One question for Trump could determine the race for the 2024 GOP nomination

Election 2024 Trump
Former President Donald Trump reacts as he visits with campaign volunteers at the Grimes Community Complex Park, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP

One question for Trump could determine the race for the 2024 GOP nomination

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The biggest moment in Sean Hannity’s Iowa town hall with former President Donald Trump was when the Fox News host asked whether the Republican front-runner could avoid calling names and better pick his battles.

Before Trump could answer, the friendly crowd shouted, “Nooo!”

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It is a key question of the 2024 Republican presidential primaries, especially if it remains largely a contest between the high-octane original Trump and a decaffeinated version.

Trump responded that he was “under siege” from the moment he won in 2016. “If I wasn’t so tough and didn’t fight back, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

But the crowd’s response was more telling.

Trump has turned off voters Republicans need with his temperament and style, especially suburbanites and college-educated women. Independents who voted for safe, conventional Republicans last year balked at some of the more colorful Trump endorsees, keeping the Senate Democratic.

It is a concern for Republican primary voters who would like to retake the White House by defeating President Joe Biden in 2024.

The runner-up in most polls of Republican primary voters, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), is explicitly running as a Trump successor who will fight but more carefully pick his battles — especially when it comes to inflicting friendly fire on the rest of the GOP.

For some Republican primary voters, however, Trump’s bugs are actually a feature.

How many agree with the Fox News audience that Trump’s pugilism is more of an asset than a liability could determine the course of the Republican primaries. It may decide whether the GOP nomination contest is even competitive.

Trump was back in Iowa to steal some of DeSantis’s thunder as the Florida governor barnstorms through the early states, beginning with the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

The former president would like to deny his rivals a win in Iowa, where he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2016, to knock them out early.

Trump reminded voters in the evangelical-heavy state whose Supreme Court appointees overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for more restrictive abortion laws. He painted his term in office as a golden era of energy independence and economic prosperity at home and grudging respect from adversaries, such as Russia and China, abroad.

The Afghanistan withdrawal, in Trump’s telling, emboldened those adversaries. He called it “the most embarrassing and most incompetent moment in the history of our country.” He said it prompted both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to say, “Wow, this is not the same country that we know.”

He spoke of his successor almost as if Biden was a sad embarrassment to be pitied.

“I said I just don’t think it’s good for anybody. It’s not appropriate. You can speak about it if you want, but I don’t think you should joke about it,” Trump said, adding that he had admonished Hannity for mocking Biden’s mental state.

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But what mattered most was the emotional connection Trump retained with at least a slice of Iowa Republican voters.

Whether that connection can be topped or broken is probably the defining issue of the 2024 GOP presidential race.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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