For Republican presidential hopeful candidates, all roads now lead to Milwaukee. It is there on August 23 that the first televised debate will take place between those who want to run against Joe Biden in November 2024. All except Donald Trump. As the leading candidate in the race, he has announced that he will not attend. Frankly, he is so far ahead in the polls, he doesn’t really need to show up at all. The truth is, this contest is all over bar the shouting.
I wonder, though, whether Trump will change his mind. I certainly wouldn’t bet against him turning up at the last minute. There is something in him that means he is unable to stay out of the limelight.
What seems to be baffling many seasoned observers is why his poll lead over his Republican rivals is growing as the number of indictments against him increases, the latest of which sees him charged with four counts over the 2020 election.
Frank Luntz, the veteran pollster, and soothsayer, is mystified by this phenomenon. But the fact is, Trump is a one-off, and different to the other candidates in every way. He always has been and always will be.
His supporters regard the ongoing legal obstacles being placed in his way as more proof of the politicization of the American judicial system, and this spurs them on to back him. They see Trump as a victim. They believe that if he was no longer running for President, the charges would simply melt away.
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According to the latest polling, Trump is something like 40 points ahead of his nearest competitor, Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida. I have huge admiration for much of what DeSantis has done. His no-nonsense approach, his clear thinking, and his cleaning up of the electoral register all helped to ensure he was re-elected as Governor of the Sunshine State last November in a 20-point landslide. Yet, impressive political figure though he is, this is simply not DeSantis’s time.
Other candidates also have great attributes. Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence are all distinguished in different ways. However, it is very difficult to see any of them posing a serious challenge to Trump. Although he has just turned 77, I think it’s now a given that he will be the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.
The more interesting question, for me, is who will be his Vice Presidential candidate. This decision will be crucial. Indeed, it may well be necessary to helping Trump over the line.
Assuming Trump does fight the next election, it is not far-fetched to think that 43 percent to 44 percent of voters would back him. But it is his running mate who will help him to achieve the pivotal few extra percentage points that will seal his win.
In 2016, to the surprise of many, Trump picked Mike Pence to fulfill this role. Pence turned out to be an inspired choice. When the highly embarrassing Billy Bush tapes story broke, and Trump’s lewd comments about women were broadcast to the world, his campaign wobbled. Many elected Republican senators and Congressmen and women ran for the hills. It was as if Trump was alone.
Yet Pence was rock solid. He stood by him. And I believe that it was Pence, above all, who steadied the Southern Baptist vote and that of other Christian evangelicals all over the country. I have little doubt that without Pence, things would have been much, much tougher for Trump. So who be his VP candidate this time?
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This may surprise you, but I think there is another outsider currently running for president who is very worthy of mention. His name is Vivek Ramaswamy. I met him earlier this year and was seriously impressed. He has youth on his side, being 37, and he is personable and decent. The son of Indian immigrants who was educated at Harvard and Yale, he has a good story to tell.
He has also been hugely successful in his professional life, having built a fortune by working in finance and biotech. And his refusal to worship at the altar of corporate wokeism and his hatred of virtue signaling have won him many fans. So has his stance on false accusations of embedded racism. He represents the kind of modernity that American conservatism needs if it is to prosper as we enter the second quarter of the 21st century.
Many believe that the key to Trump winning the 2024 election is held by the votes of suburban women. Poll after poll shows that he is not doing well with that group. And yet, if we look at the gubernatorial race in Virginia last year, the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, won by talking about wokeness in the education system. He appealed to parents who are deeply concerned about the controversial ideology that is being pushed in many public schools. This is now a highly sensitive issue throughout America.
And it is not just the parents of staunch Trump Republicans who feel it deeply. Those who might not currently regard themselves as natural Trump supporters are very worried about it as well. For this reason, I’m beginning to think that maybe it is the quietly spoken and intellectually forceful Ramaswamy who can help Trump to reach this important section of the electorate.
I will be in Milwaukee for the debate and I will be watching Ramaswamy closely. To win the presidency, Trump must pick the right VP candidate. I believe that Ramaswamy may offer him his best prospect of success.
* This article was written for our sister title Express US. The original can be found here.
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