At a Hoover Institution conference here last week, former Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — who in 2020 denounced the former president as a threat to the Constitution — said retired generals “need to go silent during elections” and argued that the “American people do not need military officers telling them how to vote.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) was on the same panel with Mattis and said afterward that the former president is dominating the lead-off Iowa caucuses: “It’s all Trump.” Yet Ernst explained she could not intervene to try to stop him in her home state because she’s concerned about “jeopardizing our first in the nation” nominating status.
Also at Stanford was New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. He told me he would back a Trump challenger in the next couple of weeks, but that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds didn’t give him a head’s up on her endorsement of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and that he found her timing odd. (He was being polite: Sununu has privately been even more critical of Reynolds’ decision, I’m told.)
Sununu is widely expected to back Nikki Haley. But for all the movement toward Haley in recent weeks, it remains to be seen whether she has the political dexterity and bigness of spirit to forge the disparate coalition needed to even threaten Trump.
Speaking of being polite, I’ll get to the point. She’s yet to call her former South Carolina rival, Sen. Tim Scott, or approach Chris Christie, people familiar with the situation tell me. If Haley is serious about thwarting Trump, she needs to win the backing of her opponents and that means setting aside her resentment toward Scott — a perfunctory text isn’t sufficient — and having a serious conversation with Christie before they fracture the anti-Trump vote in New Hampshire.
In isolation, none of these events are hugely significant. Yet taken together, they illustrate why, as 2023 nears its close, the former president is poised to roll to the Republican nomination and could win back the White House. The Stop Trump effort has been abysmal. [Continue reading…]