credit that pulling his endorsement is what forced McCarthy to offer enough concessions to get to 218 votes. Trump can still spin that as a “win” and re-endorse McCarthy when the deal has been made and he has the votes, but before the voting actually happens.
Personally, I don’t care whether Trump does this or not. I think DeSantis is more conservative, more effective, more disciplined and more electable than Trump. The strategist in me just sees a really big missed opportunity if Trump won’t take advantage of it. And while Trump isn’t my first choice for 2024, he is certainly preferable to many others.
While Trump could be seen as the catalyst to the public, I don’t think he can really do much to move votes. The evidence of that is allies like Boebert and Gaetz openly rejecting his endorsement of McCarthy and others, like Marjorie Taylor Green, getting fully on board the McCarthy train. However, the race affects Trump. Trump backing McCarthy, win or lose, weakens Trump. His base is going to either not care what Trump’s opinion is or they will oppose McCarthy. The cult portion of Trump’s supporters do not think anyway, so they are irrelevant to the discussion of how it affects Trump. Most Trump supporters do think and don’t just blindly agree with everything. These supporters will see this as a sell out and as Trump being out of touch with his base, even if McCarthy wins. Trump gets a “win” best case scenario, a “win” that doesn’t do anything to help him down the road. Opposing McCarthy would reignite the image of Trump as the outsider, fighting against the system. If he wants to be the 2024 Republican nominee, he desperately needs to get that mojo back.
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