Ready or not 2024 is here, and that means you are in for the ride of your life! The all-important Iowa caucuses are here in just two weeks, and by the end of the month New Hampshire voters may have slammed shut the door for any candidate other than Donald Trump to grab the Republican Party presidential nomination.
But that’s all right, we don’t need plain politics to make this election year interesting. For that we have the Democrats’ rigged indictments and novel legal theories. There are four criminal trials scheduled throughout the year, any one of which could force Trump off the campaign trail long enough to significantly alter the election. Then there is the absurd effort to remove Trump from the ballot in multiple states due to an inventive reading of the 14th Amendment’s ban on Confederate rebels holding office in the U.S. government.
And if that weren’t enough, House Republicans have ordered up an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden that will compete with Trump’s legal woes for your attention. Does the GOP with its slim majority in the House have enough votes to actually impeach Biden? Possibly not, but it may not matter as long as the mainstream media covers the inquiry with a degree of fairness. There is nothing appetizing about the Bidens’ dealings with foreign entities over the last two decades, and voters may choose to spew out their already lukewarm affection for the Democratic candidate.
So where to begin?
It has to be declared upfront that the election cycle takes precedence over the legal cycle and even the impeachment cycle. Remember, there is nothing to prevent Trump from running for president even if he is a convicted felon. There is nothing to prevent him from taking office if he is a convicted felon. So the only way such a conviction might impact the election is if voters reject the former president as a result of something they learn from the legal proceedings that turns them against Trump.
But as I showed in my last column, voters are already well informed about Trump’s eccentricities, and they prefer him over more “normal” candidates. Instead, they became even more enthusiastic about Trump’s candidacy as soon as the Deep State brought its first indictment against him in March of 2023. The verdict that matters is already in: A plurality of U.S. voters apparently agrees with Trump that the legal persecution being waged against him is election interference, and they aren’t happy about it.
So let’s focus on the likely outcome of the Iowa GOP caucuses on Jan. 15 and ponder how the election race might proceed from there. A Fox Business poll on Dec. 20 was typical. Trump led with 52%, Ron DeSantis had 18%, and Nicki Haley had 16%. Everyone else trailed badly. To put it plainly, the poll shows Trump leading by 34 percentage points, a lead which is virtually unheard of in a contested primary. It is highly unlikely that Trump will lose, and if his lead remains anywhere near 34 points on Caucus Day – and he runs the table in New Hampshire eight days later – then the race is effectively over.
What the Never Trump forces seem to be counting on is a late “surge” by Nikki Haley. The trend as seen on RealClearPolitics is that Haley has either tied or leads DeSantis in Iowa. If she manages to secure second place in the caucus state, she would try to turn that into a momentum boost in New Hampshire, where she is already generally acknowledged to be in second place, although down by 21 points to Donald Trump, according to the RealClearPolitics Average.
But let’s be realistic. Haley is a media darling, but she hasn’t caught on among conservatives, and her path is winding and unlikely. It’s DeSantis who has won the endorsement of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa’s leading social conservatives. That wouldn’t be enough to help him surpass Trump, but the power of an on-the-ground political machine could easily help him hold off Haley for second place. Should that happen, Haley would be deprived of her boost going into New Hampshire and would likely be a distant second-place finisher to Trump.
Even if Haley somehow finishes in a strong second place, it would have the opposite effect of what she hopes. A DeSantis collapse in Iowa, where the Florida governor has pinned all his hopes, would be devastating for his candidacy. With his donors abandoning him, DeSantis would very likely withdraw before New Hampshire, sending a large number of voters back into Trump’s arms and hurting Haley at a crucial moment.
The other scenario that could play out in New Hampshire is that Chris Christie, who has positioned himself as a one-man Trump wrecking crew, gets out of the race and endorses Haley. That could certainly help her, but it might be countered by an endorsement of Trump by Vivek Ramaswamy, the outsider candidate who touts himself as Trump without the baggage. Besides, Christie’s ego probably won’t let him step aside until he’s bankrupted his super PAC and exhausted his options. And after Haley’s odd flub on the causes of the Civil War, Christie noted caustically, “She’s unwilling to offend anyone by telling the truth.” Not exactly endorsement language.
Which brings us to South Carolina. Did I mention that Haley is the former governor of South Carolina, and is counting on its Feb. 24 primary one month after New Hampshire to cement her as the legitimate challenger to Trump? But that could only happen if she wins in her home state. If she loses there, she is toast. And if she has any hopes of running for president successfully in the future, that is a fate she cannot endure.
Therefore, if she comes out of New Hampshire with no momentum, she may withdraw from the race before her home state votes to avoid an embarrassing loss. And since Trump has a 30-point lead over Haley in the RealClearPolitics Average for South Carolina, embarrassment is the most likely outcome. Gov. DeSantis, if he is still in the race after New Hampshire, is no more likely to see a path to the nomination after South Carolina, where he trails by 38 points.
And remember, this all takes place before Trump is required to set foot in any courtroom. Moreover, Trump’s appeals and his legal motions have made it almost impossible that there will be any trial on election interference before the election. That leaves only the case brought in New York by District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a threat to Trump, but is it a real threat? Bragg has pieced together a case against Trump based on a vague legal theory that he hid payments to porn star Stormy Daniels that were paid through his attorney Michael Cohen. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, if CNN is willing to publish an op-ed calling the case weak, then there is a good chance it will be dismissed outright or end with a mistrial or acquittal.
It was Bragg’s case that kicked off all the legal shenanigans against Trump, and which boosted Trump in the polls because it appeared to be a political attack rather than a legitimate criminal case. Therefore, even if Bragg should gain a conviction (which would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court after the election) it will just strengthen the argument that Democrats will do anything to stop a candidate they cannot beat at the polls.
Realistically, there is only one thing that could prevent Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination and very possibly from reclaiming the White House – and that is Donald Trump. His willingness to say anything for attention (such as “dictator on Day One only”) has the potential to backfire when Democrats seize on it. Of course, Day One is when a new president issues multiple executive orders to counteract existing policies. Obama did it. Biden did it, and yes Trump will do it, too, if he gets a chance. That is not being a dictator, but the mainstream media will twist it into the latest evidence that Trump is Hitler. We know the Democrat playbook, and it’s dirty politics through and through.
If Trump gives them an opening, they will be entirely happy to shut him down. Otherwise, the year 2024 belongs to Donald Trump.