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Washington Wednesday: The inevitable


WORLD Radio - Washington Wednesday: The inevitable

Unless Nikki Haley wins New Hampshire, the GOP nomination is Donald Trump’s to lose

People wait to enter a former President Donald Trump campaign event. Associated Press/Photo by Matt Rourke

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 17th of January, 2024.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up on The World and Everything in It: Washington Wednesday.

The Republican field continues to shrink after Iowa. Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson dropped out yesterday, casting himself as a principled truth teller in a party that wants neither.

REICHARD: Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out Monday night and endorsed President Trump.

That leaves just two other Republicans other than Trump: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

On Monday, Haley came in third place and spun that as a moral victory.

HALEY: Thank you. Iowa. We're gonna continue on. We're gonna make you proud, and we're off to New Hampshire. Thank you very much.

EICHER: Joining us now to talk about what all this means is Erick Erickson. He is an attorney, host of the Erick Erickson Show, and a WORLD Opinions contributor.

Erick, good morning to you!

ERICK ERICKSON: Hi, thanks for having me.

EICHER: Well, what stood out to you, watching the results from Iowa roll in?

ERICKSON: Well, what you said actually, the polling almost dialed it in precisely to what Donald Trump got. So there’s been a lot of complaining of Republicans that the polling is either trying to shape the race or the polling is wrong. Actually, it’s a pretty accurate snapshot, which means if you take the polling averages that Donald Trump probably is going to win New Hampshire and South Carolina and Florida and Nevada, the race is essentially over. A lot of people in media, myself included, who talk about this are trying to make it exciting so people want to tune in to what's going to happen next. What’s next is the Republican convention, that’s going to affirm what Iowa voters did and make Donald Trump the nominee.

REICHARD: But of course there’s going through the motions, and the race is whoever gets 1,2015 delegates. So Trump has 20, Desantis 9, Haley 8. Trump’s margin of victory was enormous, 30 points, and that breaks a decades-long record. Erick, what’s this say to Republicans in other states gearing up to vote?

ERICKSON: I think it just builds Trump momentum. The fact that DeSantis had a ground game---in fact, I thought DeSantis could win because his ground game was so good and polished and organized in 99 counties, 1,500 of the 1600 precincts and it completely fell apart. At the end "Never Back Down" kind of collapsed. One of the warning signs moving forward the GOP has to pay attention to is where did DeSantis do well? He didn’t win a single county, Nikki Haley even won Johnson County, but DeSantis actually did good in suburban areas of college educated evangelicals. College educated voters continue to be a problem for the GOP. Nikki Haley, the county she won, Johnson, is home to the University of Iowa. So Donald Trump is going to need to figure out how to get these people to stick with him in the general election, many of whom aren’t his fans and could stay home. So how does he maximize his gains in November from a DeSantis showing of college educated evangelicals, and Nikki Haley, a massive college educated showing the more college educated you were, the more likely you were to vote for Nikki Haley. Those people are the people most likely to vote Democrat in November.

EICHER: Let’s turn to New Hampshire, Erick. Small state but very different demographics from Iowa. Now, you’ve already said you’re certain that Trump is going to prevail. But do you think there will be a different story in New Hampshire, other than the fact that Trump probably comes out on top? Is there something different about New Hampshire where we get a bit of a different storyline than we got from Iowa?

ERICKSON: Right, the New Hampshire Republicans are different from the Iowa Republicans and so Nikki Haley could come very close. There is a poll out that shows her tied with Donald Trump. It’s not a great pollster, but the momentum is certainly in her direction. If there is a big story out of New Hampshire that’s not Trump, it’ll be Nikki Haley. It won’t be Ron DeSantis. So could she change the dynamic? Yes, but then you go to Nevada, where Nikki Haley isn’t organized, and South Carolina, where she’s the former governor, but most of the state is leaning towards Trump. So that gives her a rebound opportunity that overshadows Donald Trump. If she comes in a close second, though, it’s still second place and you do have to start winning some states. I just don’t see a path for anyone beyond Trump at this point.

REICHARD: I want to raise the question of lawfare, meaning, using the legal system to attack a political opponent. I think you can see where I’m headed, but bear with me.

Back in April, NBC did a poll that showed Trump with a 46% approval with Republicans. So Trump 46, De Santis 31. Then the indictments against Trump, both in New York and then in Florida. Just two months later, Trump spiked up, DeSantis dropped, and the chasm’s only grown.

So, lawfare? Maybe Trump did wrong, maybe he didn’t, but the timing could cause Republicans to treat their votes as a way to express their disapproval of something that appears unjust. What do you make of all this?


