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The DeSantis Bunker Mentality

Party operatives and consultants believe that Wednesday’s debate will be crucial for Ron DeSantis to demonstrate his viability as the best Trump challenger before someone like Nikki Haley takes up the mantle.
Party operatives and consultants believe that Wednesday’s debate will be crucial for Ron DeSantis to demonstrate his viability as the best Trump challenger before someone like Nikki Haley takes up the mantle. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
September 26, 2023

There’s a growing sense of fatigue among Republican operatives these days, no matter which candidate they support—a frustration with the traditional pageantry of a G.O.P. primary that, despite being an open race this year, doesn’t appear to be competitive at all. Trump, after all, is running as the incumbent, and is polling like one, too. 

Nevertheless, when I talk to allies of Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, and all the rest, they invariable encourage patience: there’s still months to go before Iowa, they insist, and all they really need is some time to get in front of more voters and make their case. On Wednesday night, of course, Trump’s rivals will get their next big opportunity: A second G.O.P. presidential primary debate without the frontrunner on stage.