- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Is this the infancy of a presidential campaign? Weekly Standard Editor-at-large and former Fox News contributor Bill Kristol was announced to appear at the Politics and Eggs Forum in New Hampshire last week, a traditional pilgrimage for potential candidates vying to participate int he first in the nation primary held every four years in the granite state. 

The news was revealed by former talk radio host Michael Graham

On Wednesday, America’s most prominent #NeverTrumper, Bill Kristol, will be in New Hampshire, home of the “First In the Nation” primary, speaking at a must-show event for potential presidential contenders.

The “Politics and Eggs” forum, hosted by the New England Council and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, has featured nearly every major presidential contender over the past 20 years, including Donald Trump during the 2016 cycle—twice. Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)—a potential GOP challenger to Trump in his own right— is scheduled to appear at the same breakfast event on Friday, March 16th, two days after Kristol.

The byline in noteworthy because Graham used to work for Media DC, The Weekly Standard’s parent company, and he has interviewed Kristol for the magazines podcast multiple times. (Full disclosure, I also worked at The Weekly Standard for a brief time in early 2017.) 

The event was postponed due to an impending snow storm, but Kristol had fun with the public speculation about his presidential ambitions by tweeting his support for the New Hampshire primary process: 



But the scheduled appearance in New Hampshire wasn’t the only indication last week that Kristol might have serious designs on a presidential run. He’s also heading to Iowa. The Gazette in Cedar Rapids announced Kristol will be speaking there later this month: 

Kristol, perhaps the country’s most prominent #NeverTrump conservative, is scheduled to discuss “American Politics in the Age of Trump” at 7 p.m. March 28 in Youngker Hall’s Kimmel Theatre at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. The lecture, part of Cornell College’s Roe Howard Freedom Lecture series, is free and open to the public.

Kristol, who famously predicted that President Trump would not win the Republican nomination or the Presidency, was so opposed to Trump’s candidacy that he became the face of the #NeverTrump movement and has continued in that role since his predictions were proven to be quite inaccurate on election day. 

So is this an actual run for president? Is Kristol really dipping his toe in the presidential waters? In the era of Trump it’s a fool’s errand to predict pretty much anything in American politics, but it’s probably safe to say that Kristol’s very public treks to Iowa and New Hampshire have more to do with the message rather than the messenger. 

In August, Kristol told the New York Times (because what good conservative journalist doesn’t regularly give good sound bytes to our friends at the New York Times rather than their own, conservative publication) that he begun informal conversations about creating a “Committee Not to Renominate the President” to advance the prospects of a candidate who could challenge Trump for the GOP nomination in 2020. 

Kristol has been promoting the anti-Trump statements and efforts of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) via Twitter and via his publication in the hopes that one of them (or any other anti-Trump senator) might step up and attempt to wrestle the GOP from the clutches of the president. 

Flake has recently flirted with the idea of throwing his hat into the ring, but since he has concluded that he could not win his own reelection for Senate in Arizona, it seems like the longest of shots that he could successfully challenge the sitting president in states where he has low name recognition and now campaign structure. 

If Kristol can’t successfully promote a viable candidate, perhaps he will do what he could not convince fellow #NeverTrump commentator David French to do in 2016. Perhaps he will run. 

But it’s more likely that Kristol is focusing on advancing his passionate opposition to Trump, his policies and his demeanor in the hopes that by illustrating that a strong anti-Trump movement in the Republican grass roots (and party establishment) in New Hampshire and Iowa would make a long-shot bid to upend Trump in the 2020 primaries not so long at all. 

Either way, Kristol’s continued political action will certainly make it that much more challenging for the reporters who still work for The Weekly Standard and attempt to cover the Trump Administration in a fair and balanced way. As long as the highest-profile figure on the publication’s masthead continues his active campaigning against the White House, it will make it that much harder for these journalists (and their journal) to be seen as anything but tools to advance Kristol’s political ambitions. 

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