"Trump is not an option—they are done with him": Are "persuadable" Republicans the new #NeverTrump?

Donald Trump Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
Donald Trump Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
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Like a mob boss running an extortion racket, in a speech on Saturday Donald Trump signaled to Vladimir Putin that if Russia invaded Western Europe and attacked the NATO alliance, the U.S. under Trump's leadership would do nothing to stop it.

“You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent?’ No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”

Trump continues to show that he is manifestly unfit for the presidency, boasting again over the weekend that he is going to unleash his own Nazi-like Gestapo force on “day one” of his presidency (what some have described as “Trump’s Kristallnacht”) in 2025 to invade “blue” parts of the country to forcibly detain and deport hundreds of thousands of black and brown undocumented residents. To accomplish such a goal will require gross violations of the law, the Constitution, and civil and human rights. The Trump regime’s reign of terror will also be an act of massive violence and civil disorder – which Dictator Trump and his agents likely desire as a pretext to invoke martial law.

By the conventional wisdom any of these (and the many other) examples of such perfidy and betrayals of American democracy, and the country’s interests and well-being more generally should disqualify Trump from public office. In total, all of them should have resulted in Trump being exiled from American public life.

Meanwhile, the American economy is extremely robust because of the Biden administration’s stewardship and leadership. The stock market is at historic highs. The labor market is strong. By political measures, such as the Democratic Party’s wins in midterm elections as well as on the state and local level, Biden should be trouncing Trump. Instead, high-quality public opinion polls consistently find Trump and Biden in a virtual tie.

The Trumpocene has broken these old norms and expectations. Of course, so-called conventional wisdom ceased to apply more than seven years ago with Trump’s victory in 2016. The American mainstream news media and political class have mostly refused to adapt to this new world and the end of normal politics.

In an attempt to gain some clarity about this increasingly bewildering “longest election ever," what the early public opinion polls mean and how many political observers are deeply concerned that the 2024 election is increasingly feeling like a repeat of the disastrous 2016 election, I recently asked a range of experts for their thoughts and suggestions.

Cheri Jacobus is a political strategist, writer, ex-Republican, and host of the podcast "Politics With Cheri Jacobus." 

We are in for a roller coaster ride between now and November. That we are still in this uncharted territory regarding Trump is frightening, and an indication that our institutions are weaker than we suspected in even our darkest moments. The Pollyannas among us should be summarily silenced at this late stage in the game.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has let us down, allowing Trump and the worst of his crew to skate, placing us in this untenable position where Trump is to be the GOP nominee for president. Our "trust" in a Trump-corrupted Supreme Court indicates we still don't want to accept that our highest court has been co-opted and corrupted, as Clarence Thomas is still there while his wife escapes justice as Garland looks the other way. Our media still enables Trump for clicks and ratings, and those getting rich and/or TV famous in that cottage industry that "fighting" Trump has built, are very much OK with it all; Trump is still good for business.

The good news is that Joe Biden's team, while in an uphill struggle against these forces they should never have to face, are inching ahead. He defies conventional wisdom fairly regularly, most recently in South Carolina where he outpaced polling by 30+ points, winning 98% instead of coming in with 60-something percent the polling predicted.

I still believe there are more persuadable voters out there than conventional wisdom suggests. We saw some anecdotal evidence of this in New Hampshire where some GOP primary voters indicated if Nikki Haley were not the GOP nominee, they would vote for President Biden, or simply not vote for president at all in November. But Donald Trump is not an option — they are done with him.

Every traditional method and manner of building a Biden win, predicting a Biden win is heavily in his favor, including and especially his stellar record of results, but the persistent knocking down of the guardrails of any and all protections of our democracy continues. I fear we are becoming numb and even accustomed to this, rather than properly alarmed. I fear Vladimir Putin long ago identified the cracks, fissures, and weakness in our various institutions that comprise those guardrails, and is consistently several steps ahead of us while we are repeatedly whiplashed. Media. Supreme Court, Federal bench. Post office. Twitter. Ukraine (that 2016 RNC platform language forced by Trump/Putin team). Putin-friendly Mike Johnson as Speaker. So many things that in retrospect truly seem like connected dots, and should make us concerned that we are not willing or able to connect the dots in advance and get ahead of this.

Are we, as a country, still in denial? We are the frog being boiled slowly.

David Pepper is a lawyer, writer, political activist, and former elected official. His new book is "Saving Democracy: A User's Manual for Every American".

I’ve always believed it would be Trump versus Biden. And that’s what it will clearly be.

It won't only be the longest election of all time, but viewed differently—it’s the longest attempted insurrection of all time. At the outset, the clear motivation for Trump to run again was to avoid the accountability he would otherwise face for his actions around January 6, and other alleged cases and crimes. Running has helped him pay the legal bills to defend it all. Winning, he thinks, gets him immunity and the pardon power. He doesn’t even hide lately that that’s what he craves. And now an entire party is all-in on that cause, including potential vice presidential choices, making clear they would have done the opposite of Mike Pence on January 6.

