I was planning to put this off – former President Donald Trump’s declaration of candidacy for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination being insufficient incentive for me to dive back into the pandemonium of presidential politics – but former U.S. UN Amb. and SC Gov. Nikki Haley’s recent declaration of her candidacy for Republican Party’s 2024 Presidential nomination and the likelihood that other Republican hopefuls will soon join her means: It’s that time again.
As all who have read these pages for a while are aware, I consider the winning of general elections to be about matchups – each candidate’s strengths pitted against the other candidate’s weaknesses – but the parties’ nominating processes to be about lanes. In U.S. presidential politics, I would offer that one should picture a five-lane highway: the far-left lane, occupied today for purposes of reference by U.S.VT Sen. Bernie Sanders; the center-left lane, occupied by President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton; the center lane, occupied by independent and moderate voters but without a politician occupant; the center-right lane, occupied by former President George H.W. Bush (and interestingly, now shared by former President Ronald Reagan and former U.S. AZ Sen. John McCain, who during their lifetimes were considered to drive in the far right lane); and the far right lane, now occupied by Mr. Trump. A maxim which all except avid Progressives and ardent MAGAs understand: to win a presidential general election, a Democrat must have sufficient presence in the far-left lane to win the party’s nomination without veering so far left that s/he can’t move back toward the center lane to win the decisive percentage of independent and moderate swing state swing voters who decide the general election, while the Republican must have sufficient presence in the far-right lane to win the party’s nomination without veering so far right that s/he can’t move back toward the center lane to win the decisive percentage of the same swing voter segment. A candidate’s challenge is further complicated by how many other candidates for his/her party’s nomination seek to run in the same lane s/he chooses.
It appears – despite the sage counsel I dispensed in these pages not long ago 😉 – that Mr. Biden does intend to seek another term; but let’s set the Democrats and the political highway’s two left lanes aside for the present, and consider the right two lanes.
Thus far, pundits have identified the following individuals in addition to Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley as among potential contenders for the Republican nomination, listed in alphabetical order: TX Gov. Greg Abbott; former NJ Gov. Chris Christie; U.S. TX Sen. Ted Cruz; FL Gov. Ron DeSantis; former MD Gov. Larry Hogan; former AR Gov. Asa Hutchinson; SD Gov. Kristi Noem; former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence; former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; U.S. SC Sen. Tim Scott; NH Gov. Chris Sununu; VA Gov. Glenn Youngkin; and – not in alphabetical order, given her special status – former U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney. They, as well as any other aspirants for the Republican nomination, drive in one of the two lanes:
In the far-right lane are Mr. Trump and those that have closely associated themselves with the MAGA movement who, if they declare for the Republican nomination, would in effect be seeking to replace Mr. Trump as its leader: Messrs. Abbott, Cruz, DeSantis, Pence, Pompeo, and Ms. Noem. (In fairness, although I consider MAGAism a threat to democracy, I do not consider Mr. Pence himself such a threat. Although I disagree with his domestic agenda and deplore his obsequiousness as Vice President, I am confident that if reasonable evidence showed that he had lost an election, he would accept the result. I have significant doubts in that regard about Mr. Cruz, and don’t know enough to venture an opinion about the rest.)
In the center-right lane are those who have managed to maintain a perception of distance from Mr. Trump and MAGAism: Mses. Haley and Cheney, and Messrs. Christie, Hogan, Hutchinson, Scott, Sununu, and Youngkin. It is no coincidence that Messrs. Hogan, Hutchinson, Sununu, and Youngkin are governors who have been outside Mr. Trump’s maelstrom, while Mr. Scott, the only black Republican Senator, has been able to stake out his own niche. Ms. Haley and Mr. Christie, although past advisors to Mr. Trump, have to some extent been able to disassociate themselves from him. Ms. Cheney’s position needs no elaboration for anyone who hasn’t spent the last two years in a cave in Nome.
I have seen any number of professional political operatives opine that given Mr. Trump’s estimated core 30% support among Republicans, he is the overwhelming favorite to win the party’s nomination and that a large field will almost assure his victory. I have seen these prognosticators scoff at Ms. Haley’s chances, and suggest that the race will quickly become a two-candidate affair between Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis.
They’re professionals and I’m just a retired old blogger, but I see other potential scenarios that I assume at least some of these GOP hopefuls are banking on. The rest in Part II.
One thought on “Republican 2024 Presidential Politics: First Inclinations: Part I”
I agree with it boiling down to Trump vs DeSantis for the fascists. My hope is that there is enough disatisfaction with Trump’s disregard for truth, democracy and the rule of law among them that DeSantis begins to pull away. Then Trump, being the narcissist he is, adopts a scorch earth policy and breaks off to form his own party. That should do him in as well as the fascists.