On Friday, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to officially enter the 2024 presidential race (he then formally announced yesterday). This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to do likewise. These two political heavyweights now join a growing Republican field that includes former President Donald Trump, former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and political commentator Larry Elder.
Other potential candidates include former Vice President Mike Pence, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. If I were a gambling man, I would bet that Pence and Christie will get in and Sununu and Noem will stay out. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton have already taken a pass.
Now that we have identified the prospective field, let’s move on to the handicapping…
Of the potential candidates still on the sidelines, I would strongly advise that they stay there with the possible exception of Mike Pence, who seems to be leaning heavily towards running. Never before in American history has a former vice president challenged the former president under whom he served, so a Trump vs. Pence matchup could provide some real political theater. That being said, there are too many Trump supporters who will never forgive Pence for certifying the 2020 election results for him to claim the nomination.
Likewise, the two Chris’s – Sununu and Christie – have little to no chance of becoming the Republican standard bearer in 2024. Sununu is too socially moderate for GOP primary voters and, based on his decision not to run for the U.S. Senate in 2022 when he was considered a shoo-in, I doubt that he has the stomach for a long and potentially bruising nomination fight. Better to remain by the fireside in the Granite State where he is well-liked and widely respected.
As for Chris Christie, his dismal showing in 2016 (when he was a once-popular sitting governor), doesn’t bode well for him this time around. He’s also a bit of a political chameleon. Kristi Noem, on the other hand, has a solid conservative record, but lacks the national name recognition that is so critical at this stage of the game, especially when it comes to fundraising.
Of the announced contenders, Larry Elder is likeable and well-meaning, but he is kidding himself if he thinks there is a strong demand for his candidacy. The same goes for Asa Hutchinson, an even-tempered (some would say bland) career politician who is trying to position himself as a statesmanlike alternative to Donald Trump. Vivek Ramaswamy brings some unique perspectives to the race, but I don’t see him lasting past Iowa and New Hampshire. However, he is sure to keep the other candidates on their toes on the debate stage, which is a good thing.
So, that leaves Trump, DeSantis, Haley, and Scott. If I had my druthers, I would like to see a DeSantis-Scott ticket in 2024 because I think it is both conservative and electable, which to me are the two most important criteria. I could also get behind a DeSantis-Haley ticket or a Scott-Cotton ticket (I like Tom Cotton a lot) without reservation. Mike Pompeo would also bring some gravitas as a running mate for any of the aforementioned frontrunners. That being said, the primary race is still Trump’s to lose.
The $64,000 question (yes, I just used a TV game show reference from the 1950s) is whether President Trump can win the general election. As a fan of his policies – which were the best we’ve seen or experienced since Ronald Reagan – and a critic of his often-petulant behavior, I have my doubts. After all, polls repeatedly show that almost 50% of prospective voters say that they would never vote for him under any circumstances. That means that Mr. Trump has a very, very small margin for error. He would have to “run the table” as he did in 2016, winning every battleground state by a whisker.
My personal opinion is that President Trump has become such a polarizing figure that if he got the nomination, his path to the White House would pose a virtual labyrinth of hurdles… legal and otherwise. Could he still pull off a razor-thin victory over a babbling and bumbling Joe Biden or whomever the Democrats nominate? Sure, nothing’s impossible. But again, I think America is looking for fresher faces than an 82-year-old Biden versus a 78-year-old Trump in a 2020 redux.
That is why I am supporting Gov. DeSantis, who has a lot of Trump’s positives when it comes to policies… and few if any of his negatives. And like I said previously, Tim Scott is a very viable GOP option because of his compelling personal story, his warm demeanor, and his optimistic message.
Now, as they say at the Daytona 500 in February and at the Indianapolis 500 every Memorial Day weekend, “Gentlemen (and Ladies)… start your engines!”