George Will Weighs in on Trump and DeSantis in 2024: Who Can It Be Now?

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

It’s awfully early to be making predictions about the 2024 GOP nomination, but that’s not stopping George Will from throwing his two cents in. In the Washington Post, that bastion of conservative thought, Will is making the case that neither Donald Trump nor Ron DeSantis will be the nominee, and he is making that prediction with his customary dignity and reserve:


The 2024 Republican nomination question was supposed to be: Could anyone harpoon the Great Orange Whale? Who knew that he would harpoon himself, repeatedly? Or that DeSantis, playing Captain Ahab, would pay Trump the sincerest form of flattery by imitating his persona as an unhappy warrior? The nation is dispirited by the prospect of an all-too-familiar binary choice (between Joe Biden and Trump). Republicans might soon recoil from another: between Trump and DeSantis. Both candidacies are brittle.

It’s true that it’s very early in the cycle; that’s a fair point. At this point in the 2008 Presidential cycle, everyone in the punditry business knew the 2008 election would be a contest between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, and they were all badly wrong. And even when the primaries start, the first few aren’t always good predictors; in 1980, Ronald Reagan lost the Iowa caucuses to George H.W. Bush, who was briefly ballyhooed as the Republican front-runner.

But in this assessment, George Will seems to be letting his personal animosity for both candidates overwhelm his judgment. (WaPo does disclose that George Will’s wife, Mari Will, is an adviser to Republican candidate Sen. Tim Scott, so he’s hardly impartial.)

On Trump, Will says:

Election 2024 Trump
AP Photo/John Locher

Trump, as stale as a month-old crust of sourdough, is running to win the 2020 election. His crybaby crusade might cause even his star-spangled supporters to wonder how to square their proclaimed love of the nation with their hero’s insistence that it is so saturated with corruption that his landslide win could be erased without a peep from courts. Including some with his — how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless judge — appointees.


On DeSantis, Will says:

Election 2024 DeSantis
AP Photo/Josh Reynolds

DeSantis, after nearly two months of intensified exposure to non-Floridians, resembles a political Edsel. That was the new car model that debuted to much fanfare in 1957, backed by Ford’s marketing might. It expired in 1959, becoming a byword for disastrously misreading consumers. DeSantis is running hard to be president of Iowa, or of that minority of Iowans who will vote in the January caucuses and think Trump is ideologically squishy (e.g., regarding wokeness) and insufficiently abrasive (e.g., regarding gay rights).

And he criticizes Trump for being thin-skinned?

In 2018, George Will was embittered enough by the Trump Presidency that he advocated voting for Congressional Democrats. That’s not the position of someone who has the best interests of the Republican Party at heart, no matter how much one likes or dislikes the person sitting behind the Resolute Desk. So one has to wonder about his motivations now.

George Will concludes:

Political prophesy is optional folly, but: There are not enough Republicans, in Iowa or the nation, enamored of the snarling contest between Trump and DeSantis — their competition to see who can despise the most American defects — to nominate either of them. Which is grim news for President Biden.

The 2024 news is going to be grim for Joe Biden no matter what; it’s very doubtful whether he’ll even be on the ticket. But it’s unlikely that this grimness will be from the source George Will thinks likely.


Frankly, George Will is yesterday’s news. His opinion does and should carry little weight with today’s conservatives and libertarians. He is an old-school creature of the country-club GOP, a “go along, get along” type of the sort who are responsible for dismal GOP showings in too many elections to count. He is clearly embittered and angry about the state of the GOP today. His opinion now is worth reading as a curiosity and, perhaps, as a reminder of how things used to be, but smart money says he’s badly wrong in this prediction.

Still — as noted above — it’s early days yet. As someone once said, predictions are hard to make, especially when they’re about the future.


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