In the autopsy of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency, one of the more cringe-worthy anecdotes was the moment her campaign advisors tried to make a compelling case for her presidential run. What was she doing this for? What was driving her to seek the highest office in the land? Why did she want to lead the free world?
The slogan that came back from her wizened brain trust: “It’s her turn.”
To which the only proper response is: “Yikes. That’s really the best you could do?”
We all know how the Clinton horror show ended, but in that story of hilarious Democrat hubris lies a valuable lesson for Republicans: Just because someone seems like they are the de facto nominee, doesn’t make it so. And more importantly, selecting an “it’s-their-turn” nominee can lead to a flawed and failed candidacy.
Republicans ignore this lesson at their peril, particularly those who mimic Hillary Clinton’s acolytes and proclaim that former President Donald Trump is the nominee by default — that it’s “his turn.” It’s not, and he hasn’t yet proven that he’s the one Republican voters want to be their standard-bearer in 2024.
More importantly, we have, in Gov. Ron DeSantis, a credible and serious challenger — one who is generating more momentum and enthusiasm by the day. If Trump wants to win the White House in 2024, he and those running his campaign should embrace the chance to square off against DeSantis.
But one can understand why they’re hesitant, why they’d like for GOP voters to believe that Trump has already run off with a primary win. They know that Americans will soon realize that DeSantis has delivered win after win, stood for conservative values and represents the vibrant future of the Republican Party — not a candidacy that’s stuck litigating the minutiae of the last election.
What DeSantis has achieved as governor demonstrates what happens when conservative policies and strong leadership come together. Florida has record-breaking job creation and incomes, and its population is growing continuously.
DeSantis has fought hard for parents, teachers and students and has stood up to the unions that, for far too long, have strangled any efforts to reform education. He’s been clear-eyed and strong, and he’s held his ground against various left-leaning efforts to undermine him and his agenda.
Best of all: Governor DeSantis is the candidate who can actually beat the Democrats’ “default” candidate, Joe Biden. Even diehard Democrats aren’t thrilled about Biden running for reelection.
Last year, three-quarters of Democrats surveyed by CNN said they wanted a different Democratic candidate in 2024. In the year since, the president’s fortunes with his own base haven’t improved much.
An early 2023 ABC News-Washington Post poll found that 58% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents wanted someone other than Joe Biden in the White House.
Those wishy-washy Democrats will be motivated to go to the polls by one thing and one thing only: the chance to beat Trump again. Meanwhile, if DeSantis is the Republican nominee, those voters will either be persuaded to back him — as many were in the Democratic-heavy county of Miami-Dade during the governor’s 2022 re-election bid — or they will simply stay home. These Democrats will either become DeSantis converts or remain unenthused Biden voters.
Either of those potential outcomes is good for the GOP. The one that isn’t: an energized Democratic base driven by a third Donald Trump candidacy. Remember, that’s the same movement that beat Trump in 2020 and trounced his hand-picked candidates in 2022.
But all of this can be decided by a spirited and robust Republican primary contest. Out of that process will emerge the best candidate for the job — and more importantly, someone who did the hard work of making the case for their candidacy. It will be someone whom Republican primary voters know has earned their vote — and earned their respect by working for it.
If the GOP wants to take back the White House in 2024, we can’t select a nominee who, like Hillary Clinton, assumes that it’s “their turn.” Unlike Trump, DeSantis hasn’t declared himself the “default” or “inevitable” choice.
The governor will do what’s necessary to persuade the GOP electorate. He’ll show them his record in Florida, share his vision for the country, and explain the values that have driven his military service and his public service.
He won’t assume it; he’ll earn it.
So let’s cease with all the “de facto candidate” talk. If Republicans want an America that wins again, we have to put forth candidates who are winners.
That starts with the primary, and it should be as tough and serious as we hope our nominee is. And given his credibility, record, and convictions, DeSantis is going to give the media-declared “default” nominee a run for his money.
Which is good, because in American politics, you aren’t handed “your turn.” You earn it — which is exactly what Ron DeSantis is about to do.
Rep. Thomas Massie is an American politician, entrepreneur, and engineer who represents Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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