Republicans Brace for Mad Scramble to Dethrone Trump

DONALD TRUMP’S POLITICAL FREE-FALL has been so dramatic that a growing number of potential 2024 GOP challengers are now scrambling to launch presidential bids before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis becomes the clear front-runner.

THE ABANDONMENT OF TRUMP BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY ESTABLISHMENT has come with astonishing speed. What was the last straw? His refusal to condemn anti-Semites who met with him? His setbacks in the courts? His threat to re-write the Constitution? Still another Senate loss by a Trump-endorsed candidate last night?

THE LEGENDARY TRUMP BASE will be the last pillar to fall, but even among his hard-core supporters there’s a growing sense that it’s time to move on. That’s what several leading Republicans are doing — they sense that Trump is beatable, and they’re gearing up their campaign teams.

MANY OF THE LIKELY GOP CANDIDATES HAD PLANNED TO WAIT until well into 2023 to announce, but DeSantis has forced them to speed up their timetables. The conservative Florida governor, who won re-election in a landslide on Nov. 8, is almost certain to run — and at this early date, he’s our favorite to win the Republican nomination.

THE SURGE OF SUPPORT FOR DeSANTIS has prompted several likely candidates to hastily assemble campaign and funding operations: Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — a dark horse to watch — are actively raising money and planning to run. And Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has many millions to spend on a self-financed campaign. What do all of these hopefuls have in common? They believe, obviously, that DeSantis is beatable.

REPUBLICANS HAD HOPED to play a more dominant role in Congress, but the Democrats will tighten their grip in the Senate; the extra vote they won last night will allow them to quickly move judicial nominations through committees, and threats may diminish that Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema could bottle up legislation; Synema, fearful of a primary challenge in 2024, may stick with the party on key votes.

IN THE HOUSE, REPUBLICANS FACE CHAOS: As of now, Rep. Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have the votes to become Speaker; if he eventually wins the job — which seems likely but not certain — he will be on a very short leash, forced to clear all strategy with a handful of hard-right conservatives.

INVESTMENT IMPLICATIONS: We still think progressive legislation — dramatic new spending, higher taxes, etc. — will not pass in the Republican House for the next two years. And Democrats could easily lose the Senate in 2024, when they have at least a half dozen vulnerable incumbents.

BUT THE BIG POLITICAL STORY FOR NOW is the crack-up of the Republican Party. The initial salvos will come later today from establishment types like Mitch McConnell, who will blast Trump’s endorsement of terrible candidates.

THE RECRIMINATIONS WILL CONTINUE through the holidays and into a winter of discontent for the GOP, which desperately wants to be rid of Trump. The party gladly used Trump and he gladly used the party, but this marriage is almost certainly headed for a messy divorce.

Related: The Most Polarizing Person in Washington

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