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DeSantis Will Defeat Trump
Here's the latest "must read" political take from my friend Anton Wahlman.
Today, with his permission, I’m happy to offer up the latest thoughts from my friend Anton Wahlman, whose takes I don’t always agree with — but are always worth considering.
Anton is a brilliant analyst and has, many times in the past, help me see “blind spots” in analysis I’ve performed, whether it be of politics, macro or individual companies. His Substack, Heresy And Liberty, is an absolute must-subscribe. While his opinions sometimes seem far off the beaten path, his accuracy often surprises me — and his “fringe” analysis is exactly why I love supporting him — to think and consider angles we normally wouldn’t.
Anton is a former sell side analyst with UBS, Needham and ThinkEquity and now spends his days writing mostly about automobiles and other technology products.
Former President Trump international trade advisor Peter Navarro published an article called “Handicapping the Trump-DeSantis faceoff” and his conclusion is that DeSantis is an inferior candidate who will lose the Republican primary to Trump:
The purpose of this article is to dissect Navarro’s arguments. Spoiler alert: I conclude that Navarro is wrong on essentially all of his points: Trump will lose the Republican primary to DeSantis, especially if Trump refuses to debate.
Navarro starts out by mentioning the polls. First, the fact that Trump leads DeSantis in the Republican primary. No surprise here, but by that argument every Presidential race is automatically decided a year in advance and there would be no need to have a contest. The point of a primary is to have the candidates debate, because it is a contest.
The other kind of poll is how each candidate would do against the Democrat candidate, which is President Biden for now. There, the numbers are close enough, although the slight but perhaps important advantage goes to DeSantis at this point. It is a separate issue that I think there is a high probability that Biden will not be on the Democrat ticket in November 2024, and may not even complete his first term, potentially resigning already before the end of 2023. More about that later in this article.
Navarro’s next point is that DeSantis has supporters who in turn support or have supported a variety of issues that he therefore want to make people believe that DeSantis holds. Somehow, according to Navrro’s implication, DeSantis loves illegal aliens and Chinese communism. I think you see how absurd this line of reasoning is. A politician cannot be responsible for every single viewpoint of his supporters. You can always find someone among your supporters who has said something you disagree with.
However, the degree of absurdity in that reasoning pales in comparison to Navarro bringing up George Soros. He claims that DeSantis has the “full-throated support” of Soros. Leaving aside the aforementioned fact that no politician -- DeSantis or otherwise -- could be responsible for who supports him, the idea that Soros would support DeSantis is absurd from the standpoint that they disagree about just about everything. Navarro’s argument therefore makes no logical sense what-so-ever. It is wrong factually as well as logically.
Navarro then moves into a far more interesting area: What Trump did or didn’t to with respect to the 2020 virus paranoia, and how it compares with DeSantis. This is an important argument. Unfortunately for Navarro, he gets his reasoning all wrong, boomeraging into and advantage for DeSantis, not Trump. Let me explain.
Navarro writes that Trump got the virus paranoia wrong because his key advisors on this issue, most notably Dr Fauci and Dr Brix, lied to Trump about the virus and the vaccines. As a result, Trump went along with far too many virus restrictions and the fast-tracking of the vaccine approvals, which Navarro admits were mistakes.
Yes, everyone knows that Dr Fauci and the others around him lied about all of this. We knew this already in March 2020, however. The question is: Why didn’t Trump know it in March 2020?
One of the problems with Trump is that he reads very little research and he doesn’t read what the smartest people write. For all of Trump’s publishing on Twitter 2015-2020, he didn’t read very much on Twitter, or anything at all from any sources. The evidence was all there: Dr Fauci and Dr Brix were bad apples who were bound to be wrong about everything. But Trump didn’t figure this out, because he doesn’t read and doesn’t talk to the right people. Some exceptions aside, Trump’s choice of advisors was notoriously bad.
This is in fact Trump’s biggest fault, and it’s not something that is easily cured over time: Trump simply doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to do research and learn who are coming up with the best data and the best analysis. That is why he was so easily snookered by Dr Fauci and Dr Brix. In case it’s unclear, Dr Brix admitted in her book that her job basically consisted of manipulating Trump, and that it worked amazingly well because Trump was so easily manipulated: He was unable to read alternative data sources.
It was so obvious to everyone outside Trump’s circle that this was happening, but Trump was spellbound by his germaphobic groupthink together with Dr Fauci and Dr Brix. In March 2020, they launched the most destructive policy in US history: “15 days to slow the spread” which effectively lasted, to some degree, three years.
