Republican Governors Don’t Like Trump

Alas, it probably doesn't matter.

Axios (“Scoop: Christie applauded after bashing Trump at GOP governor meeting“):

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie received huge applause at an annual meeting of Republican governors Tuesday morning after blaming former President Trump for GOP failures in the last three elections, according to three sources in the room and a fourth person familiar with the speech.

Why it matters: The chorus of Republican office-holders calling for the GOP to move on from Trump is growing louder, driving the party to the brink of civil war just as the former president prepares to announce his 2024 comeback bid.

Driving the news: Christie addressed a room full of hundreds of people — Republican governors, high-level donors and consultants — at a hotel in Orlando, less than 200 miles north from the Mar-a-Lago resort where Trump is expected to make his announcement Tuesday night.

  • Christie, a former Trump ally who is now considering his own 2024 presidential campaign, said voters “rejected crazy” in the 2022 midterms and that Republicans lost because of bad candidates.
  • But he didn’t just harp on last week’s disappointing results: Republicans lost in 2018, 2020 and 2022, Christie said, with Trump the one constant who has weighed the party down across all three election cycles.
  • Christie, the former chair of the Republican Governors Association, pointed out that there were 31 GOP governors when he left the role in 2014. There are now 26 — five gone in eight years, all because Trump picks his candidates based purely on loyalty, he argued.

Between the lines: Christie singled out Doug Mastriano, the far-right, Trump-backed Republican nominee in Pennsylvania who lost by nearly 15 points to Democrat Josh Shapiro.

  • Christie said the RGA made a smart decision not to invest in Pennsylvania because Mastriano was a hopeless, lost cause.
  • He called for the RGA to engage in Republican primaries to prevent these extreme candidates from being nominated.

The intrigue: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose rising profile as a potential 2024 challenger has divided the party and infuriated Trump, was not in the room.

  • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu were among those in attendance.
  • Ducey — the co-chair of the RGA, who will be succeeded as Arizona governor by Democrat Katie Hobbs after Trump-backed Kari Lake was narrowly defeated — applauded heartily after Christie’s speech.

So, for the most part, this is further good news if the goal is to have two relatively sane parties. But two things.

First, the Republican Establishment was anti-Trump in 2016 and they couldn’t stop him. There were a whopping 17 candidates for the nomination, all of whom other than Ben Carson, Mark Everson, and Trump were conventionally qualified for the job. Four Republican governors or former governors (George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Rick Perry) withdrew before the primaries as did Senator Lindsey Graham and Everson. That left eleven candidates: five governors (John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Jim Gilmore, and Christie), three senators (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum), plus failed Senate candidate and executive Carly Fiorina, Carson, and Trump.

Cruz won Iowa but Trump otherwise pretty much ran away with the primaries after than, largely because most are winner-take-all and the not-Trump vote was split between Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich. In hindsight, they should have consolidated their support behind one candidate but, as I’ve noted multiple times since, there was no obvious choice among them. My preference was Kasich but none of the three was obviously more potent than the others.

So, the fact that Republican governors really, really don’t want Trump to be the party’s 2024 nominee may not matter all that much.

Second, while Trump absolutely deserves a lot of the blame for the party’s sad showing in 2018, 2020, and 2022, pretending that he’s the only problem isn’t very useful. Christie himself, after all, exemplifies the feckless toadyism of party leaders once Trump became the inevitable nominee. While they may have privately hated Trump and what he was doing to the party, they very much enabled it and don’t get to absolve themselves for their cowardice.

Relatedly, while I think rejecting Trump and nominating a Ron DeSantis would be a step in the right direction for a variety of reasons and might even make them competitive in the next election, it’s a very small step. It’s still very much a continuation of the Tea Party/MAGA “populist” mode of reckless governance, with “owing the libs” seemingly more important than the good of the nation. Indeed, of the governors named in the Axios report, Sununu may be the only one who qualifies as an old-style conservative Republican.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2024, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    The question of course, is will the R establishment continue their vocal trump opposition or acquiesce again? Murdoch, having decided that trump can’t be deposed by no one, is promoting DeSantis as an alternative and DeSantis has done all the right things to place himself in the best position to capture trumps cult. Though as Charlie Sykes has said on a couple of recent occasions, would DeSantis destroy trump at the risk of losing many of his voters?

