The Republican Party has a number of qualified candidates
Purely Political, By James Buckley
If Donald Trump runs again in 2024, he’ll probably easily win the Republican nomination.
But, should he not decide to do so, there are a number of qualified candidates ready to step in. I know it’s early, but not too early if one is actually considering running, as the first step in the nearly four-year-long process of running for president of the United States begins mid-June in Rapid City, South Dakota — an unlikely place, to be sure. But the upcoming Republican confab will expose many of the faults and promises of the various candidates who’ll get their first real national audition in front of a crowd who will matter to them over the next couple years.
Here’s my list of candidates and what I think of their chances and probabilities:
DONALD J. TRUMP
If he runs and, perhaps more importantly, if he doesn’t get indicted by the special grand jury most recently convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., the nomination will be his.
There seems to be some animosity between the Trump family and Mr. Vance, whose father was secretary of state in the Carter administration. There also may be a little tit-for-tat politics involved, as the current Democrat governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is also under investigation.
In any case, barring any really embarrassing revelations, Mr. Trump can be the nominee if he wants to run. If he doesn’t declare himself as a candidate, he is sure to be the kingmaker, and whether he chooses to bless either Mr. DeSantis or Mr. Pompeo — his likely favorite candidates — whoever he gives the nod to, will be the 2024 Republican presidential candidate. Odds: Even money
RON DESANTIS, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA
Here’s a guy with some moxie, as he faced down the national press, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the medical establishment, along with most of the Democratic Party when he “prematurely” opened the state of Florida in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 threat.
He was pilloried by Joe Biden as a “Neanderthal” for not “following the science” (whatever that meant) in making the decision that was sure to end in many more deaths.
Gov. DeSantis was proven right, and he, along with Texas’ governor, Greg Abbott, showed the nation how to deal with the pandemic successfully and compassionately. He’s my guy, but the election is a long way out. Odds: 2-1
MIKE POMPEO, PRESIDENT TRUMP’S SECRETARY OF STATE
Mr. Pompeo has all the qualifications for president. He’s a former U.S. Army officer, a three-term congressman, former director of the CIA and secretary of state under President Trump. Should he be tapped by Trump as his candidate, he’ll go all the way to secure the nomination.
He too is an unlikely candidate, as he doesn’t have movie-star looks nor any charisma that I’m aware of.
What Mr. Pompeo does have is a serious and deep understanding of what makes America work, along with integrity that has sustained him during his long successful political career. He’d make an excellent president, and he’d make Republicans proud to be onboard his campaign train if he has one. After Mr. DeSantis, Pompeo would be my second choice. Odds: 3-1
TED CRUZ, U.S. SENATOR FROM TEXAS
During the 2016 presidential primary season, candidate Cruz said some pretty horrible things about the once and maybe future presidential candidate (and Trump threw them back in spades). But (and I guess this isn’t really that unusual) he managed to mend his fences and became a strong supporter of President Trump.
He’s a funny and very conservative man, but his facial hair, if he should choose to retain that look as a candidate, will probably work against him. His win over “Beto” O’Rourke in Texas wasn’t exactly a landslide, but it was convincing enough to warrant overlooking his faults and to reconsider his candidacy.
Sen. Cruz could be the one candidate to win enough primaries to help push someone else over the finish line if he fails to garner enough votes for himself. In any case, he’ll be fun to have around, as he’s both clever and likeable, two things not really apparent during his first go-round. Odds: 15-1
RAND PAUL, U.S. SENATOR FROM KENTUCKY
I’ve always like Sen. Paul, as I liked his dad, Ron Paul. What Rand Paul has going for him is a consistency of message and a seriousness of duty as the one-and-only more-or-less libertarian office holder. He is also a medical doctor.
