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The race Trump can't disappear behind

The race Trump can't disappear behind


For much of 2023, Donald Trump's political campaign has been defined by the criminal charges he faces in four jurisdictions. Republicans responded, the former president was brought to justice, and television coverage was often comprehensive.

The cycle of events created a sense of movement for a leading Republican candidate who was seeking another term and who, in fact, spoke in public quite rarely compared to his previous campaigns. This impression has prevented him, frankly, from limiting the wounds he has inflicted on himself by giving relatively few interviews and holding relatively few rallies.

But as Trump gets closer to the Republican nominee, such a cushion becomes harder to maintain. There is practically no primary race behind which it disappears. And as the race enters a new phase, he creates obstacles that his allies would like to avoid.

Take his recent comments on mail-in voting and early voting.

If you vote by mail, you're automatically a victim of fraud, Trump told Fox News host Laura Ingraham this week. When Ingraham pointed out that mail-in voting existed in Florida, a state where Trump resides and which he won, he pressed again. It's true, it's true. If you have it, you're going to have fraud, he says.

It's a message he delivered again in Nashville to an audience of Christian broadcasters Thursday night. Postal voting is riddled with fraud, he insisted.

We no longer have election days, we have election periods, some of which last 45 days, Trump said ominously. And what they are doing during these 45 days is very bad. Lots of bad things happen.

This is entirely consistent with his repeated false claims that he lost the 2020 election due to widespread fraud, despite the fact that dozens of judges have ruled against his view and his claims do not. have never been substantiated.

But that flies in the face of efforts by Trump and his aides about a year ago to soften his attacks on mail-in voting. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in March 2023, Trump said it was time to change the way we think about early and mail-in voting, showing that the party needed to start accumulating this type of votes to win.

It's a message that people like almost certain outgoing Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel have been espousing for many months. The same goes for Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, whom he endorsed to be the next co-chair of the national party.

During her appearance at CPAC this year, Lara Trump said this week that embracing early voting was an imperative for Republicans.

The truth is, if we want to compete with Democrats, we can't wait until Election Day, she said. If we want to compete and win, we must embrace early voting. The days of having to wait until Election Day to vote are over.

A more familiar Trump reappears

Since he was indicted, Trump does not seem to want to adhere to this message. His attacks on mail-in voting have plagued top Republicans since mid-2020, when the coronavirus pandemic led to changes in what various states allowed in terms of absentee and mail-in voting.

At the time, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, said he tried to warn Trump that he was harming himself with his attacks.

Do you know who is most afraid of Covid? The elderly. And if they're not going to vote, period, they're screwed, McCarthy told Axios, recalling a conversation he had with Trump.

There were other reminders of a less disciplined Trump along the way. When he said he wanted to work to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it surprised his advisers, especially given the popularity of the law and his own disastrous efforts to loosen the health law previously. Democrats immediately highlighted this statement.

Then there's the question of whether Trump is poised to become the de facto Republican nominee and whether his political world is expanding at the same time.

On Friday, a Trump ally announced a new super PAC that would be backed by the president's former friend Ike Perlmutter, a billionaire and former chief executive of Marvel Entertainment. It will run ads during the general election. Trump blessed the new group, although it is unclear how it will operate alongside the existing super PAC that has supported him for months.

So far, Trump's campaign has been professionalized and disciplined, controlling what it can and generally doing its best to limit what it can't.

But the realities of the new phase of the race mean that an often out-of-control candidate is going to be more visible and take more responsibility behind the scenes.

How did Haleys South Carolina become Trump Country? Ask the Tea Party.

When Nikki Haley ran for governor of South Carolina in 2010, one of her first campaign stops was the Aiken, South Carolina, living room of Claude and Sunny ODonovan.

Claude O'Donovan, 85, co-founder of a local Tea Party group, had invited Haley and other candidates to make their case to conservative activists in Aiken County, a heavily Republican enclave.

We fell in love with her, he said. She was a dynamite girl.

A digital photo frame in the ODonovans' house still displays a photo of Haley at the reunion. But tomorrow, when Haley faces Donald J. Trump in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, both ODonovans plan to vote for Trump.

I think he shares the values ​​of the Tea Party, said Sunny O'Donovan, 84. It was for the people, and I consider Trump to be for the people.

Recent polls show Trump leading Haley by 36 points in South Carolina. A decisive defeat would put the Republican nomination even further out of reach and bring a painful end to his political career in his home state. A Trump victory in South Carolina would also write the final chapter in one of the most important political stories of the last decade: the story of how Trump entered politics amid a transformative grassroots movement, and then absorbed this movement into his own.

In the early years of Barack Obama's presidency, the Tea Party movement channeled outrage over the bank bailout and right-wing animosity toward the new president and his policies into a wave of triumphs mid-term. The party went on to win Republican majorities in Congress and states across the country and created a new generation of political stars, including Haley.

Years later, initially skeptical Tea Partiers embraced Trump, who as candidate and president offered a supercharged version of the movement's antipathy toward immigrants, fear of a changing country and of anti-establishment fervor.

The kind of people who were in the Tea Party in 2010 will be part of the MAGA movement in 2024, said Scott Huffmon, a political science professor at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and director of the Winthrop Poll. We owe all of this to the Tea Party.

Today, few of the original Tea Party organizations remain. But their former dominance and dissolution into the Trump camp goes a long way toward explaining how South Carolina abandoned its once-favorite daughter for a former New York Democrat.

Olivia Perez-Cubas, a spokeswoman for Haley's campaign, defended the former governors' movement credentials. Just like when she ran for governor, Nikki is the fringe, conservative candidate, she said in a statement.

But even some once-devoted supporters have moved on.

Yes, he's the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, Jane Page Thompson, co-founder of the Claude O'Donovans Tea Party group, said of Trump. But right now, America needs the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving, not the snowflake niece.

Charles Homans

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