The Party Urgently Needs to Narrow Down to Two Non-Trump Candidates

There can only be one.

One candidate can emerge to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. One.

That was the constant chatter in the audience at the latest Republican primary presidential debate hosted by Fox Business in the beautiful Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Air Force One Pavilion.

So who is it going to be? 

We know who it’s not going to be.

It’s not going to be Vivek Ramaswamy, who is basically running as a Trump surrogate and, despite having a splashy campaign with some poll surging is currently sitting at 5% nationally with matching numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire.

His “hello, my fellow Republicans” shtick didn’t work.

Audiences at home couldn’t see but he annoyingly had his hand up the whole time like it was algebra class.

But Vivek’s numbers are a good barometer. Anyone polling at or under his level should exit the race now.

I’m on record saying that national polls are far less useful than the state polls, but for candidates like Chris Christie the fact that he is polling in double digits in New Hampshire but at 2% nationally is a tell.

He’s not going to surge to be able to take on Donald Trump.

Doug Burgum, whose supporters shout “Burgum!” at the moderators to get a question to him, is not going to surge to beat Trump.

Which leaves Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis — who are presenting fairly oppositional directions for the Republican Party.

People are still moving to Florida to experience Gov. DeSantis’s leadership. It wasn’t a Covid fluke.

My new neighbors from Connecticut sport their DeSantis merch and can’t wait to vote for him for president.

What he has done in Florida is revolutionary and has been a model for other states. 

But revolutions are scary and it’s not crazy that some Republican voters want to go back to a Republican model they understand.

Nikki Haley represents that model. 

There was a few moments tonight where the candidates got to really challenge each other, but the ideas really didn’t come through.

When Tim Scott is attacking Nikki Haley for expensive drapes, voters at home have no idea what’s going on.

And when Christie looks into the camera and talks to Donald Trump, it doesn’t advance the conversation about what he stands for.

Yes, he hates Trump now but where has he been for the last six years?

There’s a future to consider and the crowded stage means that the frontrunners angle for time with also-rans.

Polls aren’t everything, but they are already used to whittle down who gets into the conversation.

Lines always get drawn to consider who gets to be in the debate.

The next debate should feature some sharper ones.

Voters might enjoy a sideshow, but they deserve a debate of real ideas.

Let the top two candidates get a real chance to present those ideas to voters.

There can only be one. But let’s start with two.

Twitter: @Karol

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