Unless he comes up with a really dynamic campaign, however, he is an unlikely winner as the Republican candidate. Stranger things have happened, though; witness Mr. Trump’s victory. Odds: 20-1
MARCO RUBIO, U.S. SENATOR FROM FLORIDA
Mr. Rubio will probably be president … one day, but not this time around. He still looks too young (“Little Marco”) to be presidential material, though I’ve been looking back to the 1992 campaign when the really young-looking Bill Clinton beat the sitting president George (“Read my lips, no new taxes”) H.W. Bush. So youth isn’t necessarily a drawback, especially when the competition is much older.
It’s hard to believe that was nearly 30 years ago, and it’s even harder to believe that President Reagan’s quip took place nearly 40 years ago during the 1984 primary debate, when he responded to a question about his age (he was 73 at the time) that he wouldn’t “exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Walter Mondale was 46 years old at the time. Odds: 20-1
FORMER WISCONSIN GOV. SCOTT WALKER
He could run a formidable race. He is nearly 54 years old but looks and sounds much younger; judging by the age of the current leadership in both parties, there are many more races in his future and he, like Rubio, will probably be president one day. He’s also a likely vice-presidential pick, as the Midwest will be crucial for the Republican Party. Odds: 25-1
MIKE PENCE, FORMER INDIANA GOVERNOR AND VICE PRESIDENT
I really don’t believe he’ll run for president — unless, of course, he has the backing of former President Trump. His stern demeanor and conservative Christianity probably worked well in Indiana, but I don’t think it’s what voters are looking for this time around. He’d be 65 years old in 2024. Odds: 30-1
NIKKI HALEY, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR
Ms. Haley, born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, has a great story, having been born to Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India. She was named U.N. ambassador by President Trump and carried herself with great dignity and distinction. However, she left the administration early, and there is little love left between her and Mr. Trump at this point. At least, that’s the impression I get. Odds: 40-1
OUT OF THE MONEY
There are a number of dark horse candidates who are going to pop up and disappear or go on to make a mark during the 2024 runup to the nomination. We’d have to give them long odds from 50-1 to 300-1.
Among the strongest of them is South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, though her recent veto of a bill that would have restricted girls’ sports to biological females has put her on the wrong side of conservative Republicans. With that veto, she essentially erased any and all her conservative credentials, so she’s got a lot of ground to make up, and I believe she’ll now be looked upon with suspicion by potential voters and party insiders.
Another person who may consider having a go at the Republican nomination is entrepreneur billionaire Mark Cuban, principal owner of the Dallas Mavericks and longtime featured “Shark Tank” participant. He’s likeable, popular and wealthy enough to finance his own campaign.
He would have to declare as a Republican, however, and most of what he espouses is anathema to the party. If Joe Biden chooses not to run, Mr. Cuban will definitely run, as a Democrat.
And there’s Candace Owens, a conservative activist with a winning smile and a sharp intellect to go along with that smile. I’d love to see her in the campaign, and she is a possible — though with heavy odds against it — and personable vice-presidential pick.
JOHN KENNEDY, U.S. SENATOR FROM LOUISIANA
His down-home quips and homilies make him seem like just a good old Southern boy, but he graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University (when magna cum laude actually meant something, as now many colleges give them away like prizes in Cracker Jack boxes). He has a law degree from the University of Virginia and attended Oxford.
He’s referred to Democrats (which he was once) as the “well intended arugula and tofu crowd.” He’s also opined that he tries to see Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s point of view, “but I can’t seem to get my head that far up my ass.”
Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. representative, Hawaii, remains a Democrat, though I don’t know if she is still in good standing. Remember, Ronald Reagan was a Democrat once too, so one can’t count Rep. Gabbard out. She’s smart and has a set of core principles that won’t be determined by a change in the wind or current.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie really wants to be president but has no chance; ditto Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. (Will I eat those words three years from now? Maybe.)
Kaitlyn Jenner, if she has any success during the attempted recall of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, will likely announce her candidacy, but I don’t believe that will go anywhere.
That wraps up my odds-on prognostications, so get your bets down early; 2022 can’t come soon enough and if that election turns out as I hope it will with big gains for Republicans. 2024 is going to be one exciting pole dance.
James Buckley is a longtime Montecito resident. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.