(Chuck Muth) – Like it or not, a mano a mano street brawl has broken out between the two leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination – former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – and Nevada is right in the thick of things.
Depending on how things break in other “swing” states, Nevada’s six electoral votes could be the deciding factor on who ends up in the White House in January 2025.
And as one of the first four early primary/caucus states, much attention by the campaigns will be brought here after things heat up following the Labor Day weekend…if not sooner.
This is important. Not just in the presidential race, but in how that race affects other races up-and-down the ballot, especially in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race. And therein lies the danger.
Most don’t know this, but I got my start as a professional campaign trainer way back in 1996 after attending the Campaign Management College in Washington, DC, then being run by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his senior strategist, Joe Gaylord.
And the pair have a new book out, “March to the Majority: The Real Story of the Republican Revolution.”
I’m about halfway through – and let me give you a heads up…
The book is a blueprint on how Republicans can get out of the minority despite Democrats using their power to “rig” the system and Republican establishment leaders who are comfortable in their minority status and don’t want to rock the boat.
One of the quotes from Newt & Joe’s book that really stood out to me, especially as it relates to Nevada, was this…
“The Democrats aren’t going to give up power. If we are serious about being a majority party, we are going to have to take it from them.”
And yes, we have plans in the works to do just that now that the 2023 session of the Nevada Legislature has mercifully ended. But back to the presidential race…
This is, and will likely continue to be, a two-man race.
Not saying the other candidates aren’t qualified, experienced at various levels, or good conservatives. But barring a miracle or catastrophic collapse of either the Trump or DeSantis campaigns, the GOP nominee is going to be one of them.
Knowing this, even from afar, one has to wonder why all these other candidates are coming out of the woodwork and throwing their hats in the ring. And I was talking about that with a longtime DC political strategist at Adam Laxalt’s Basque Fry last week.
In Chris Christie’s case, it’s just sour grapes. He got butt-hurt by Trump and now it’s payback time.
But the strategist I spoke with explained that by merely filing to run as a presidential candidate, that goes on their resume. And by its virtue, that means media appearances, even if not on the nightly big news channels.
That also means paid speaking gigs in the future and maybe even a big book deal.
Others are likely angling for the #2 veep spot on the ticket – like what Kamala Harris did in running a miserably failed prez campaign last time out.
Or maybe a senior position in either the Trump or DeSantis administration if Republicans re-capture the White House next year.
But that’s the thing. First, Republicans have to win.
And a bitter primary could not only hurt those chances at the presidential level but could negatively affect races down the ballot – as happened after the bitter Goldwater-Rockefeller fight in 1964.
In a column last November, Gingrich issued a déjà vu warning…
“The Republican presidential defeat in 1964 was so divisive that it pulled down GOP congressional candidates, governors and state legislators. It took years to recover.
“I remember the disaster vividly because in 1964 I took a year off college to manage a campaign for Congress in North Georgia. I was deeply involved in the campaign process that year, and it unfolded in a fascinating but horrifying way. It was a lot like watching a car crash that you couldn’t stop. …
“In the Goldwater collapse, Republicans lost 36 seats in the House and were down to only 140 members. In the Senate, Republicans lost two seats and were down to 32 seats. Republicans would not win a majority in the Senate again until 1980.
“Goldwater lost so badly because the personal bitterness between the conservative movement and the traditional Republican Party grew intense and uncontrollable. … The moderate wing of the GOP openly ridiculed and attacked Goldwater. …
“Republicans in 2024 are in grave danger of repeating the 1964 disaster.”
Interestingly, the “establishment” wing of the GOP in this cycle is represented by Trump – the most anti-establishment president I’ve ever seen. But his new “establishment” is that of his former administration, his family and friends, and previous campaigns.
DeSantis represents the conservative insurgents.
Which is not to say there aren’t conservatives supporting Trump. There certainly are. Or that there aren’t “old-guard” establishment figures supporting DeSantis. There are – especially some of the “Never Trumpers.”
But the divide and bitterness between both camps is palpable and poses the same danger as 1964. Newt continued…
“Republican candidates who focus on tearing down their primary opponents rather than solving America’s problems will further alienate millions of Americans who are tired of the negative, destructive attack approach.
“If Republicans are unlucky enough, then the Donald Trump faction will refuse to back any nominee other than Mr. Trump, and the anti-Trump faction will refuse to support Mr. Trump if he is the nominee. …
“Without some restraints and some effort at mutual respect, the GOP will tear itself apart and we will have historically failed the American people — while putting the future of our country in the hands of a hard left movement that despises everything for which we stand.”
Or as late actor and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson put it in the blockbuster movie, The Hunt for Red October: “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.
So the real challenge post-primary is going to be figuring out how to bridge the Trump-DeSantis divide regardless of who the nominee is. And to do that, Newt proffers some advice in “March to the Majority” …
“Importantly, it requires a candidate to set his or her ego aside and move in the direction the people want to go – rather than where he or she wants to go. The candidate who can do that will easily win the primary – and most likely the presidency.”
That, of course, is out of your control and my control. But we can set a bottom-up example for the prez contenders.
Me? I’m backing whoever ends up being the GOP nominee.
If it’s Trump, fine. If it’s DeSantis, fine. If it’s any of the other Republicans, fine. As long as it’s not Joe Biden or whoever the Democrats may end up replacing him with next year (and that’s still a very real possibility).
Whoever you end up voting for, try to keep the disagreements from “getting out of control.” Agree to disagree. Don’t make it a blood feud. Slug it out but keep your eyes on the prize.
As UCLA football coach “Red” Sanders famously put it, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
7 Worst Habits of Highly Unelectable People
- Picking the wrong race
- Picking the wrong district
- Picking the wrong issues
- Picking the wrong time
- Picking the wrong consultants
- Picking unnecessary fights with the media
- Picking door-knocking over fundraising
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“Trump War Room, a Twitter account that supports the former president, posted a video last week accusing DeSantis of lying to voters and claiming ‘Lockdown Ron DeSantis shut Florida down during the pandemic.’
“The DeSantis War Room, also a Twitter account, hit back with its own videos accusing Trump of supporting lockdowns and showing him praising DeSantis’ pandemic response. The DeSantis team has also tried to link Trump to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was part of the former president’s White House coronavirus task force.”
– Liberal Las Vegas Sun thoroughly enjoying the division in the GOP ranks, 6/27/23
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.