Jim Jatras, a former US diplomat, foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership and lobbyist, voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. His views may not appeal to everyone and that’s exactly why we love him here at Washington Babylon. He’s smart, funny and well informed, and we’re not going to blacklist him just because his views — and good luck trying to categorize them — fall outside the official mainstream foreign policy consensus.
In this interview, I talked to him about whether Donald Trump is a shoo-in to win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. His views may surprise you.
There’s a widespread belief that the Republican nomination, which Trump clearly intends to run for, is his for the taking. A poll released early last month found that “46 percent of likely general election voters would back Trump being the party’s nominee—the highest level of support of any potential presidential candidate polled by more than 30 points. In second was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who had 13 percent support.”
Mind you, the survey was conducted by the John Bolton Super PAC, which alone calls it into question. Yet it’s in line with other recent polls which show that Trump is the clear frontrunner for the nomination and that its’ pretty much his for the asking.
Yet I’ve spoken to a number of longtime Trump supporters, and I’m not so sure that’s true. Trump may be the frontrunner, but multiple pitfalls await him. One politically engaged urban GOP voter who supported Trump in 2016 told me she had grown disillusioned with him during his presidency and, not being a fan of Joe Biden, sat out the 2020 election. There was zero chance, she told me, that she would vote for him in in the 2024 Republican primaries. “I wouldn’t vote for Biden, who’s clearly senile, and Kamala Harris stands for nothing,” she said. “But I couldn’t vote for Trump. For the last two years of his presidency, all he did was rant on Twitter. It was all noise and no policy.”
Another political observer told me that he believed Trump has a strong grip on the hardcore GOP base, but believed he had alienated a lot of important Republican voters, especially the dwindling but important segment of moderates — by GOP standards — who are an important constituency in urban areas in some key swing states. Republican Senator Rob Portman hasn’t totally broken with Trump on the issue but he’s been regularly calling for stricter gun laws, and criticizing white supremacy, since a mass shooting in Ohio on 2019.
While his analysis applies more to the general election that the primaries, it suggests Trump could be vulnerable to a challenge from a less rabidly right-wing Republican. It also suggests that if he does win the nomination, his changes of winning the presidency are far lower than they were in 2020. This person said:
Republicans are facing a demographic crunch and Trump, or any GOP presidential nominee, is facing a key problem: how do Republicans out together a majority? The traditional Republican Party has been severed by Trump. It’s definitely not my grandfathers’s GOP. In urban areas in states like Ohio a lot of Republicans are closer to Democratic positions than Republican ones. Trump’s skepticism about vaccines and gun control, for example, is divisive and doesn’t play well with urban Republicans. In rural areas, people own guns for a lot of reasons and having one is a tradition. Voters in those areas oppose gun control. But in states like Ohio, crime and violence are huge problems and a lot of Republicans think gun control is a good idea. They’re closer to Democrats on that and other issues and those who are tired of Trump may vote for the Democratic nominee.
I spoke to Jatras recently and he raised some similar problems for Trump and added some additional ones. “A lot of Republican voters love that he tells the political establishment to go suck it,” he said. “But as president, how much was behind all that talk? Not much.”
Click below for our full interview.