Former Republican Rising Stars Like Ben Sasse, Nikki Haley Could Have Been Contenders Before Donald Trump

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News that Ben Sasse would likely be leaving the U.S. Senate to become president of the University of Florida has aroused varied commentary—most of it critical of Sasse. But one take has probably been underrated—Sasse’s exodus is merely the latest example of how Trump has vanquished an entire generation of once-promising young conservative stars from politics.

Think about it. When Donald Trump came down that escalator in 2015, the Republican Party was about to field what was then seen as an impressive and diverse array of future young conservative stars. The names included Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Sen. Ted Cruz. (There was also Rand Paul and Chris Christie, among others—though they fall just outside the Gen-X category.) While I might not compare them to the quarterback class of 1983 (​​John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan…

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