The clichéd version of the typical GOP big donor is the Wall Street fat cat, smoking a cigar between rounds of golf at a Greenwich country club. In reality, the men and women of the Republican fundraising machine are certainly successful, but they’re a diverse lot. Many of them hail from Wall Street; they also run small businesses in Dallas, or are entrepreneurs living in Miami and looking for the next new thing.
And yet, based on my random polling of them in recent weeks, they all have something in common: They don’t want Donald Trump to run for president in 2024. They say this not out of pure disdain. They loved Trump’s policies, the low taxes, fewer regulations and his anti-wokeism. They loved Trump’s willingness to fight.
Yet they fear, intensely, that even a feeble leader like Joe Biden, cowed by the left of his party on every policy matter, will win in 2024, and win easily if Trump is the nominee.
Watching the Biden administration in action and what went down in the midterms, it’s hard to argue with their logic and fears. We’re not talking just higher taxes and the soft political correctness of Bill Clinton or even Barack Obama. During the past two years, Biden has pushed the country further to the left than any president since maybe FDR or LBJ.
He looks to forgive student loans, introduce wokeism to the military and spends money like there is no end. Biden’s picks for key regulatory posts are a hodgepodge of academics and activists of the left. The lefty billionaire George Soros cheers how Biden is seeding the oversight of the US economy because Soros’s socialist fingerprints can often be found on just about every selection.
Sounds dystopian, but as the country is forced to move left, the GOP is rudderless to stop it, which is another complaint of the donor class. Republicans underperformed in the midterms against a Democratic Party headed by a president who was possibly the most intellectually feeble in the history of the republic.
Biden is widely mocked over his lack of mental acumen. His policies have disgraced the nation, from the border crisis, to the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the trillions of dollars in unnecessary fiscal spending that spurred an inflationary spiral and a pernicious tax on the working class.
His approval ratings suck. And yet the Dems kicked some real ass, adding to their Senate majority and almost keeping the House. The GOP disaster was then capped off by the circus that surrounded the selection of Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker.
Is this Donald Trump’s fault? The GOP donor class thinks so because while he remains powerful with a lot of GOP voters, he’s a supremely flawed national leader, as every election since he won the presidency in 2016 shows.
What initially made Trump so appealing to the party, large swaths of the electorate and the donors was that aside from his policies, he was unconventional, an outsider, populist and original. He didn’t read from the establishment script.
What makes him so unappealing now: He has become all too predictably crazy and politically toxic.
Of course, Trump always had some blind spots, including a habit of saying whatever loopy thing flew into his head. Yet the most recent vintage of The Donald is a man obsessed with doubling down on his fraught personality traits that won’t appeal to most voters, including those inclined to stop the progressives in their tracks.
Recall, while the country was looking for stable leadership during the early stages of COVID, his meandering and sometimes inane press conferences. His economic prescription was to keep throwing money at the economy even at the end when it was probably not needed as the pandemic waned. Lots of those fraudulent government checks you’ve been reading about came from the money handed out in his last year in office.
Even worse, when the country was largely locked down and needed a leader, he allowed a cipher like Joe Biden to fill the vacuum.
When he left the White House, he didn’t do much to change the narrative that he was erratic and unfit for office. Trump immediately went on a bizarre jihad against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a rising star in the GOP as his recent re-election showed, all because Kemp wouldn’t endorse the fantasy that Trump won in 2020.
Don’s denialism over his own defeat, the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, his meetings with misanthropes like Kanye, his endorsement of all those terrible midterm candidates who lost, adds to GOP fundraisers’ belief that Trump’s too crazy and toxic to win in 2024, they tell me.
They’re also telling me a solution is at hand in Ron DeSantis. Like Trump, he’s populist (see how he took on Disney) but not so much that he has alienated the Wall Street crowd, which he has been wooing for the better part of a year. He even checks the one box that Trump doesn’t and can’t: He acts exceedingly normal.
In recent meetings with Wall Street C-suite executives and other donors, the Florida governor has clearly indicated he’s ready to run for president, worried that he might miss his window of opportunity if he waits. He also has suggested some hesitancy about getting into a nasty primary battle with Trump, I am told.
Too bad, because the people who donate money — particularly from the GOP entrepreneurial class — don’t do so lightly. They made their money spending when and where it mattered to create optimal economic gain.
And they don’t want to spend it on Donald Trump, I am told, because even against Sleepy Joe in 2024, it’s probably a waste of money.