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Column: Trump running in 2024 is a dream come true for Democrats. He’s the weakest candidate out there

Former President Trump stands near a row of U.S. flags
Former President Trump announces his candidacy last week at Mar-a-Lago, with Melania Trump at left.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Our long national nightmare is … continuing.

Apologies for stealing and twisting President Ford’s famous 1974 line about the Nixon nightmare finally being over.

The Trump nightmare still disturbs us, disgorging the egomaniac’s negativism and allowing us no rest from his divisiveness.

But it’s now the Republican Party’s nightmare more than the Democrats’.

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For Democratic pros, Donald Trump’s announcement of another presidential candidacy is a dream come true. He may be the weakest nominee the GOP could field in 2024.

And even Republicans are showing signs of being awakened from their uneasy slumber by the midterm election that fell far short of their expectations and made Trump a three-time loser.

The first loss was in 2018, when Democrats morphed GOP congressional candidates into the unpopular president and recaptured the U.S. House, picking up 40 Republican seats nationwide, including seven in California.

The second thumping was in 2020, when Trump lost the White House — and became the first U.S. president to ungraciously lie that the election was stolen. The GOP also lost the Senate.

Then came Nov. 8, when many of the major candidates Trump endorsed were rejected by voters, a shocking setback for a party that had expected a red wave to sweep it into solid control of the U.S. House and seizure of the Senate. It won only a razor-thin majority in the House. Democrats held the Senate.

That despite optimum political conditions for an out-of-power Republican Party, including scary inflation, an uncontrolled border and an unpopular Democratic president.

As I wrote after the election, Democrats have two people to thank: Trump and Samuel A. Alito Jr. The Supreme Court justice wrote the extreme ruling that killed national abortion rights and motivated millions of Democrats and independents to vote anti-GOP.

Trump, with his despicable behavior, including whining and lying, cast an ugly brand on the GOP and its candidates.

In California, there doesn’t seem to be much support among Republican pros for another Trump candidacy. No one at California Republican Party headquarters even wanted to talk about him last week.

The party “does not endorse in presidential primaries and will stay neutral,” spokesperson Ellie Hockenbury said in a statement. “We would be lucky to have any of the outstanding Republican leaders who may decide to run.”

GOP leaders were unusually blunt in the aftermath of the midterm election that they have a Trump problem. It may not be easy to convince the party base.

Most pros would like Trump to get lost on his golf course, but the core worshipers cheer him on and that’s what he craves. He’s addicted to attention.

I called some California Republican pros after Trump’s announcement speech that rambled on for more than an hour last week.

Is the party ready to move on from the twice-impeached president who’s in a heap of legal trouble on several fronts?

“The professional class and the establishment are, but I don’t think the base is,” said GOP consultant Mike Madrid, long a never-Trumper.

“The party can’t win with him or without him. If he walks, there’s a core group of the party that goes with him. He’s not going to go away quietly. Anybody who thinks that he loses the nomination and just walks away wasn’t paying attention on Jan. 6. He’ll tear down the party. ... They need his voters.”

Madrid added, “The base voters don’t care about winning. They care about righteousness.”

Former Republican state Chairman Ron Nehring, who was national spokesman for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016, said “the party does best when it reflects positive, forward-looking, Reaganite optimism.”

“That was lost this year because too many candidates confused running for office with running a Twitter account. A campaign isn’t about being provocative for its own sake. It’s about building a broader coalition.”

He added: “The Reaganite formula of combining optimism and dignity with conservative solutions is the winning one. We have to move forward — past 2020 and 2022 — and get back to the Reaganite model.”

But Ronald Reagans are extremely rare. And there aren’t any out there that I’ve heard about.

In announcing his candidacy Tuesday night, former President Trump has reverted to a familiar tactic at a time of weakness: hubris and volume.

As for Trump being the GOP front-runner, Nehring said: “He’s no more guaranteed to be the Republican nominee than Jeb Bush was in 2016. The 2024 race is wide open.”

Republican consultant Rob Stutzman, another never-Trumper, said “two dynamics appear to be creating new headwinds for Trump. First, he’s proven to be a chronic loser. Republicans are tired of losing.

“Second, in [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis, for the first time there’s an alternative to Trump who can attract MAGA voters, traditional Republicans and independents. He’s a winner who appears to be the scalpel that can lance the boil that is Trump.”

Republican state Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares of Santa Clarita tweeted after Trump’s announcement: “I’ve seen this show before and it’s NO for me. The ugliness and toxicity must end. On all sides. We need a great Unifier. Someone young. Someone with empathy. Someone new.”

I called her.

“I know families who do not talk to each other because of how ugly politics is,” she said. “People are sick of that. ... It’s not about loving or hating Trump and not necessarily about his policies. It’s just people wanting to get away from his divisiveness.”

Said Republican strategist Tim Rosales: “Parties are bigger than any one person and have to move on. It doesn’t mean anybody has to put away their conservative values. It’s a personality issue. Donald Trump is a negative lightning rod.

“Progress for the party in the future would be much better if he decided to focus on his golf game.”

There he could lie and change scores — and be only his playing partners’ nightmare.


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