A. J. Kaufman
A. J. Kaufman courtesy

Donald Trump wants to be the Republican presidential nominee for a third consecutive election. It’s interesting timing, since Trump has never been weaker or more unhinged. This is partly because he's bored, but more recently because his favored candidates — for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and various governorships — lost last week.

Well, except J.D. Vance running for Senate in Ohio, a red state, where he finished an astounding 18 points behind the incumbent Republican governor. Hand-picked by Trump, Vance was saved only by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell when Trump refused to spend his own money.

Even during the constant drama of his lone term in office, Trump never showed his current desperation or "hit" others first. Now, he's launching churlish attacks on Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin — two successful governors who've never lost a race and wisely ignore him — because they present a superior alternative to him.

Before his conspiracy theories and aforementioned unprovoked libel, Trump’s first comments on election night were to celebrate Republican Joe O'Dea's loss in Colorado; that aberrant move is because Trump actually prefers that a Republican lose a Senate seat, if that Republican isn’t a sycophant. His allegiance is only to himself.

Yes, there’s been proper criticism of Democrats’ hypocrisy in pushing substandard MAGA candidates in the 2022 primaries. And the hypocrisy on the left will grow if they support Trump over assorted GOP challengers, presuming he’s a losing bet in general.

Yet these risible candidates got nominated only because Trump promoted them and his MAGA base supported them, despite their dubious electability.

One hopes the lesson has finally been learned that the 76-year-old is not the answer, since he's shown no proclivity to learn from his countless mistakes.

“Selecting a different presidential nominee would be in the interests of the country and party,” Ramesh Ponnuru argued in a Tuesday editorial seeking positives after last week's disappointments. “Someone else would have a better chance of winning in 2024, a stronger likelihood of governing effectively and with regard for the party's fortunes, and eligibility to run again in 2028.”

Recall that Trump didn’t win a majority of voters in either of his presidential elections, while his average job approval rating during his presidency never approached 50%.

Trump won in 2016, courtesy of Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity and the Electoral College. At the end of the day, he’s a candidate who had the advantage of running against the execrable Clinton and a feeble Joe Biden. And he still took only 46% of the vote both times.

There are early signs that voters prefer DeSantis, who enjoyed a crushing re-election victory and hasn’t spewed wild conspiracies.

DeSantis already leads Trump nationally in a hypothetical 2024 matchup by seven points. Recent surveys show the Florida governor beating Trump in Georgia, Iowa, New Hampshire, and other battleground states.

Trump can’t abide seeing other Republicans succeed, so he’s declared he's running two full years out and 15 long months before the primaries.

What happens next? Courage, humility and honesty would be great.

Those serving at high levels of Trump's administration, along with the most pro-Trump voices in Washington, D.C. and his media apparatus, seldom share their true feelings about him in public. These are not brave people. If you’re a money-hungry cable news host, or an ambitious bootlicker in a safe congressional district, it’s easier to fecklessly bash party leadership.

But seeking a clean break from the former president’s damaged reputation, right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch has now abandoned ship. Let’s hope his Fox News staff gets the memo.

Sadly, Trump has many odious grifters who won’t leave, making his political obituary premature — at least until Republican voters reject his brand.

Now would be a perfect time to start.

A.J Kaufman is a correspondent for several U.S. newspapers and magazines from Minnesota and Ohio to Tennessee and Virginia. He taught school and served as a military historian before beginning his journalism career in 2006. The author of three books, he is also a frequent guest on radio programs and contributes to Israel National News and The Lid.