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Never-Trumpers’ Fool’s Errand

By backing Nikki Haley, they are strengthening Ron DeSantis.

Never-Trumpers, nationwide, are in an acute state of panic.

They are throwing all their support behind former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, hoping she could engineer a solid second-place finish in New Hampshire. Last Sunday, Chris Sununu, the NH governor, openly advocated for Chris Christie, who is polling in third place, to drop out and endorse Haley. Christie, as is habitual of him, dismissed the suggestion.

Former President Donald Trump leads Haley in the state, where independents can vote in Republican primaries, by 22 points. A win would propel Haley to a victory in her home state of South Carolina, the hope goes, vanquishing Trump once and for all. The latest RealClearPolitics average for South Carolina shows a 30 points lead for Trump .

The strategy of the Never-Trumpers and those with Trump Derangement Syndrome is four-fold.

First, it is to hope that Trump will be somehow incapacitated, physically or mentally (Trump is 77 years old).

Second, it is to pray that some courts invalidate Trump's presence on various state ballots. The TDS crowd was delighted by a recent Colorado Supreme Court decision, although it is highly likely that the United States Supreme Court will overturn it. The decision by a single unelected official in Maine, its Secretary of State, ensured that the Supreme Court will definitely weigh in.

Third, is to wish that Trump will face serious legal difficulties in the four cases being simultaneously waged against him in city, county, state, and federal courts. Those could include criminal conviction or even imprisonment, although the laws are unclear if a leading contender for the nomination can be punished in this manner.

The United States Supreme Court made two decisions recently that raised the anxiety levels of the Never-Trumpers. It agreed to review a January 6 defendant's appeal whether the government went too far in applying a law meant to prevent financial irregularities to a charge of obstructing Congressional proceedings. As a practical matter, it will mean that Judge Tanya Chutkan's district court trial against Trump, previously scheduled for March, will have to be postponed. Besides, two of the four charges Trump faces are related to this conduct. If the Supreme Court throws out those charges as overreach, Jack Smith's case will have been dealt a severe blow.

Further, the Supreme Court rejected Jack Smith's appeal to fast-track review of Trump's immunity claim, forcing the case to be heard in a lower appeals court. While this case is ultimately likely to land in the Supreme Court, it gives the Trump side more time even as the election season heats up, putting more pressure on all the trials. In truth, all of the lawfare cases will end up in the Supreme Court, where a majority of justices will likely rule that voters should decide the outcome of the 2024 elections, not city, county, state, and federal courts.

The only electoral hope is the fourth strategy: back Haley with all their might, this thinking goes, so she can defeat DeSantis en route to a Trump v. Haley nominating contest. They argue that Haley polls as having the most comprehensive lead to beat Biden, so DeSantis should fall. Even if Haley wins the nomination but loses to Biden in the general election, that would still be a sweet victory. In the mind of a Never-Trumper, any outcome that denies Trump the White House is money and effort well spent.

If current polls stand, it is almost impossible for Haley to beat Trump and win the nomination. Trump has a 35-point lead over her in Iowa, and the caucuses are scheduled on January 15, less than two weeks away. Besides, DeSantis has consistently been in second place in Iowa, having campaigned in all 99 counties. An Iowa win for Trump will translate into increased momentum in New Hampshire if history is any indication.

If Trump somehow becomes incapacitated, backing Haley is bound to misfire for the Never-Trumpers if it becomes a Haley v. DeSantis race. The current GOP, distressed at losing Trump to some form of incapacity, will likely vote for DeSantis because his policy positions align more with Trump's America First Agenda than the globalist agenda favored by the Washington Insiders supporting Haley. Most of the GOP (and DeSantis) firmly oppose supporting Ukraine. Haley favors supporting Ukraine and is deeply embedded in the military industrial complex quadrant.  

Worse, Haley has openly expressed views about regulating social media companies that are antithetical to the GOP base reeling from censorship of the Hunter Biden laptop story and suppressing anti-government voices during Covid. During an interview with Fox News, Haley said last month: "When I get into office, the first thing we have to do, social media accounts, social media companies, they have to show America their algorithms. Let us see why they're pushing what they're pushing. The second thing is every person on social media should be verified by their name." She has since walked back some of those comments.

DeSantis also has more current accomplishments to which the GOP voter will warm. As the sitting governor of Florida who won reelection last fall by a whopping 19% and turned it definitively deep red, an unbelievable electoral accomplishment in a state that was at the center of the Bush v. Gore contest that was decided by just 537 votes, DeSantis has more credibility as a current conservative chief executive who can win elections.

Of course, to the average GOP voter, the Never-Trumpers' actions are all moot. Trump looks healthy, sharp, focused, and disciplined, enjoying widespread support everywhere he goes.

Still, the deep-pocketed Never-Trumpers persevere, putting all their eggs in the Haley basket. What they are inadvertently doing is raising hopes for the DeSantis campaign.

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