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Take a page from the GOP playbook to counter Trump

Donald Trump is dropping hints he’ll run in 2024. If he does, changes in voter sentiment suggest that both Republican primary and Democratic presidential challengers could convince plenty of Trump supporters to jump ship.

In September, 49 percent of Republicans said the party would be better off with a different nominee. Only 51 percent believed Trump would have a better chance of winning, down from 78 percent in 2020. In August, 60 percent thought a Trump 2024 bid would be “bad for the country.”

Candidates challenging Trump could widen his 2020 margin of loss, but they have work to do. Many Trump supporters have forgotten his destructive policies and immoral behavior. Presenting them all together — early and often — should remind them, and convince many that they don’t want this person as their president again.

After all, it’s working against Biden. His approval rating was 55.7 percent in May. Then Republicans attacked him on infrastructure, spending, raising taxes, taking dark money, rising gun violence, and thinking about packing the Supreme Court. In August they blamed him for inflation. In September they claimed he would defund the police. In November they reviled him for not ending the pandemic, and aired the “Chaos” ad somehow attributing Trump’s 2020 violent unrest to Biden’s presidency.

It didn’t matter that nearly all the accusations were false. By late November, they had worked: 57 percent blamed Biden for inflation. His approval rating fell to 42.9 percent, putting him on a path to the second-worst first-year rating among recent presidents (Trump’s was lower).

Attacking Trump’s record should get even more traction, since the accusations would be true. Biden’s criticisms of him have been sparse, but Republican and Democratic challengers could lure votes from Trump by harping on his actual record — if they start now. They have plenty of ammunition. 

An estimated 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided if Trump’s handling of the pandemic hadn’t been so alarmingly negligent.

Trump promised to drain the swamp, but added alligators — plenty of them — instead: 18 of his appointees and cronies were arrested and/or jailed for lying to the FBI, soliciting foreign meddling in U.S. elections, fraud, battery, or child pornography.

Trump pardoned the worst of them — and is himself the biggest alligator. 

He’s under investigation for bank, insurance, and tax fraud, money launderinginciting the insurrection, attempting to overturn Georgia’s presidential election, and trying to interfere with the 2020 U.S. election by pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. He was convicted of defrauding enrollees in Trump University and forced to return $25 million in tuition. His charitable foundation was shut down by New York State for misusing funds for political expenses, and Trump was fined $2 million.

Trump holds interests in at least 500 international businesses in more than 30 foreign countries, the only U.S. president to retain any such interest in office. And he’s suspected of tailoring U.S. policy to benefit them.

China awarded Ivanka Trump seven trademarks, and then Trump lifted a bipartisan ban on the sale of parts to Chinese company ZTE. He bragged the Saudis paid his businesses hundreds of millions, then ignored a bipartisan mandate to punish the Saudi crown prince for murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Russians rescued Trump financially and are major investors in his properties. As president, Trump argued for pulling the U.S out of NATO and for readmitting Russia to the G7.

Trump claimed he could fix North Korea and that it had started to denuclearize after his summit with Kim Jong-un. But, in fact, it got rid of no nuclear weapons and continued to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the U.S. After Trump exited the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran resumed enriching uranium, building advanced centrifuges, and stockpiling nuclear fuel. It now likely has enough for a nuclear bomb.

Trump’s “America First” isolationism left a vacuum which China is filling with its trillion-dollar, 60-country Belt Road Infrastructure Initiative, supplanting America’s global influence. Trump ceded southeast Asian trade to China by abandoning the TransPacific Partnership. China stepped in with its own trade agreement, excluding the U.S.

He launched tariffs despite warnings they would hurt American consumers and industries, and drove U.S. trade deficits to record highs.

Trump even swindled his own supporters, misrepresenting that their donations would fund legal challenges to overturn the 2020 election, while nearly all went to his Save America PAC, which he can use to pay family members and finance expensive events and travel.

Confronted with all this, it’s unlikely that all 2020 Trump voters would shrug their shoulders and vote for him again in 2024.

Enough of them are likely to waiver and deny Trump the nomination or vote for the Democratic nominee. But for that to happen, Trump challengers must focus their attention on Big Truths about his record.

Neil Baron advised the Securities and Exchange Commission and congressional staff on rating agency reform. He represented Standard & Poor’s from 1968 to 1989 and was vice chairman and general counsel of Fitch Ratings from 1989 to 1998. He also served on the board of Assured Guaranty for a decade.

Tags Donald Trump Ivanka Trump Kim Jong-un Right-wing populism in the United States The Trump Organization Trump 2024 Trump legal issues Trump scandal trumpism

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