Donald Trump's would-be 2024 challengers are trying to straddle a line between "crazy" and "rational" as they try to stake out a position before officially entering the race, but MSNBC's Joe Scarborough doesn't think that will win over the Republican base.
The former president is the only major candidate to officially enter the race so far, but Nikki Haley has scheduled an announcement event this month, Mike Pomeo and Mike Pence appear likely to jump in, and Ron DeSantis seems all but certain to run, but the "Morning Joe" host said he's seen this same dynamic play out before.
"This is starting to take on the faint outlines of 2016, where you have Washington Republicans, even if they're trying to be Trumpists, that are being critical of the edges of Donald Trump," Scarborough said. "Yet, you look at polls right now of Republican primary voters -- they are beyond extreme."
"The majority of them are beyond extreme," he added. "The majority of them believe that the election was stolen. The majority of them have crazy views about Trump's own vaccine. The majority of them are far outside the mainstream of American politics, and they're still going to be with Donald Trump. I really -- I think we're getting this divide again that we had in 2016, where the base was all in for Trump, while some Washington Republicans were trying to be a bit rational and tried to straddle that line. There's no straddling it, it seems, still."
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MSNBC's Jonathan Lemire agreed.
"I suppose it's appropriate that on Groundhog Day, we're getting a rerun of 2016, because that's what it looks like we're going to have," Lemire said. "The difference is, I think the Republican -- Trump knew where the Republican Party was. Instinctively, he knew where the base was in 2016 better than the establishment ever could. That was on issues like immigration and trade and things like that. That's the wall, that's where he struck a chord with them. The party, the base, has only moved with him since. To your point, Joe, it's become more radical, more extreme. It's moved more to the right. That's in line with where Trump took them, so it's going to be hard for a mainstream -- a, quote, mainstream Republican to find some other lane, to find some other place to try to beat him."
"That's why the candidate everyone is looking towards because, like, Pompeo, Pence, Haley -- what is the constituency?" Lemire added. "For now, the flavor of the month is DeSantis. We'll see when he actually gets out there, when he is nationally vetted, where that goes. But what DeSantis is trying to do is take on Trump from the right on a bunch of issues, including on pandemic response and culture wars and the schools in Florida and such. He's making the bet that you have to take on Trump on Trumpism. When we saw others try to out-Trump Trump, they lost and lost badly. Trump, to this point, he's still got the base."
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