Scot and I attended today’s political event “The Gathering” hosted by WSB’s Erick Erickson. It’s an impressive event, bringing to Atlanta six Republican Presidential candidates, Governor Kemp, and a host of other Republican/Conservative luminaries.
Erick kicked off the event by reminding folks that Donald Trump was not invited and joked that, given the events of the past week, it ended up being for Trump’s own good since the Sheriff might have paid him a visit. Oof.
Nevertheless, talk of Trump did not dominate Day 1. Erickson made a point of saying he would be asking the Presidential candidates, and other guests that he was interviewing, about issues of importance to voters. This made for an interesting day and one that provided me with hope for the future of the conservative movement.
I missed Erick’s chat with former Vice President Mike Pence (I had to jump on a work related conference call), but I was in the room when South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and former S.C. Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke. All were received enthusiastically, and had plenty to say that excited the packed room.
I’m a huge fan of Tim Scott. I love his enthusiasm, his “happy warrior” ethic, and his focus on a hopeful future for everyone. If the GOP Primary were held today, I’d be voting for Tim Scott. Scott delivered a strong performance today. If we lived in a rational world, he’d be battling for the early polling lead. He might still get there, as I think his message will resonate well in early primary states, especially Iowa.
MAGA folks have relentlessly pushed the notion that Ron DeSantis is boring and weird. I’ve also had friends tell me they’ve heard him speak in person and were underwhelmed. However, that is not what I experienced today. DeSantis was sharp, energetic and funny. His policy chops were on full display today. I was impressed. If he can perform like this on a consistent basis, especially in next week’s GOP Primary Debate, he could make a race out of it.
Nikki Haley was impressive as well. She was the final speaker of the day, when sometimes the crowd is too worn out to be engaged. However, Haley kept the crowd’s attention and made a strong case for herself. As a friend pointed out to me afterwards, during her race for Governor, many counted her out, but she kept working hard and eventually won. It’s way too early to count her out of this race as well.
Many want to tell you that the race for the 2024 GOP nomination is over. Trump in fact said yesterday all other candidates should drop out and support him. I think it’s way to early for that sort of talk. Given that, Erick Erickson has provided you a great opportunity to hear from many of the GOP candidates for President. You can see for yourself by watching the replay:
Tomorrow former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy will address the crowd. I’ll offer my thoughts afterward.