Donald Trump is barely a Republican. He shares few of the traditional GOP tenets and barely pays lip service to others. His MAGA cult looks only to him for their marching orders. He expects and accepts the fealty of all Republicans, though. And despite the devastating losses and lackluster performances of the party in 2018, 2020, and 2022 under his regime, he is still the No. 1 Republican. So … who is No. 2?

A strong case could be made that the most important and influential voices in the party are those of the megadonors, the Kochs, Adelsons, Peter Thiel, Kenneth Griffin, et al. But they prefer that their vast influence be downplayed publicly. They want their voices heard but not their faces seen. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch should also be mentioned as an influencer and donor of the platforms (FOX News, FOX Business, the WSJ) that broadcast conservative viewpoints with seldom a discouraging word being raised by its hosts, anchors, or editors. We can forget the “Masked Singers” while looking for the true No. 2. What? Oh, I didn’t forget Harlan Crow. But buying a sitting Supreme Court Justice is about corruption, not partisan politics.

If a political party holds the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, then the No. 2 may be the Vice-President, the Senate Majority Leader, or the Speaker of the House. The GOP in 2023 only has one of those, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy can hardly be considered as even in the top 10, much less No. 2. Beyond him, there are powerful and highly visible US Senators and state governors who are legends in their own minds and would love to be considered for the position. Folks like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Rick Scott, Asa Hutchinson, Greg Abbott, and even Sarah Huckabee Sanders come to mind. But in today’s world, it is anger, hate, xenophobia, and authoritarianism that drives the Republican train. There are two Republicans that check all those boxes and more – gun rights, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+, and immigration hardlines.

Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Ron DeSantis, the GOP governor of Florida, are both in the news practically every day. Greene is the loud one, a woman who never met a conspiracy theory she didn’t like or a “lib” she didn’t want to own. A passionate devotee of Donald Trump, she treats almost everyone else with disdain. She has screamed at a school shooting survivor, her President giving the State of the Union address, New Yorkers gathered to watch an ex-President in police custody, any number of witnesses testifying in Congressional hearings, and even fellow MAGATS such as Lauren Boebert. She is adored by the Radical Right.

Ron Desantis is completely different. He does not have anywhere near the charisma of a Donald Trump. He is not a compelling public speaker, and even in private comes across as somewhat wooden and standoffish, if numerous reports are to be believed. What DeSantis has done is to squeak into the governorship of an already red state and show what a conservative authoritarian can accomplish with a compliant legislature backing his every move. He has pushed the state into every aspect of its citizens’ lives, from medical decisions to educational standards; from voting suppression to law enforcement expansion into areas other than actual criminality. He has wiped out the notion of government transparency and is even attempting to exert state control over businesses through intimidation and legislation. He is also adored by the Radical Right, which never went along with this crazy idea of a democratic republic, this insane notion that people should govern themselves.

So, which is No. 2? I would say at the moment it is the “gentlelady from Georgia”. Without Donald Trump behind her, she would already be long gone. But he is behind her, and 2024 is their make-or-break moment. She would need to either be a Senator or a governor if Trump flames out, and there is no chance of that happening before the elections. She might be No. 2 right now – but her future in politics is not that assured.

DeSantis is younger and may even decide to sit out the 2024 race. He stands a chance of fading away after that, as he can only be the Florida governor until 2026, two years before the next Presidential cycle. He will never have the outgoing bluster and personality to inflame huge rally crowds, but he is popular with the billionaires around the country. Money talks, especially in politics. But at the moment it is MTG in the “place” position.

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