The most consistent data point has been the overperformance of Democrats since the middle of 2022, largely due to a more energized turnout and the far-right careening into extremism. From Kansas in August ’22 (the special election over abortion access), to November 2022 (not just federal races, but Democrats flipping several statehouses and election deniers losing Secretary of State and Governor races in numerous states), to the big victories in Ohio in August and November 2023, to the Virginia Statehouse in 2023, Democrats have built up a winning streak all across the country, and at multiple levels. Heck, even Moms of Liberty candidates losing 70% of their races in 2023 was a part of this trend. Remember, these are the years where Democrats are supposed to be losing—because they are in the White House. Those statehouse slips defied a half-century of precedent. These aren’t just polls; they are actual outcomes. And the consistency of these results tells us something is happening beneath the surface that is largely being lost as we ogle a faux-GOP primary and polls that are all over the map.

I don’t think anyone knows what will happen. This is indeed an unprecedented time—a battle royale for democracy at all levels. No one who cares about democracy should take it—or anything—for granted. They should count on Trump and anti-democracy forces in states to have studied where they fell short in 2020 and 2022, learning from it, and yes, doing anything to win beyond even what they’ve done before.

But they should also take note of the winning streak I described above.  It is real, and it defies history. And it's a result of tireless work by grassroots activists and candidates at all levels, and a realization by a broad swath of voters that the current far right is too extreme for America and their community. Similar, tireless work and effective messaging will be needed to protect democracy in 2024.

Mark Jacob, former Chicago Tribune metro editor and current author of the Stop the Presses newsletter at stopthepresses.news.

Most people who will vote in November are not paying that much attention to politics right now. It’s time for people who care – and who know that the risk of us losing democracy are real – to get active, support candidates, get on volunteer lists, and hone their arguments for when they will matter most this fall.

I’d advise everyone to protect their mental health by ignoring the polls. I think it’s going to be a close election, probably closer than in 2020. My best guess now is that Trump will go down again, but there’s no cause for overconfidence.

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We should be worried about what will happen and if this could be a repeat of 2016 — and we should use that worry as motivation.

Hundreds of things that could affect the presidential race will happen before Election Day. There’s no predicting those. The overriding message that Americans of good will need to keep focusing on is that one candidate believes in democratic principles and the other one threatens to tear down our system to feed his cult of personality. Our children’s and grandchildren’s lives will be greatly affected by the actions we take this year.

Rick Wilson is a co-founder of The Lincoln Project, a former leading Republican strategist, and author of two books, "Everything Trump Touches Dies" and "Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump - and Democrats from Themselves".

I’d rather be in President Biden’s position than Trump’s. President Biden is climbing in the polls, the economy is doing well, Biden has passed some of the most consequential legislation in history, and Trump is - of course - facing prison over 91 criminal counts. Democrats need to celebrate the successes of Biden’s term and stop the bed-wetting.

This will be a long election simply because we know who the candidates are in February. Trump’s congressional cult members are going to screw with the budget process and the border in order to help Trump’s chances.

We have months and months of attacks and recriminations to come from a desperate Trump and his MAGA hordes who know the only way they can win is to make this election about something - anything - other than Biden’s success as president. Democrats need to buckle up and stay engaged and not get frustrated. President Biden will win this election if everyone comes out to vote and gets their friends and family to do the same.

The economic indicators show the excellent job President Biden has done to turn the nation around after Trump absolutely destroyed the economy with his mishandling of COVID. We consistently see solid job numbers month over month, oil production is at the highest it’s ever been by any nation in history, and manufacturing is opening up across the country due to the CHIPS Act. These are the numbers that matter to voters when it comes time to vote.

Trump’s trials are all signal - from now through the election they will remain a constant reminder of his culpability in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

The age issue is nothing but noise by prognosticators who are trying to obtain cable news contracts. The reality is that Trump is showing signs of impairment with his erratic behavior and inability to remember details. The ultimate decision point is how they each handled the job. Every single indicator shows that President Biden has been one of the most successful presidents in history.

Let’s make no mistake, this will be a close election and will come down to several key swing states. But again, I'd rather be Biden than Trump. The economy is going in the right direction and people are starting to be appropriately terrified of what a second Trump term could look like. No matter the outcome, Trump is an unpopular figure who will not win the majority of the vote nationwide.

It's up to Biden and the Democrats to show the distinction between the two: Another Biden term that continues building on its economic and foreign success, or a rage-filled Trump administration that will rip away individual rights, punish people who disagree and empower our enemies by wrecking America’s standing in the world.