Trump's 'establishment' opponents don't realize they're fighting 'a new kind of war': analysis
Senator Lindsey Graham smiles behind President Trump at the rally in the Bojangle's Coliseum in 2020. (
So far, the field of 2024 Republican presidential candidates is quite small. Former President Donald Trump is definitely running, and Nikki Haley (former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and ex-governor of South Carolina) is expected to formally announce a presidential run on February 15. But other Republicans who are being mentioned as possible 2024 contenders — including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — haven’t yet said whether or not they’re running.

Well-known Republicans who clearly don’t want Trump as the nominee include House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr and Fox News’ Rupert Murdoch. Author/firebrand pundit Ann Coulter, a former Trump supporter, is making no secret of the fact that she believes DeSantis would be a much stronger nominee. However, The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson, a Never Trumper and former GOP strategist, believes that Trump would crush DeSantis in a primary and that in the end, the GOP will “bend the knee” to Trump and give him the 2024 nomination.

In an op-ed published by the Washington Post on February 2, data analyst David Byler argues that Trump’s Republican opponents are making a major mistake where the former president is concerned: They are acting like it’s 2016 all over again.

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“It’s often said that military leaders ‘fight the last war,’” Byler explains. “They assume their current enemy is just like the previous one, so they misjudge their foe and lose. The Republican establishment is making that exact mistake in the 2024 presidential primary.”

The data analyst continues, “According to multiple recent reports, high-ranking Republicans don’t want Donald Trump to be their 2024 nominee. But they’re afraid he’ll win by recycling his 2016 strategy — carve out a populist base, keep the anti-Trump majority divided between multiple opponents, and emerge as the winner. These GOP leaders don’t realize that Trump has changed over the past eight years — and so have his opponents. They’re wading into a completely new race, yet they’re still preparing themselves for 2016.”

The “Republican establishment,” according to Byler, doesn't realize that Trump is running a much different campaign than he was during the 2016 election.

“He hasn’t held a big arena rally yet, and he’s not dominating the cable airwaves like he did at the peak of the 2016 primary,” Byler observes. “Instead, he’s hosting small events in early primary states and courting the state and local establishments — just like a more typical frontrunner would…. And he’s no longer a highly divisive figure within the GOP…. Put simply, Trump is no longer an outsider who needs to throw elbows, rely on a thin plurality or hope his opposition stays divided. He’s a former president — the ultimate party insider — with a path to an outright majority.

According to Byler, while Trump is a “stronger candidate” than he was in 2016, he also faces “tougher competition” in terms of ideology.

“Trump is no longer ideologically unique within the GOP,” Byler notes. “Potential competitors, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, match Trump’s hardline position on immigration and share his enthusiasm for the culture wars. Trump will have to defend himself as other conservative populists try to eat into his base. And, at this early phase, Trump-skeptical voters are more willing to unite than they were in 2016…. At least at this early point, GOP voters aren’t processing this election the same way.”

Byler adds, “Until top Republicans can see that, they’ll keep expecting 2016 to repeat itself — unable to see that they might be heading into a new kind of war.”

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Read David Byler’s full op-ed at this link (subscription required).