You know, one of the things a lot of the DeSantis team says behind the scenes is that the indictments helped Donald Trump and there is a conspiracy among some non-Trump Republicans that all of the indictments were designed to ensure he’s the nominee. The indictments, I think certainly, do help Donald Trump and there is this sense that, and I don’t mean it to sound belittling, I really don’t, but I know it can come across that way. The Republicans do have a persecution complex of the media institutions are aligned against them, the cultural institutions, the academic institutions, the Fortune 500, so much of politics aligned against them. So Donald Trump gets indicted, they circle the wagons around him to make him the nominee because they view their own plight within cultural institutions through Donald Trump that’s helped him.

Now the problem is that if he is found guilty, though, the exit polling out of Iowa showed 67% of Republicans say no big deal, something like 67 to 70% of independent voters a massive deal. And that could completely shake up the race. We’re at a time, Donald Trump actually tends to overperform his polling. He’s already ahead of Joe Biden, better than he’s ever done. If he’s found guilty in one of these cases, and there is a likelihood in the case in Florida over the classified documents, that could shake up the race. Republicans will say, well, they’re out to get him. But what will independent voters do? That’s a question nobody has an answer for really.

EICHER: You know, and that led to the question that I wanted to ask you of following up on this, Erick. Is that the advice that you would give to the other two candidates in the race? Just hang around and see what happens?

ERICKSON: The DeSantis campaign—that’s not advice I would give, but it’s advice that has been given in the DeSantis campaign is whispered that he may not get out of the race. Because of the potential shakeup, I think he would be bullied as disloyal, which would hurt him if he stays in the race. At the same time, the Republicans do need a backup plan. I don’t know that they’re going to get one any more than the Democrats will with Biden, but the pile in the weight of convictions, and I actually only think there’s one substantive one, the one in Florida. But still, that’s enough that it could turn off independent voters and give an advantage to the Democrats they would not otherwise have. And Republicans, I don’t know that they’re thinking about this other than the victim card. But you can only play that so much.

REICHARD: Another thing, and this hasn’t blown up as much as it would if the Democratic National Committee allowed for a competitive field.

I’m sure you heard this one, but for the listener who hasn’t …

Last year, the Democrats changed their election calendar to start with South Carolina February 3rd. Iowa Democrats agreed to sit on results from mail-in votes until March 5th, but New Hampshire Democrats pushed back.

New Hampshire law requires it to hold the first primary in the nation, and the Democrats in the state are ignoring the DNC and moving ahead with next Tuesday, same day as the Republicans. Erick, what do you make of this conflict?

ERICKSON: Oh, you know that there’s a level of idolatry in the first-in-the-nation primary status that is going to ruin it for New Hampshire. Their voters or their delegates are going to be excluded from the Democratic National Convention, because they refuse to do what the Democrats wanted. I understand why they want first in nation status. It’s not going to help them. It’s a waste of time for Democrats to show up. It may help someone like Dean Phillips, but it doesn’t matter because his delegates won’t count at the Democratic National Convention. They should have cooperated. And frankly, if we’re really honest here, Iowa and New Hampshire have no business being first in the nation. They're some of the least representative states in the nation as far as Republican and Democratic parties go.

EICHER: I'm curious, Erick, whether you’re sitting on some big story that you’re not telling us about. I mean, you know, everything seems kind of conventional one day removed, a couple days removed from Iowa. Is there something out there that you think might break later, something that we ought to be paying attention to that we’re not paying attention to right now?

ERICKSON: As someone in a ratings-based business, I would love for there to be some surprise, some gotcha later, but there’s not. I honestly think the surprise is the collapse of the DeSantis campaign, and I don’t see how it’s recoverable. But that’s a story from Iowa. It’s not a story moving forward other than how he proceeds. Will there be a great shake-up of the race? I think the next big story is who does Trump pick as his vice presidential nominee? And we can’t get to that. There is something I think the listeners have to be aware of, though. There’s a problem. Joe Biden raised $100 million in the last quarter. The Republican National Committee has less money than they’ve had in the last 20 years in the bank account. And Donald Trump’s money is going to lawyers. Under the campaign finance rules of the nation, until he’s officially the nominee at the Republican Convention in the end of July, the Republican Party can’t help Donald Trump. So now Joe Biden’s got a massive war chest to remind independent voters they didn’t like the guy the last time and Trump has no money money to respond. That’s going to play out over the next several months.

REICHARD: Erick Erickson is an attorney, host of the Erick Erickson show, and a contributor to World Opinions. Thanks for your analysis today!

ERICKSON: Thanks for having me.

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