By Tirthankar Mitra
Hardly covering himself with glory during his presidential tenure, Donald Trump seemed to be destined to political wilderness when he stepped down to make way for his Democrat rival Joe Bide after his defeat in 2020 Presidential elections.. His nomination after Joe Biden’s term was not quite in the reckoning if not having even a slim chance when he left White House.
It marked the end of an inglorious tenure and a second shot at presidency was nowhere in the cards. But Trump seemed to have set the task for himself to emerge to challenge Biden in the presidential election next year as the Republican nominee with opinion polls indicating that Republican voters have brushed aside the political gaffes and the foot-in- the-mouth remarks which were not at all high points of the Republican president’s period in office.
Delving deeper into political dynamics of US than are suggested in headlines, Trump for all its faults seems to be a relatively more popular candidate to the Republican voters than other candidates who may throw their hats in the ring. Like it or not, most of them want him to return to the White House.
It boils down to Trump’s undiminished popularity among Republican voters. In other words, the mindset of most of the Republican voters remains unchanged by his felony indictments, rude remarks and other deeds which are nothing to write home about.
But subsequent facts look at his critics in their faces following which their disparaging take on Trump does not quite wash. Trump has skipped the Republican candidate debates owing to his popularity. Such is his acceptance that he has charted his own course in the states nomination caucuses and primaries. . And most important factor in Trump’s favour is that he is ahead of his rivals in opinion polls and his position improves with every new indictment.
Now, the latest is the victory of his accomplice Mike Johnson as the new Speaker of the US Congress which witnessed bitter battle among the Republicans about the choice of the candidate. The endorsement by all the Republican congress members to Trump’s nominee signals that the former President is now in full control of the Republicans.
Trump’s voters are not averse to his “outsider” status and in fact they like it. The former resident of the White House have used the criminal indictments as evidence that the Establishment is out to get him underscoring his “outsider” status.
Trump makes an effort to send a message that he is different. Sitting down and talking to striking auto workers in the swing state of Michigan is a pointer to it. No Republican candidate has so far felt strong enough to do this. Trump seemed to be determined to walk down a road less travelled.
Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who was ambassador of the Trump administration in United Nations appear to be emerging as his challengers. Their presence does not silence the questions doing the rounds in the Republican circles who can be Trump’s alternative. The duo pursue different constituencies within the Republican Party especially it’s approach to foreign policy issues. Haley strongly opposes the isolationist America-first policy. Her support to US military aid to Ukraine has no camouflage and is likely to find her support from die-hard Trump followers.
Referring to Ukraine as “a territorial dispute” DeSantis is appealing to isolationist Republicans. His scepticism to a US pursuing a vigorous role in Ukraine is thus discernible. But the Haley-DeSantis debate goes beyond foreign policy domain with the former appealing to Republican women voters with a relatively moderate position on abortion. Targeting Trump supporters, DeSantis highlights his efforts to fight corporate advocates to social policies and the policies themselves.
Vivek Ramaswamy’s supporters may end up in the Florida governor’s support though it is likely to be widespread given there is no love lost between Trump and DeSantis. As other candidates fall away their supporters are likely to the join the ranks of those with Haley sparing her the effort of going the extra mile to woo Trump supporters.
Whoever emerges winner in Haley-DeSantis race will have to give a credible reply to the Trump campaign that he did not lose the presidential election to Biden. Trump has been harping on this and his intra-party rival has to highlight that apart from this “Big Lie,”- the former president has been on a losing spree for quite sometime be it losing majority to both Houses of Congress in 2018 or his reelection to Biden in 2020, not making him an ideal Republican candidate for the next presidential election next year.
Even as the toss up in the Republican camp is likely between Haley and Trump, no need for Ukranians of losing sleep being ever chary of the prospect that America will leave them out in the cold in the unlikely event of Haley making it to the White House. They only have to consult not too distant American history to feel assured of US support.
Panama Canal treaties by previous US presidents were lambasted as giveaways to foreign powers with Republican nominee in 1976 and 1980 Ronald Reagan pointing an accusing finger at former presidents. Yet once Reagan was ensconced in the White House, he did not abrogate them. In the most unlikely event of DeSantis making it to Oval office, he will continue to pursue an internationalist policy. He will bring up a substantial pivot to do so. (IPA Service)