Florida Governor DeSantis is not innocent in the 2020 lockdown/vaccine drama either. He too was initially caught up in the frenzy to issue government edicts regarding shutdowns and so forth. Here is the difference between Trump and DeSantis, however: Unlike Trump, DeSantis relatively quickly talked to the right people and reversed course. DeSantis studied the research and got rid of the Surgeon General, for example, replacing him with someone who had sound knowledge. Florida ditched the restrictions and opened up 100%, despite Trump’s protests. Yes, we have the receipts, and I believe DeSantis will soon show them.
Also unlike Trump, DeSantis doesn’t go around boasting about his initial shutdowns and advocacy of the vaccines. Trump does, to this day, brag about the vaccines. That’s the difference between admitting your mistakes, and clinging to proven errors just because you don’t want or have the guts to admit that you were 100% wrong.
Trump now says that he will hold Dr Fauci and Dr Brix accountable. Well, why didn’t he hold them accountable in 2020? Trump had cooled on them shortly before the November 2020 election. There was time to hold them accountable then. As with most things Trump -- “Drain the swamp” and “Build the wall” -- it is all talk and no action. File this in the pile of things Trump said he would do during his first term, didn’t do, but now says he will do if he’s elected again. It just isn’t credible.
The Debates: Will Trump even dare to debate?
Whatever bluster between DeSantis and Trump that will be said and written from their own remote locations, none of it will matter nearly as much as the Republican primary debates. That is where the primary voters will get the best sense of the quality of the arguments that these candidates will have to put on direct display against each other.
There is now talk that Trump may not even want to debate DeSantis. If that remains true, and Trump refuses to debate DeSantis forever, then I think that it will backfire hard on Trump. It is the kind of move Biden is making against Robert Kennedy Jr right now: Refuse to debate. Imagine what Trump would say if he entered the race for the first time in 2015 and the front-runner refused to debate. It is something only an unqualified coward would do.
The Republican primary voters would punish Trump hard if he refuses to debate. I think Trump would quickly fall to his “minimum base no matter what’ in the Republican primary, perhaps in the 20%-25% range at best. At that point, Trump is not going to win the nomination. Navarro does not mention Trump’s debate intention in his article. Perhaps it is because he does not know what Trump will do, or perhaps he knows that Trump intends to refuse the debates, but Navarro can’t make himself to defend such a cowardly position.
Why I think Biden won’t be on the ticket in November 2024
This is the point where I should also discuss why I think Biden will soon announce his retirement, and what that means for the Trump-DeSantis race. Let’s start with Biden’s resignation.
One can smell the panic among Democrats, regarding Biden’s fitness for office. The whole situation is an embarrassment, a form of elder abuse. President Biden is so clearly unfit for the job. Democrats all agree, when they are away from the cameras.
Now they are merely debating the terms of his retirement. Most importantly, who will replace him, and I don’t mean the obvious Vice President. She is also unfit for office, so who will be really pulling the strings if Biden steps down? Obama? Gavin Newsom? The Clintons? The Deep State in its anonymity?
But back to Biden for a moment: Why would he have to step down already in 2023, not merely announce his retirement after the 2024 election? The Chinese bribery scandal, that’s why. The fact that Biden’s family members, even his grandkids who could not possibly have provided legitimate services in exchange for this money, received millions of dollars from China for no reason other than the apparent one, is the biggest bribery scandal in US history. This will become an issue in the 2024 general election, and Biden’s enemies inside The Democrat Party will use it against him already in 2023 to get him to step down before the 2024 primary.
If I am right and Biden steps down early, his replacement will be someone who is younger or at a minimum not as clearly unfit for office, ideology aside. How will that impact the Trump-DeSantis race? As poorly as Trump would fare against Biden (again!), Trump would fare even more poorly against a younger and less senile Democrat. Trump would likely be the oldest candidate in 2024, if Biden steps down, and voters would be reminded that Trump is both old and has the personality issue that many swing voters try to avoid.
As a result, if Biden steps down, more Republicans will be drawn to a younger candidate who could stand up to Newsom, Harris or Kennedy, for example. This may or may not be DeSantis, but no matter who it would be, such a development would work against Trump.
Conclusion: No Trump or Biden on the ticket in November 2024
The next six months have the distinct potential for yielding the biggest surprises of the 2024 race, in that the two leading candidates may effectively be out of it. In the case of Biden, it would be a more radical surprise to most people (not me!) because it would be so dramatically unprecedented.
In the case of Trump, it wouldn’t really be that hard to understand. I have laid out the arguments in this article as to why DeSantis defeating Trump in the primary could effectively happen sooner than the 2024 primary schedule: If Trump refuses to debate, it’s all over for Trump.
After the Biden resignation, DeSantis can then go on to debate Gavin Newsom in the Fall of 2024.
PS. I wrote and published this article approximately 6-12 hours before the anticipated DeSantis campaign launch on Twitter, that is scheduled for 6pm on Wednesday May 24.
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