US Politics: Buckle up for Trump's dramatic final series

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis
GOP civil war may be about to commence

Paul Krishnamurty discusses the US midterm election results and asks if Donald Trump's plans to run for the White House again are doomed...

  • Trump friendless on Betfair following elections
  • DeSantis assumes favourite
  • GOP civil war could prove ruinous

It is time to ask the question yet again, at least six years after first asking it. Is Donald Trump finished?

I wrote a piece with that exact title in February, covering his ever-growing mountain of legal threats and increasing lack of cover. It stands up very well today. All the cases have escalated. The legal process moves on. Yet until a few days ago, money was pouring in at ever shorter odds for him to win the 2024 Election.

Trump usurped by DeSantis

That trend has reversed markedly in the wake of the midterm election results. As reported yesterday in Politics Live, Trump was the big loser on Tuesday night. Conservative commentators and publications drew the same conclusion. Check out Rupert Murdoch's New York Post.

The Republican establishment now believe they have a superior candidate in Ron DeSantis, whose 20% margin re-election in Florida sent the strongest signal possible. Bettors certainly heard it, driving his odds down from 6.25/1 to 3.613/5 today. He and Trump are both trading around 2.68/5 for the GOP nomination now.

What happens next?

Trump is apparently set to proceed with his plan to launch a 2024 bid next week. The co-ordinated noise from Murdoch outlets seem an attempt to convince him otherwise. Here's my take on the sequence to follow.

Trump will declare. Even if running proves futile, he will earn fortunes from donations, which will help pay what will become an ever-vaster legal bill. Perhaps Elon Musk will reactivate Trump's Twitter account, although he has also expressed support for DeSantis previously.

Regardless, Trump will be back in the game. More extreme, unhinged and uncontrollable than ever. Ron 'DeSanctimonius' will get the same treatment previously used to destroy Lyin' Ted, 'Little Marco' Rubio and 'Crooked' Hillary Clinton. Russian bots and trolls will be unleashed.

Trump's playbook is outdated

This will all take place at a stage in the 2024 election process before anyone else has declared. It will look and sound ridiculous. Yesterday Trump tried to organise a protest in Michigan, but nobody showed up. The tricks only work for so long.

Without the Murdoch empire, Trump will struggle to amplify this campaign. Perhaps he will get the treatment they have dished out to opponents of their preferred candidates in the past. Rather than live, rolling coverage of his rallies, viewers will get short clips of the most bizarre and extreme segments.

Legal troubles will take their toll

CNN's exit poll on Tuesday night showed just 39% approval for Trump, and 58% disapproval. I don't envisage any way that Trump improves that position in the months ahead, as the news cycle gets ever worse.

I think he will be indicted over taking and withholding classified documents. The New York investigations will finish Trump Org as a functioning US-based entity, and ultimately produce a criminal indictment. Charges are reportedly imminent in Georgia, regarding Trump and his team's efforts to reverse the 2020 election. The Jan 6th Committee may recommend a criminal indictment in their final report.

No rush for DeSantis to declare

At some point next year, Trump's campaign and political career will end. Then, DeSantis will step forward and be largely greeted as the party's saviour. It makes absolutely no sense for him to declare for 2024 yet. Why pick a fight with Trump and his supporters?

This is my confident prediction but the converse must be considered. I am old enough to remember writing that Trump had finally met his match, when going head-to-head with Ted Cruz in 2016. Back then too, the GOP establishment was dead-set against Trump.

Trump retains great leverage over GOP

What emerged was a wide gulf between the professional GOP class - politicians, pundits, advisors, surrogates - and the base Trump built. Voters who are Trump first, Republican second. We know who won. The same professional GOP class spent the next six years falling into line, defending the indefensible, pushing fake talking points and phoney investigations.

Why? Because Trump controls them via his base. Check the fate of those who dared oppose him. Those who voted for impeachment. Their career ends.

Dozens of those potentially critical voices in Congress have been replaced by Trump-lackies. Their faction now holds the balance of power in the House. The hostile takeover of a party by one man has extended into a movement.

Conventional arguments about electability have rarely come into it. I remain as adamant now as early 2016, that a conventional GOP candidate (Marco Rubio?) would have comfortably defeated Hillary Clinton, without the need for Russian interference. They would likely have held Congress and won a second term too.

Yet that became an almost unspeakable opinion, as voters and commentators drunk the Trump Kool Aid. That one freaky victory in 2016 built the myth that Trump was a winner. Even as the myth shatters, how many will have the guts to tell him to his face?

Could Trump threaten breakaway?

So, do I think the GOP will abandon Trump in the weeks and months ahead? In truth, I'll believe it when I see it. I'm expecting the worst election campaign in history to terrorise and amuse us for at least a few months. We will see whether the Republicans have learnt anything, or developed a backbone.

One distinct possibility is Trump unleashes the threat he held over the GOP during that 2016 primary. To run as an independent or start a new party. By doing so, he would take a sizeable chunk of devotees with him, which would wreck Republican electoral hopes. Possibly its future.

These are good reasons to avoid backing either man at this stage. Combined at current odds, the pair take out around 46% of the Election Winner book already. That's without any alternative Republican or their Democrat opponent. Opposing both involves minimal risk.

A civil war could ruin the GOP and I won't be at all surprised if other candidates come into this argument next year. It would also help the Democrats. The value bet right now is Biden at 6.25/1

Follow Paul on Twitter and check out his website, Political Gambler.

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Tuesday 5 November, 11.00am

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