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Bloomberg editors: Republicans need to dump Trump if they want to win
May 25, 2023 Updated Fri., May 26, 2023 at 8:35 p.m.
By Bloomberg editors
Two functional political parties shouldn’t be too much to ask of American democracy. At the moment, though, one of them is toying with outright disaster.
By any sane calculation, Donald Trump should not be the Republican Party’s nominee for the 2024 presidential campaign. Trump is worth opposing for all the familiar reasons, including the chaos, corruption and manifest incompetence that characterized his first term. Even ignoring all that, rejecting him is in Republicans’ self-interest.
Electorally, Trump is (to borrow a phrase) a loser. He’s the first president since the Great Depression to have lost the House, Senate and Oval Office in a single term. In 2020, he not only squandered the advantages of incumbency but underperformed the average Republican statewide candidate in eight of 12 battleground states. With control of the Senate at stake in two Georgia runoffs, Trump then spent weeks claiming the election was a fraud and that Georgia state officials were complicit in it. Many GOP strategists agree he likely gave the chamber – and hence unified control of government – to the Democrats.
In last year’s midterms the story was the same. An analysis of statewide contests found that candidates who had denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election results – Trump’s main preoccupation since leaving office – underperformed by an average of 2.3 percentage points. In competitive races, his preferred candidates underperformed their expected baselines by about 5 percentage points. Even that understates the damage: By touting inexperienced or implausible candidates in otherwise winnable contests, Trump probably cost his party several governors’ mansions and (once again) the Senate.
Looking ahead, things get worse. A poll last month found that 70% of Americans – including 63% of independents and 44% of Republicans – don’t want Trump to run for office again. Another survey found that putting Trump at the top of the ticket would give a five-point advantage to Democratic congressional candidates, a swing that would almost certainly give them control of the House.
Trump himself remains remarkably unpopular, with a favorability rating about 10 points underwater. This seems unlikely to improve. In the past two months, he has been indicted on 34 felony fraud counts and found liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a civil suit. A special counsel is investigating him for mishandling classified documents, attempting to unlawfully retain power, and inciting a riot at the Capitol. Officials in Georgia are probing him for election interference. He is currently being sued by his niece (on appeal), the New York state attorney general, a group of former investors, 11 lawmakers, at least 10 Capitol Police officers, two Washington cops, and the NAACP.
“We need to come up with an alternative,” Republican Senator John Cornyn said last week, understating matters.
The party has plenty of other options, including Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley and Mike Pence. And it faces a crossroads next year. It could be a party of ideas – for supporting families, promoting free markets, boosting growth, navigating new technologies, maintaining law and order, and more – that could invigorate the campaign and give voters a serious alternative to President Joe Biden. Or it could succumb once again to the Trump show, a cascade of vanity, ineptitude and gross misconduct that very nearly destroyed the American constitutional order.
Really, it shouldn’t be a difficult choice.
The Editors are members of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.