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Analysis: Why this Republican is willing to get ‘crushed’ by Trump in 2024

Rep. Adam Kinzinger talks to reporters after a House Republican conference meeting in the US Capitol Visitors Center on May 12, 2021, in Washington.

CNN  — 

Adam Kinzinger had a very interesting answer when asked recently about the prospect of running against Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

“I would love it. I really would,” the Illinois Republican congressman told HuffPost. “Even if he crushed me, like in a primary, to be able to stand up and call out the garbage is just a necessary thing, regardless of who it is. … I think it’d be fun.”

Which is an odd definition of “fun”!

On one level, Kinzinger, who is retiring at the end of his sixth term, is just being honest.

As one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year – and one of two Republicans currently serving on the House committee investigating January 6 – Kinzinger is effectively persona non grata in his party at the moment.

So, he’s right that he would almost certainly be “crushed” in a primary against Trump.

In Kinzinger’s defense, it’s hard – at least at the moment – to see any candidate offering an alternative to Trumpism succeeding in a 2024 GOP primary against the former President. The only contenders who muster anything more than nominal support are the likes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is explicitly positioning himself in the Trump mold.

What’s Kinzinger really up to? Is he just a glutton for political punishment or is there a strategy to this?

I’d answer that in two ways:

1) Kinzinger may well believe that by shining a direct and bright light on Trump’s excesses and extremes, he will make it less likely that the former President can appeal to independents necessary to win in a general election. In that way, Kinzinger would be engaging in a sort-of political kamikaze mission.

2) Kinzinger believes that – at some point in the future – there will be a reckoning within the Republican Party directed at Trump. That, to borrow a cliche, the fever will break and voters will look around and ask: “Who stood against this madness?” And Kinzinger, having been beaten by Trump in a 2024 primary, could say he not only talked the talk, but walked the walk.

The Point: Kinzinger has no future in the current Republican Party. That may mean he has nothing left to lose.