Crab Mentality

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition annual meeting at in Las Vegas on November 19, 2022. (Photo by Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.)

Every Trump-hating conservative has a fantasy about how he might be toppled in a 2024 primary. And it’s almost always the same fantasy.

Not always. Avid fans of The West Wing fan might envision Liz Cheney delivering a soaring repudiation of Trump during a primary debate that finally, finally knocks the scales from the eyes of MAGA Nation, galvanizing the American right behind pro-democracy conservatism.

But most of us lack the imagination to fantasize as outlandishly as that. Our dream of defeating Trump is mundane, more strategic than rhetorical: Clear the field for a single strong challenger. Avoid the errors of 2016. 

“Clear the field” is popular among admirers of Ron DeSantis, and no wonder. DeSantis is the only Republican in the country so far who’s demonstrated strength against Trump. He romped to reelection in November while Trump-backed populists were washing out across the country. Numerous polls taken over the past six months have shown him ahead or competitive with Trump in a head-to-head primary. Typically, no other Republican polls in double digits.

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