Let’s face it – the news that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intends to challenge former president Donald Trump in a 2024 primary puts one to mind not of Godzilla v. King Kong, but of Godzilla v. Bambi. It’s Muhammad Ali stepping into the ring against Don Knotts. Pompeo is doomed. But we should be glad that he is offering up himself for sacrifice. Many conservatives are open to a competitive GOP primary, not because they dislike Trump (they like him) but because they want to make sure we nominate the strongest candidate in 2024. Moreover, Trump needs a challenge to prepare him for the real fight in the general. And he’s not afraid of one.
Will Pompeo really run? Reporters with good sources are saying Pompeo is telling his donors he is. And I have heard the same thing from inside sources who would know. Of course, the buried lede is that Pompeo has presidential campaign donors – well, there’s one born every minute.
Other top-flight potential GOP candidates are not jumping in. Ron DeSantis is focused on his family (we’re all pulling for his wife) and winning reelection. Robert O’Brien, the former (excellent) National Security Advisor, is busy helping win back the House and intends to endorse the President the day the President announces. DC establishment darlin’ Nikki Haley, the Jeb! of 2024, will do whatever she has to do to get ahead, and right now she thinks that means staying out if Trump gets in.
But will Trump run? I originally did not expect him to run, but now I do. Between Asterisk’s floundering poll numbers and Trump’s public words and actions, as well as people who would know telling me that he’s running, it’s clear he’s leaning that way. He’s biding his time, and he should. There’s no reason to do anything now but build up his team for a third campaign – and it seems that’s what he’s doing.
All this is setting up a clash of the titan…and Mike Pompeo.
Now, to point out that Mike Pompeo’s chances of prevailing in the primary are about the same as Kamala Harris winning “Border Czar of the Year” is not to throw shade on him. Pompeo would make a fine president. I have heard him speak on the Trump Doctrine, the America First foreign policy that he helped execute and that the current crusty occupant of the White House’s serial failures have fully vindicated. He was excellent, demonstrating a deep and thorough understanding of the challenges we face, which – contrary to our current pseudo-leadership’s view – are not climate change or systemic racism. He’s very conservative. Despite him being a West Pointer, should he be nominated we can all give him our enthusiastic support. And if he is nominated over Trump, we can all ride on our unicorns to the polling places to vote for him.
Pompeomania is just not a thing and isn’t going to be.
The best argument for Pompeo is that, unlike Trump, he doesn’t scare the unsatisfied suburban wine women who make up the Democrat base like Trump does, but don’t worry – he’ll be literally Hitler when the time comes. The argument against him is that he’s bland. Trump oozes charisma (and, to leftists and cruise ship cons, its opposite) while Mike Pompeo inspires, at best, “Well, I guess he’s okay. Yawn.”
To want a real primary challenge is not the throw shade on Trump either. A real campaign will sharpen Trump, hone him, and get him ready for a real fight, be it against Kamala or someone remotely competent.
This should not be a coronation. Trump has to earn his right to make his Grover Cleveland move. That means a real primary with a real challenger, not a media-driven, toobinesque vanity run by some Never Trump doofus like Larry Hogan or the Beltway Cowgirl, who will have nothing to do after being tossed from office next year.
We saw what not having a challenge did to Hillary. She was out-of-shape, soft, unready, and unprepared. Trump needs to go into the general with momentum, the momentum one gets from crushing his primary opponents. And Trump thrives on competition – if you want him to win the general in 2024, then you want him to spar hard in the primary.
Trump has to work out some kinks in his delivery. As Byron York observed, at a recent rally he had the crowd rocking when he was roasting President * over his myriad failures, from the border to Afghanistan to inflation and beyond. Yet, when Trump started going on and on about 2020 in excruciating detail, the rally got off to a flying stop.
If his campaign is about relitigating the last one, we lose. We all know 2020 was rigged. I was in Nevada lawyering for the president in the aftermath, so I saw the traditional fraud, the unlawful rule changes, the zillionaires’ ”donations” to government election agencies, and the informal rigging of the media and corporations in 2020. But that’s the past; the 2020 fight is over. The only thing I want to hear about it is how Ronna McDaniel is preparing – with lots of lawyers and lots of money – for the fight in 2024, because her inexcusable failure to prepare for the legal fights in the half-dozen blue cities where the shenanigans took place caused that fiasco. The Arizona audit revealed a bunch of corruption. Great. What is the name of the GOP law firm currently filing lawsuits in Arizona to fix those issues? Tumbleweeds.
And they are boring tumbleweeds. A boring Trump is a losing Trump, and talking about 2020 won’t win is a single new voter, Conversely, the Democrats whining like little female doggies over the January 6th insignificant “insurrection” is their own losing tangent. Fix the problems, then talk about how Democrats suck. There’s your winning strategy.
We also need assurance that Trump has fixed his personnel problems. The fact that Ronna McDaniel is still around after botching the election integrity fight for him is unsettling. But the fact that, towards the end, he hired solid folks, including Mike Pompeo, is hopeful. It would be good to see Pompeo ask Trump in a debate why he didn’t fire Tony Fauci and Chris Wray – and for Trump to answer “I should have, and I learned that lesson. No slack during Trump 2.0!”
Oh, hell to the yeah!
Bringing up tough questions and having Trump address them is the most important reason we need a primary challenge, even one that’s relatively hopeless. We need Trump to confront his mistakes and assure us he’s learned is lessons. The guy accomplished amazing things even with the entire establishment against him and despite his self-inflicted wounds. We can’t assuage the establishment’s fury, but imagine what he will do with fewer own-goals. And imagine how angry the establishment hacks will be when he beats them again.
Trump is likely to triumph in the end, but he also needs to be circumspect. He could crush Pompeo like a bug if he wished, with the cutting invective that put the gooey likes of Jeb! away in 2016. But he’s not the outsider this time. Like it or not, Trump is the insider, the voice of the GOP base, and now he has to build the movement and reinforce party rather than just lay waste. He needs to thread the needle and prevail over Pompeo and any other non-Conservative, Inc., candidates without leaving them smoking craters. Save the nukes for the Liz Cheneys.
The fact is that 2024 is neither 2016 nor 2020. This third campaign needs to be different. So, if you want to see Trump win in 2024, bring on the challengers.
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