Trump's biggest political 'magic trick' has now left him 'trapped': columnist
Donald Trump (Photo by Brendan Smialowski for AFP)

As former President Donald Trump competes with challengers for the 2024 presidential election, including a possible run by his former ally Gov. Ron DeSantis, he is "trapped" into a strategy of endorsing more and more extreme positions by the very factors that allowed him to take over the Republican Party, wrote Thomas B. Edsall for The New York Times on Wednesday.

"In his effort to outflank Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida — his most potent challenger-in-waiting for the Republican presidential nomination — Donald Trump goes only in one direction: hard right," wrote Edsall.

The problem, wrote Edsall, is that Trump is making himself less viable by locking himself into the positions he needs to maintain his base's sugar high.

"At the start of this year, Trump announced his education agenda, declaring that he would issue mandates to 'keep men out of women’s sports,' end teacher tenure and cut federal aid to any school system that teaches 'critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content onto our children," the columnist wrote.

He added: "Trump’s strategy requires him to continue his equivocation on white supremacism and his antisemitic supporters and to adopt increasingly extreme positions, including the 'termination' of the Constitution in order to retroactively award him victory in the 2020 election. The more he attempts to enrage and invigorate his MAGA base in the Republican primaries, the more he forces his fellow partisans and conservatives to follow suit, threatening Republican prospects in the coming general election, as demonstrated by the poor showing of Trump clones in the 2022 midterm contests."

"[Trump] sees himself as 'trapped' in this strategy — rather, this coalitional expansion represents his primary value to the Republican Party," said University of Louisville political scientist Adam Enders. "This is his magic trick. And I suspect Trump’s Republican electoral competitors recognize this to be the case. For example, it is precisely these anti-establishment voters that DeSantis is vying for when he engages in conspiracy-related culture war posturing on issues such as Disney 'grooming' children, C.R.T. and the like."

DeSantis, who hasn't declared a presidential run yet, is not Trump's only competitor — others like former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott have also moved to challenge him, and his own former Vice President Mike Pence has also toyed with the idea — but polls have shown he is the likeliest threat to Trump for the nomination. A poll released this week finds Trump is solidifying his lead in the primary.