The Republican Primary Desperately Needs Some Rules of Engagement

Democrats have to be rejoicing at how the Republican presidential primary is playing out. No, I’m not talking about the credible notion of who Joe Biden would like to face in a general election. I’m talking about the ever-escalating, intraparty war that has now gone nuclear.

I’ll admit that I was naive. Following the 2022 mid-terms, as rumors about who would run for president were heating up, I thought the GOP was mature enough to have a real primary. One based on policies and ideas, with a truthful debate about each candidate’s strengths and flaws.

Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening. Instead, some campaign operatives are sinking to the lowest of low levels in order to gain a political advantage, and while I’d love to be able to lecture everyone in the field, the unacceptable tactics are almost exclusively coming from one corner.

For example, on Tuesday, RedState reported on a press release put out by the Trump campaign and shared by Liz Harrington, his official spokeswoman. At the top of the statement was a blaring headline accusing Ron DeSantis of “colluding” with the DOJ to take down Donald Trump and the “MAGA movement.”

“Collusion” has a definition. Do you know how I know? Because I spent years defending Donald Trump from the Russian collusion hoax. You’d think if anyone would be sensitive to using such ridiculous tactics to attack an opponent, it’d be Trump himself. Yet, his campaign has now taken to using doing exactly what Republicans have decried for nearly the last decade.

To be clear, Ron DeSantis is not “colluding” with the DOJ to take down Trump. In fact, DeSantis has continually attacked the DOJ for its indictments of Trump. At no point has the Florida governor ever done anything but offer his primary opponent support on that issue. Yet, Trump and his campaign are willing to tell a bald-faced lie about the situation anyway.

Yes, that’s beyond the pale, but it’s also incredibly self-destructive because if Trump is the nominee, he is going to need every single Republican voter he can get in the general election (and even then, he’ll be an underdog). Yet, with every line he crosses, he is losing GOP voters who are becoming so disillusioned that they aren’t going to come back into the fold.

It was one thing when Trump was lobbing surface-level insults at the 2016 field. And sure, lying about Ted Cruz’s father was a bit much, but it came across as more of a joke than anything. What Trump is doing in the current presidential primary is completely different. He’s not calling people low-energy while touting his plans for the Southern border. Rather, he’s become everything he and his most ardent supporters used to despise.

As another example, here’s Grace Chong, Steve Bannon’s top lieutenant and CFO of War Room, wishing financial death on “DeSimps.”

Chong is not just a random self-appointed, online influencer. Steven Bannon and War Room are the largest pro-Trump media outlet on the internet, and they quite obviously coordinate directly with the Trump campaign on a regular basis.

So ask yourself, how does any of this put the party in a position to reunite next fall to beat Joe Biden? Because, as things stand, that kind of behavior is going to so fracture the GOP that Biden wins re-election without a sweat.

What’s worse is that all of it is so unnecessary. We could be having a primary with basic rules of engagement, sticking to policy and honest critiques (which can be negative), and Trump would likely still be the odds-on favorite to win it. These attempts to destroy DeSantis and his supporters aren’t about winning the primary, and they certainly aren’t about preparing to win the general election. It’s become personal, and that egotistical pursuit is going to ensure another four years of Democrat control if something doesn’t change.


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