Since Fox News moderators Bret Baier and Martha McCallum have already said they plan on asking a lot of Trump-related questions at the first Republican primary debate this week, there’s something that all the non-Trump candidates need to know: The correct answers aren’t complicated.
But if any of the lower-tier contenders — which is to say, all of them, save Ron DeSantis — are looking for a reason to disqualify themselves now, there are plenty of wrong answers to offer instead. Let’s take them one by one.
Hypothetical Question 1: Do you believe that the former president is potentially guilty of criminal conduct with regard to any of the four indictments he currently faces?
Disqualifying answer: “The president is innocent until proven guilty, and he deserves his day in court.” Or: “Trump was a great president, and I’m thankful for the things he accomplished in office. At the same time, we need to move on from the constant drama and baggage that he brings to the table.”
Any answer that fails to reject the very legitimacy of the left’s pursuit of Trump is a flop. That’s not to say anyone needs to defend or excuse his conduct. The point is that up until Trump, the same conduct by anyone else has never been deemed criminal, which is to say nothing of it being worthy of prosecution with the full weight of the Justice Department. This isn’t about Trump or due process. It’s about the left’s growing belief that political differences should be settled not with elections but by physical force.
Hypothetical Question 2: Do you believe the 2020 election was stolen, and if not, will you say tonight that you accept the result of that election and will do the same in 2024?
Disqualifying answer: “The former president is wrong. The 2020 election was not stolen, and his attempts to overturn it were dangerous to our democracy.” Or: “Joe Biden is the president, and there were problems with that election, but we need to look to the future.”
Accepting the premise of this ever-so-tired but still important question is a failure. If you’re willing to answer, “Was the 2020 election stolen?” with a yes or no answer, just stay home. You might as well throw in whether you still beat your wife.
The fact is that the election was fixed in favor of Democrats, from the left’s ballot rigging, to the intelligence community’s information meddling, to the national media’s Covid hyping. And who can forget the race war instigating? Ah, memories. If acknowledging that reality is to undermine the 2020 election’s authenticity, so be it.
There is no moving on. It happened. It was a great injustice and a disgrace. The people still angry about it don’t deserve to be told that it’s time to “move on.” They will move on when there is accountability. If that’s not part of a candidate’s answer, he can go ahead and save his donors some money.
Hypothetical Question 3: During former president Trump’s term, he oversaw his party’s loss of control of the House, the Senate, and then the presidency. Some within the GOP also fault him for a mediocre midterm performance in 2022 and thereby doubt he can succeed in the general. Is Donald Trump a liability to the party?
Disqualifying answer: [Insert anything here outside of, “I don’t care who thinks he’s a liability. We’re here to choose a nominee. I want it to be me. It should be me. And if it’s not, I will walk through fire and crawl over shattered glass to support who the voters decide is best.”]
If you want to share your personal thoughts and reflections on political strategy and weigh in on whether voters are shortsighted for their choices, write a book and go on a speaking tour. That’s more or less what Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson are doing, and that’s why neither of them will be the nominee.
Regardless of whether the non-Trump candidates answer these questions with perfect precision, almost all of them will have to drop out between now and next summer. Until then, they can at least get this very simple thing right.