Narrowing field: On 2024 U.S. presidential election’s Republican primaries race

Trump’s ad hoc policymaking has many takers among Republicans 

January 24, 2024 01:11 am | Updated 08:41 am IST

The 2024 U.S. presidential election’s Republican primaries race has already narrowed to two candidates, frontrunner and former President Donald Trump and former Governor of South Carolina, Indian-origin Nikki Haley. The latest twist in the election cycle saga, which kicked off last week with the Iowa caucuses, saw Florida Governor Ron DeSantis step off the contest after he admitted that he could not see a path to victory. Both he and Vivek Ramaswamy, a pharmaceuticals entrepreneur who exited the race earlier, have endorsed Mr. Trump, who leads by double digits, 50% to Ms. Haley’s 39% among likely Republican voters, in New Hampshire, the next Republican primary venue. In Iowa, he garnered 20 delegates to Ms. Haley’s eight, a wide margin, even if he has a long road ahead to acquire the 1,215 delegates necessary to capture the nomination. While there are no presidential debates on the cards at this time because Mr. Trump has refused to join them, the tenor of the remarks by the two candidates against their rival appeared to be getting sharper. Ms. Haley questioned Mr. Trump’s mental fitness to hold high office after he seemed to confuse her with former House of Representatives Speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi, in the context of the January 6, 2021 riots. Mr. Trump has mocked her first name Nimrata and, in an echo of the birther movement remarks he made against former President Barack Obama, implicitly questioned whether she was a natural-born U.S. citizen.

Unlike previous U.S. elections, such as in 2016, where there were no fewer than 10 candidates in the fray during the presidential debates, this time a considerable skew in voter preferences towards Mr. Trump is evident, leading to a lopsided primaries season. Ms. Haley is only likely to remain in the race for as long as she is able to raise sufficient funds to keep her campaign going, and donors are notoriously quick to pull out when they see a dead end for a candidate, regardless of their political leanings. The wholesale rush towards the aura of Trumpism, now apparently an ever-growing force despite Mr. Trump facing serious criminal indictments and other legal challenges, has in fact fractured mainstream Republicanism as a bulwark of the U.S. conservative movement. Voters now appear to prefer Mr. Trump’s chaotic ad hocism in policymaking, his aggressive views on immigration and minorities of all hues, and his relentless eschewing of political propriety even when dealing with institutional issues. Unless there is an impulse for new leadership within the Grand Old Party to challenge the Trump “paradigm”, the sheer lack of alternative voices with populist appeal will lead to Trumpism deepening its hold on U.S. institutions, governance and socio-economic outcomes.

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