The Moscow Primary
While Virginia prepares for next year’s battle for control of the state legislature, much of the rest of America’s political watchers will turn their eyes to the 2024 presidential election.
On the Republican side, the talk is all about two people: Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Before any vote is cast, however, we will see what’s been called “the invisible primary.” This usually means the efforts of candidates to win over major party contributors and elected officials.
Trump basically ignored the invisible primary in 2016. I suspect he won’t this time because his strongest source of support will clearly be part of it – the Kremlin. While Vladimir Putin’s office isn’t your typical location for a smoke-filled room, he will have say in the 2024 Republican nominee.
In 2016, Putin’s only real friend in the GOP was Trump himself. Six years later, it’s a different story. From Marjorie Taylor-Greene to KGBob, numerous Republicans inside and outside Congress are either openly supporting the Kremlin or echoing its talking points. Even Rep.-elect Jen Kiggans refused to support additional aid to Ukraine.
It was Trump who opened the door for Putin to turn the Republicans to his bidding. Nearly every alternative to Trump risks Putin losing his investment.
This brings us to Governor DeSantis.
Being in Tallahassee for the last four years has allowed the Governor to hide from most recent foreign policy discussions. However, he is on record as a congressman refusing to support efforts to hold Bashar Assad accountable for using chemical weapons on the Syrian people – a position that was dovish even compared to then-President Obama.
When Florida’s pension fund’s $300 million investment in Russian firms came to national attention, DeSantis did nothing to disinvest the funds. Regarding the war itself, DeSantis has saved his harshest criticism for the Ukrainian government’s refusal to entertain Elon Musk’s “peace” plan.
This doesn’t even take into account DeSantis’ cold shoulder towards those escaping from Russian-allied tyrannies in Latin America.
Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a very strong pro-Russia wing of the Republican Party these days. DeSantis has already courted it somewhat. How much more will he need to do to convince the Kremlin that it can move on from Trump?
That question could very well decide the first – and arguably most important – nomination contest: the Moscow primary.