Hyperactive pollsters and unimaginative commentators are characteristic in the impatient world of today. Email was too slow so we now burden the phone with text messages. Google Search requires going to websites, like Wikipedia, which provide some depth on most subjects. Ah, but now we can just ask ChatGPT for an answer, indeed a paper, on whatever subject and in seconds the answer appears. As many of us have learned, this is the 1.0 stage; it is intriguing but far from perfect.
Back to polls and commentators. There used to be some pause between candidate debates and post-debate polls. Now polling is simultaneous and often wrong. But speed is gravitational so what do we expect?
And the commentators. They are mostly deployed for their looks and/or glibness. The commentators are not to blame, it is the news divisions that present them as prescient.
The run-up to the Primaries during which candidates are sorted out is a marathon. It goes on for months. The first announced candidate (credible) for the Republican nomination for President was Nikki Haley who announced in February of this year. Donald Trump, of course, said he would be running again in 2022.
Haley is in her seventh month of campaigning with five months to go. This last week she got a bounce from one poll (yes, I too look at them). In Iowa she went from 3% support to 11%–tripling. But, of course ran way behind Trump. And that is the narrative—Trump has the nomination wrapped up.
Now if there were historical data underscoring “the race is over” narrative, the other candidates would start dropping out because the funders, taking the cue, would quit sending their donations. You can’t continue selling licorice ice cream if nobody is buying it.
The next debate is at the Ronald Reagan Library in California on September 27th. And to qualify the polling percentage requirements go up as well as the unique donor requirement. Plus, the pledge to support the ultimate nominee remains.
Preferring not to fall into the glib trap let me simply say at least two of the candidates (Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson) said they will not support Trump. If the rules are followed, they will be out. And it is hard to believe that candidates whose base is mostly local will meet the national polling and donor requirements.
Trump, if true to his word, will not be on the stage at President Ronald Reagan’s library. Among other things memories of Former President Ronald Reagan will serve as an enduring standard and Trump will not want the contrast. Prediction: maybe five candidates will debate each other. My guess: Haley, Mike Pence, Tim Scott, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy. And this debate will probably eliminate at least three of that number. Maybe these are spring training games, but the results bite hard.
The ultimate question is who will go head-to-head with Trump? And will his likely descent in the polls begin to erode his support with less zealous followers who look beyond the primaries to November 2024. I say likely descent because Trump polls nationally better than in the States that will hold the first primaries. In Iowa, the first to vote, he polls at 43% in the Real Clear Politics average even though nationally he reaches 55%.
Now, all who have read from the top are thinking I am as glib as the commentators so I will go no further other than to say the next five months will feature a few curve balls and I mean ones that break late and hard. And given the reaction generally to a Trump v. Biden rematch, it is likely that there will be a viable third-party pair of candidates chosen at the No Labels convention in April. It seems the only developments that would preclude an arguably viable third Party are either a Trump loss or Biden withdrawal.
My advice to the President: take a victory lap and retire to your oceanfront home. My advice to Trump supporters: don’t try to cram an indigestible candidate down the throats of the general electorate.
My advice to No Labels: choose Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees whose credentials outweigh their ambitions. Because what we have now are two frontrunners who, regardless of what you think about them, need to leave the stage.
Postscript: America’s core asset is “the rule of law”. When it is understood it is protected. Our law, yes ours, comes with layers of protection that lead, if the stakes are high and constitutional issues are presented, to the US Supreme Court.
The Former President, Donald Trump, having done his best to undermine public support for elections has more recently turned on our legal system. He has berated, in the most aggressive way, prosecutors, judges, and potential jury pools.
It is my guess that a lot of people who support Trump are at least worried about the strength of America’s institutions that along with Patriots have built and protected a great nation.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.