The GOP Wins by Looking Forward

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Speaking in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Saturday ahead of the widely expected launch of his presidential campaign, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) emphasized the need for the GOP to reject a “culture of losing” and instead embrace a forward-looking without getting “distracted” or focusing “on the past.”

“Both Florida and Iowa show strong leadership and a bold agenda can defeat the left in this country,” DeSantis said. “But there’s no substitute for victory, we must reject the culture of losing that has infected our party in recent years. The time for excuses is over. We got to demonstrate the courage to lead and the strength to win.”

“If we do that, if we make [the] 2024 election a referendum on Joe Biden and his failures, and if we provide a positive alternative for the future of this country, Republicans will win across the board,” DeSantis continued. “If we do not do that, if we get distracted, if we focus the election, on the past, or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats are going to beat us again. And I think it’ll be very difficult to recover from that defeat.”

DeSantis didn’t mention Trump by name, but this was clearly a reference to him. As Trump’s recent CNN town hall event proved, Trump, by default, brings baggage to the 2024 campaign — namely the 2020 election and the Capitol riot. It’s been more than two years since the election, and Donald Trump has failed to get past it.

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Yes, there were lots of problems with that election, but he continues to treat the issue like a personal grievance rather than a rallying point for commonsense election integrity measures that have bipartisan support. Trump should be saying that we need reforms to ensure that both sides, no matter what the result of an election, are confident it was conducted fairly. Until he does that, his rhetoric on the 2020 election is going to drive away independent voters. At this point, I’m doubtful he ever will.

Related: What (Really) Makes Trump Vulnerable in 2024

Of course, the flip side to this is that according to recent polling, both Trump and DeSantis are beating Biden by seven points in a general election match-up. That’s a strong position for both men to be in at this point and, some might argue, disproves the notion that Trump’s candidacy may hurt the GOP.

I think DeSantis is right, but I also think that those who think that Donald Trump can’t win are wrong. As the polling shows, Trump most certainly can win. But we’re still well over a year out from the election, and there are many factors that can change the dynamic of this election. The economy could get worse, which will be bad for Biden. It could also recover, which would be good for him.

The fact is, at this point, we have no idea what the political landscape will look like a year from now, and the baggage Trump brings into the election could be a bigger liability depending on what that landscape looks like. And that’s what makes me nervous about Trump. DeSantis is right; if the election is about looking forward, we’ll win. I’m concerned that with Trump it will be impossible to make this election about the future and not the past.

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