According to Jolly, “the smartest thing Trump could do is declare right now.”
That, he said, could be “the catalyzing moment that squeezes everybody else” out of the Republican field by forcing potential contenders like DeSantis to either defend Trump more aggressively or distance themselves from the former president’s legal woes.
But if Trump cleared the decks to gear up for a third presidential bid by stoking anti-government tension over his legal difficulties, Jolly added, he would be creating “one of the most dangerous moments I think our country could face.”
The silent treatment
Some might say the politically savvy course of action for Republicans would be to choose the fourth option from the menu above: Say nothing.
That’s what Charlie Dent, a former member of Congress from Pennsylvania, suggested his fellow Republicans ought to have done as the news emerged that federal agents had searched Trump’s home.
“At a time like this, my advice to G.O.P. members would be to show restraint and be circumspect in their public comments,” said Dent, who retired in 2018 rather than face re-election after becoming one of the more reliable critics of Trump’s conduct as president.
“With Trump,” Dent added, “there’s always more to the story — and it’s usually not very good.”
As the week wore on, that advice appeared increasingly sound.