    Trump believes that announcing provides a firewall against indictment, and maybe it would have in October. But after the R’s recent debacle will the party professionals rally around him if indicted or would they adopt Collins-like expressions of concern and mutter about the seriousness of the accusations before falling silent and then moving on to other candidates?

    R’s maybe in a lose-lose situation, stick with trump and face another round of electoral defeats while cementing the conservative nationalists as the parties future or risk losing due to the inevitable civil war that will result when trump burns it all down.

    The choice may come down to, in the future go with conservative nationalism of unknown appeal or return to some semblance of R party of Bush, McCain and Romney that for its faults could win elections.

    2
  2. Stormy Dragon says:

    Relatedly, while I think rejecting Trump and nominating a Ron DeSantis would be a step in the right direction for a variety of reasons and might even make them competitive in the next election, it’s a very small step.

    If you think DeSantis us an improvement over Trump, you’re signaling you actually agreed with the substance of all the horrible things Trump did and only object to his aesthetics, because that’s the only difference between the two.

    9
  3. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: For fuck’s sake, I’ve only been writing about Trump here for seven years. I think DeSantis is in the MAGA wing of the party and antics such as the bussing of migrants to New York are a continuation of the “own the libs”/”the cruelty is the point” governing style. But I don’t think he would spend four years selling out to Russia, committing daily acts of graft, gut the professional civil service, or all manner of other norm- and law-breaking that characterized Trump’s four years. That’s a huge deal.

    15
  4. charon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    If you think DeSantis us an improvement over Trump, you’re signaling you actually agreed with the substance of all the horrible things Trump did and only object to his aesthetics, because that’s the only difference between the two.

    DeSantis probably has the sense to not abscond with classified documents, and he might not be so cozy with Putin and MBS – but, yeah.

    7
  5. charon says:

    @James Joyner:

    or all manner of other norm- and law-breaking that characterized Trump’s four years.

    DeSantis did lots of norm breaking in FL. The Martha’s Vineyard stunt for example. And if the cruelty is the point, his shtick in FL is a prime example. He may not have as much potential for grifting as the Trump Organization provided, but I think the graft issue is relatively small beer.

    7
  6. Scott says:

    @James Joyner: I can totally see DeSantis gutting the Civil Service by implementing Schedule F. This is a guy that removed an elected district attorney in Hillsborough County and 4 school board member in Parkland. I can see him breaking all kinds of norms if he could get away with it.

    11
  7. charon says:

    I think the bottom line here is that a MAGA presidential candidate in 2024 would get pretty tepid support from many Republicans, governors and others.

    This might be more for the other threads, but I think it’s very unlikely Trump is the nominee, Trump is aging past his sell-by date, people are moving on.

  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:

    committing daily acts of graft, gut the professional civil service

    DeSantis is straight up replacing independently elected officials with appointees that will be loyal to him and you think he’s gonna respect the civil service?

    Or the guy that’s been diverting millions of taxpayer dollars to finance his own campaign through things like the immigrant bussing stunts isn’t going to be doing just as much organizational gift in DC?

    You’re just happy to look the other way because DeSantis isn’t as obvious about it.

    9
  9. Andy says:

    First, the Republican Establishment was anti-Trump in 2016 and they couldn’t stop him. There were a whopping 17 candidates for the nomination, all of whom other than Ben Carson, Mark Everson, and Trump were conventionally qualified for the job.

    Except it’s not 2016 anymore. Sure, it’s theoretically possible Trump could win a plurality in the primary thanks to a divided opposition, but that isn’t a sure thing because a lot has changed. The dynamics in the primary will be completely different.

    1
  10. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’ve mentioned before the rule of law ultimately rests on the willingness to obey or abide by norms. This is the Pompei Principle: Cease quoting laws to us who have swords.

    The other day I brought up Sulla, who showed Romans how to obtain absolute power while getting the Senate and People of Rome to go along.

    El Cheeto did something similar, though more limited. His lesson is in stomping over norms for profit, The only thing that held him back was his own incompetence, coupled with his childish, impetuous character. And he only got a majority of the GQP to go along, not all the American people.

