As Trump’s handpicked candidates underperform in elections across the nation, Republicans are looking towards a GOP future without Trump.
Following the results of the midterm elections that took place Nov. 8th, the “red wave” that Republicans eagerly anticipated ahead of the elections materialized as little more than a “red splash”— and Republicans blame former President Donald Trump.
While dozens of Trump-endorsed, election-denying Republicans won their elections across the country, dozens also lost. To fellow GOP members, this was a sign that voters were turned off by “Republican extremists.” “America has been asking for more moderation for quite some time,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), “There’s just certain parts of the Republican Party that haven’t listened so well. We’ve just got to get back to basics. It’s not unfixable.”
This was partially true, as Democratic candidates painted Trump-aligned opponents as “dangers to democracy,” highlighting the urgency of saving democracy as a central part of their strategy — a strategy which seemed to work. Democrat-aligned groups had even spent millions to help these candidates with their GOP primaries, “figuring that their far-right status would make them easier to defeat in the general election,” as reported by Politico.
CNBC reports that some Republican mega donors, joining the Trump blame game, have begun to look for other candidates to donate to despite Trump’s presidential bid announcement on Tuesday: “‘I’m not going to give (Trump) a f—ing nickel,’ said New York-based businessperson Andy Sabin, who donated $120,000 toward Trump’s failed 2020 reelection bid … At the end of the day, people stayed away because of Trump,’ Sabin told CNBC.”
Despite Trump’s lingering influence on the party, Trump-opposing Republican politicians and donors aren’t misguided in envisioning a future GOP without Trump.
This is supported by the fact that while Trump’s handpicked candidates won by mediocre margins or underperformed and lost, Trump’s biggest GOP rival, Republican Gov. of Florida Ron Desantis delivered an astonishing victory. Desantis not only secured a nearly 20-point percentage lead but went as far as flipping the Miami-Dade county, which hadn’t voted for a Republican in decades.
According to CNBC, Desantis is one of the most popular candidates for leading the party toward a promising post-Trump future: “Some of the nation’s wealthiest GOP donors have been eyeing Florida’s and Virginia’s Republican governors, Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin, as more rational — and more importantly, electable — candidates for the White House in 2024.”
One opinion article from the Washington Post suggests that the reality of a Desantis presidency would be an official departure from “Trump era politics,” and a return to normalcy — a supposedly desired result from all sides of the U.S. political spectrum.
The Washington Post op-ed states, “Maybe to truly and permanently put the Trump era of American politics behind us, Democrats will have to accept a slightly higher risk of a not-so-crazy Republican winning the general election. Considering the stakes, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”
Desantis’ popularity as a rising star in the GOP continues to solidify as a recent poll by the Economist/YouGov reveals that following the election results, Republicans prefer Desantis over Trump if the two were to clash in the primaries, polling Desantis at 46% to Trump at 39%.
The GOP is splintering as Republicans begin to position themselves against the former conservative powerhouse who led them to the White House. Pinning election failures, voter stigmatization and a divided party on the ex-president, voters, politicians and donors are considering new candidates to lead the party.
Desantis and Youngkin are considered some of the most promising candidates, with clear evidence suggesting that Desantis is in a perfect position to challenge Trump if the Floridian Governor were to announce a presidential bid. Despite the uncertainty that Desantis will announce a 2024 presidential run, one thing is becoming apparent: every move that Trump makes seemingly garners more opposition than support within his own party.