Are the Anti-Trump GOP Forces Starting to Implode?

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Are the Anti-Trump GOP Forces Starting to Implode?

A mission-control breakdown for DeSantis and smooth launch for Scott bode ill for those hoping to thwart the former president.

Tim Scott moves a microphone on the ground of a stage.

In his announcement speech, Sen. Tim Scott engaged in precisely the sort of messaging that will appeal to Republicans done with Donald Trump who want a duller edge than Ron DeSantis. | Allison Joyce/Getty Images


05/26/2023 04:30 AM EDT

Jonathan Martin is POLITICO’s politics bureau chief and senior political columnist. His reported column chronicles the inside conversation and big-picture trends shaping politics.

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Will this go down as the week that the grand plan to deny Donald Trump the nomination fell apart?

For months, high-level Republican lawmakers, donors and strategists eager to block Trump have described, in separate conversations with me, an endgame to the presidential primary.


When it becomes clear in the early state and national polling who is consolidating support, the most influential figures with ties to the lagging candidates will stage a sort of political intervention and tell them it’s time to quit and rally to the strongest alternative to Trump.


Such a plot always struck me as a bit far-fetched, for starters because politicians aren’t known for putting party ahead of self. Yet the appetite among elite Republicans to move past Trump was and is so immense I thought there could at least be a do-the-right-thing effort.

Yet as spring turns to summer, traditionally the period when presidential hopefuls consider whether they’re gaining any traction, this vision seems more fantasy than strategy.

In fact, if Trump does emerge as the GOP standard bearer next year we will look back on this week to grasp why, just like in 2016, he was able to take advantage of a divided opposition.

There was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ muffed launch, the fitting, sad trombone conclusion to a preannouncement period in which his stock sagged, at least among political insiders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to a crowd in North Charleston, S.C.


‘It turned out to be a mistake’: Botched rollout puts DeSantis on his heels


Nobody was more thrilled about DeSantis’ decision to begin his campaign on a balky Twitter stream than his current and prospective Republican rivals: Trump sees his fellow Floridian as weaker today than at any point since last year’s midterm, and the other non-Trumps are hardly going to step aside anytime soon, even after DeSantis’ eye-popping first fundraising haul.


And if DeSantis needs any more evidence that his giving the Heisman to the press has earned him only bad will, well, he can just take a look at the headlines from a range of outlets. Don’t discount this: Complain as they may about the media, Republican primary voters are just as susceptible to the tides of coverage as their Democratic counterparts.

Shortly before DeSantis began his bid for the office of Washington and Lincoln in a chat room with other very online influencers, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) entered the race in a fashion that further underscored why it’s going to be so hard to dethrone Trump.


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