    The last will be enough for DeSantis. And he lacks the incompetence, the impetuousness, and very likely the very limited intelligence of Benito. He’s going to wreck things for his benefit, and he will be far worse.

    If he wins the general election.

    He may also lack the enthusiastic, violent, fanatical base. That may help the rest of us.

    3
  11. mattbernius says:

    Of the governors who don’t like Trump, top of the list are those from Florida. And they are opting for two different approaches.

    So far current Governor DeSantis and his team have been very disciplined in pretending he isn’t there. I’m curious to see how long they can keep that up, but I’m sure it’s pissing off Trump.

    As far as past Governors, Jeb! might be silent on the topic, but his son clearly remembers how Trump treated his father, tweeting last night after the speech:

    WOW! What a low energy speech by the Donald.

    Time for new leaders!

    #WEAK #SleepyDonnie

  12. Moosebreath says:

    @charon:

    “DeSantis did lots of norm breaking in FL. The Martha’s Vineyard stunt for example.”

    Or seeking to remove Disney’s tax exemptions over it criticizing his Don’t Say Gay law.

    5
  13. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: The Republic was saved by Trump’s ignorance, incompetence, and laziness. You see DeSantis as a return to norms. All I and many others see is a lack of Trump’s saving vices. The man is a right little fascist. But I bet he can do a pretty good imitation of a turn toward the middle if he gets nominated.

    8
  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: I don’t think he would spend four years selling out to Russia, committing daily acts of graft, gut the professional civil service, or all manner of other norm- and law-breaking that characterized Trump’s four years. That’s a huge deal.

    Oh ye of little faith…

    Really James, what makes you think he wouldn’t? Those are all things the GOP whole heartedly embraced. If he didn’t do the same he would be insuring a MAGA challenger in 2028. One who would give them what they want. The GOP has gone full blown MAGA and the only thing that will return them to sanity is a wholesale electoral purging of their sacred cows.

    3
  15. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    And for those with some (misplaced?) faith in rational behavior, I present:

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott raised $400,000 from private donations to help fund his operation to bus migrants from the southern border to Democratic leaning cities.

    So, exactly who do Texans petition for early release from Arkham Asylum?

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-11-15/abbott-raised-400-000-to-bus-migrants-to-democratic-cities?cmpid=BBD111622_CITYLAB&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=221116&utm_campaign=citylabdaily

    2
  16. Matt says:

    @James Joyner: Desantis is likely to continue all of that excluding the selling out to Russia (the grafting will continue in some form). While that would be an improvement I’m not ready to give Desantis props for managing such a low bar.

    Personally I consider Desantis to be more dangerous as he’s capable of discipline in ways that Trump never could. A competent and more discrete Trump is terrifying..

    1
  17. Mimai says:

    Re graft, how are we to judge what is palatable and what is not?
    Frequency?
    Type?
    Magnitude?
    Duration?
    Agent?

  18. Modulo Myself says:

    Yeah I can see the GOP nominating some normal idiot in 2024 and treating the process like the liberation of France from the Nazis, and then going on to lose worse than McCain in 2008. Your idea of normal, if you are a Republican, is weird and off-putting. Way more, actually, than Trump. It’s a bunch of guys who could not stand up to their fathers for punching out mom pretending to be able to stand up to Trump.

  19. James Joyner says:

    @Modulo Myself: I’m rooting for two non-catastrophic choices in 2024. In my ideal world, the Republicans would nominate a Larry Hogan or Chris Sununu type but the odds of that are slim. Regardless, I’d at least prefer a governor to someone who didn’t spend six years enabling Trump.

  20. Fog says:

    “But I don’t think (DeSantis) would spend four years selling out to Russia, committing daily acts of graft, gut the professional civil service, or all manner of other norm- and law-breaking that characterized Trump’s four years. That’s a huge deal.”
    I live in Tallahassee, and I disagree vehemently. Lil Ronnie is fully committed to the “post-democratic” ideal, and he’s already done some of the things you doubt he would do. If you don’t think so, start paying closer attention. If anything, he’s worse than Trump. Sent by God, he is.