Thunderdome: Christie the Kamikaze, Pence the Puritan?
Is the field set, or will anyone else jump in?
And yes, we start off by talking about golf and soccer, but don’t worry: we don’t focus on important things for too long. There’s presidential stakes to be talking about, and questions to answer! Like: who is Doug Burgum, and why is Doug Burgum? Let’s get to it.
Christie the kamikaze, or Pence the pure of heart?
Everyone assumes that Chris Christie is going to be the thorn in the side of Donald Trump on the debate stage in August. But what if he isn’t? His meandering introduction to his presidential run this time sounded like someone who’d been too far gone from the political battleground to rediscover his old blustering bombast. Too many green rooms and not enough contentious press conferences can do that to someone. But there’s another possibility: what if it turns out that Mike Pence’s presence on the stage is a bigger challenge for Trump to navigate? Not that either Pence or Christie has a strong shot at becoming the nominee — they don’t. But Pence and his indefatigable spirit of straight-backed Christian honor may prove to be a more difficult nut to crack.
“The American people deserve to know that on that day, President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice. I chose the Constitution. And I always will,” Pence said. “My former running mate continues to insist that I had the right to overturn the election. But President Trump was wrong then, and he’s wrong now. Anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States, and anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president again.”
I honestly don’t know what Trump will say in response to that on the debate stage, but I’d like to hear it. Perhaps he’ll just dub Mike Pence a loser and a coward, disloyal and a drag, and call his wife ugly or some such. But as much as the vast majority of Republicans have no interest in seeing Pence as president, the level of animosity toward him seems to have diminished to just the die-hard Trump supporters who truly believe he could do a thing the Constitution says he can’t. He isn’t hated so much as he’s viewed as a Reagan-era relic, Don Quixote jousting at entitlement reform windmills. Even his logo looks like something Jack Kemp would’ve used in the Eighties.
Also, unlike Christie, who is already telegraphing he plans to narrowcast to the New Hampshire audience just as he did unsuccessfully in 2016, Pence truly does have a slim base of support around the country: evangelicals who are tired of supporting candidates whose personal behavior makes them cringe. That’s not a big enough base to win the nomination, but they do exist, especially in GOP primaries. But Pence’s problem could be...
Tim Scott makes Republicans happy
It’s been my belief for a while now that if I had to choose someone likeliest to lead the “not Trump-DeSantis” lane in the early states, it has to be Tim Scott. His message may seem like a throwback, but he’s got a talent for communication in a field notably bereft of it and his personal story is the one that makes Republican voters feel good about supporting him. Things like going on The View and disarming the aggressive race-baiting of Sunny Hostin is not something every candidate can do.
Scott’s problem, as noted last week, is that he seems too sunny and hopeful in a way that appeals to donors and mainstream Christians, but comes off as inconsistent with the mood of the populist Republican electorate who want a more aggressive fighter to take on Washington. And when you’re most associated with policy areas like criminal justice reform, that helps you in a general, not a primary. Still, he could emerge as a viable VP choice — there’s no question Republicans would have confidence for a debate with him versus Kamala.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial