Heading into Memorial Day weekend, here’s a concept to ponder during your holiday respite from the daily grind of working to make ends meet in Joe Biden’s America:
How many times have we launched ourselves on what turned into a fruitless endeavor only to look back after the inevitable failure to wonder, “Why did I even bother?”
It’s kind of like going to the DMV and demanding that the bureaucrats pay for the idol hours spent waiting in a [post COVID] crowded room only to be informed by a government clerk behind a plexiglass barrier that, “You don’t have the proper documentation. You’re gonna have to come back with [some trivial trinket] in order to renew your driver’s license. Meanwhile I’ve got to take the next illegal alien in line, because we can’t have people driving around without licenses.”
A similar feeling of inadequacy must be enveloping the 2024 Republican Party presidential field’s lower-tier candidates these days. Based on recent polls, the term “lower-tier” could mean everyone but former president Donald J. Trump, with a few surveys even showing the 2016 and 2020 party nominee with a near fifty point advantage over his nearest rival. The rest of the hangers-on (a strange term considering the field hasn’t fully developed yet) are presumably toiling on the campaign trail trying to draw listeners while they drone on about how awful senile Joe Biden is doing as president, and how earnestly America needs a savior to lead a revival.
It's all well and good – having challengers to Trump, that is – and I would argue, necessary. Somebody somewhere contributed money to their campaigns (unless you’re Vivek Ramaswamy, who’s mostly self-funding) and those folks demand reassurance that their political seed capital was not expended in vain.
At the same time, as the months go by (almost five gone in 2023) and Trump only strengthening his claim to being the favorite, if you’re a GOP also-ran, what do you do to pass the time? Here’s thinking that some of them are running for Trump’s consideration as running mate, sidekick, budding attack dog (on Biden’s atrocious record) and, hopefully, to be the future post-Trump GOP nominee.
Is it already the end of the GOP’s lower-tier’s dreams of stardom? Or did they never have a prayer to begin with? In a piece titled “The GOP’s Festival of Losers”, conservatism’s perpetual advocate, Kurt Schlichter, wrote at Townhall earlier this week:
“[T]he GOP’s decision in 2024 is solely over the identity of the general who will take command. Will it be the cold, calculating, ruthlessly effective [Ron DeSantis], or the unstoppable juggernaut – well, except for ridiculous tangents to call Rosie O’Donnell ‘Horseface’ – that is Donald Trump? Both will rain down destruction upon our enemies – Ron the precision Hellfire and Don the massive MOAB.
“So, the real difference between the two is electability – that is, who is most likely to win in the general election? The polls are all over the place and useless 18 months out, but we do have some indicators. … We know both guys hate wokeness, communism, crime and all the other aspects of the Democrat agenda. What we need to know is how they each propose to win in PA, GA, AZ, MI, and WI.
“This race is about winning and only about winning. And that’s why [Chris] Christie, [Mike] Pence, and [Tim] Scott won’t really be in the race even after they get into it. It’s Ron or Don, and I’m voting for whichever one wins the nomination. I just hope he can pull it off in November.”
As is always the case, Schlichter effectively articulates the thoughts and concerns of most conservatives and Republicans – or at least the ones who aren’t tethered to a desk at party headquarters or daily checking with internal office spies in the Senate Minority Leader’s office to glance at what Mitch McConnell is plotting with others in his orbit to sabotage 2024’s conservative cause. Already there are plenty of whispers about the ruling elites’ getting involved in state primaries so as to assure “electable” candidates at the lower levels.
That’s Washington, for you. The powers-that-be assume they know which candidates will show best vis-à-vis Democrats in the general election, or at least figure they are wiser than the principled yokels who work at conservative candidates’ headquarters. The bluebloods get mad when their chosen favorites don’t win the state’s nomination and proceed to take their ball (resources, party data support) and go home, leaving the poor soul to languish on his or her own.
This scenario is how voters end up with a braindead human vegetable like Senator John Fetterman getting elected in an otherwise winnable state. But instead of looking within and seeking the answer to where they went wrong, the status quo protecters blame Trump for endorsements and lack of financial backing. GOP physicians, heal thyself.
What the ruling class elders fail to notice is how “outsiders” are all the rage now, not only at the top level but also in down ballot races. Simply put, Donald Trump made being an “outsider” cool, so much so that every candidate in the 2024 GOP field is presenting him or herself as anti-establishment. This could be acknowledging the reality that no one in today’s post-Trump political environment can win as an “insider”, but also because things have gotten so bad in the nation’s capital that merely being associated with the swamp creatures spells doom for any fool’s candidacy.
That’s one of a number of reasons why Nikki Haley’s effort hasn’t caught fire. There’s no kindling for a Haley inferno because her mushy moderate record doesn’t provide any impetus for conservatives to start one. Similar to Kamala Harris in 2020, Haley has spent an inordinate amount of time in Iowa hoping to gain a foothold there, but it doesn’t appear to be working. I would imagine Haley will keep going through the Iowa State Fair in August, where her people will go all out trying to have her place in this year’s straw poll.
Perhaps her continued presence will eventually pressure the race leaders to keep her in mind for the vice president slot. As a minority and a woman, Nikki earns another comparison to cackling Kamala, though Trump (if he’s the nominee) probably wouldn’t slip into a game of identity politics to narrow down his vetting list.
Nonetheless, Haley probably reasons that you only live once, right? With a pretty full bench of Republican up and comers in 2028 and beyond, it’s now or never for Nikki.
The same goes for fellow South Carolinian Tim Scott, though unlike Haley’s one-shot-deal, Scott’s appeal as a candidate will last beyond this election cycle. However, Scott will have his work cut out for him gaining traction against Trump and/or DeSantis in the early states, but he’s well-regarded by practically everyone and by virtue of his demographic status (the only black Republican senator), certainly could be an appealing running mate pick. What’s not to admire about Tim Scott?
Chris Christie, if he does end up launching a campaign, will probably draw notice from a GOP old guard searching for someone – anyone – to stand up on a debate stage and direct his animus towards Trump, DeSantis, and anyone else the stodgy Bush era guardians consider a threat to the “old” Republican Party. Christie hasn’t held office in half a generation and only attracts attention by savaging Trump these days. He’s neither running for vice president nor craving to win the big prize. Big boy Chris is just there to vie for first shot at the buffet line at fundraisers.
Political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy could also be said to be vying for consideration as a next generation “outsider” who just happened to enter politics. The thirty-something businessman, entrepreneur, intellectual superhero and eternal optimist exudes character and enthusiasm. But as I’ve written on a couple occasions, the chances of Vivek breaking through this year aren’t great. His personal fortune will buy him all the campaign trail time he desires, but once the contest heats up, will there be enough interest left to think about a candidate X/Ramaswamy ticket?
Further, Ramaswamy’s strongest and weakest points are interrelated. There isn’t enough known about him to dislike him, but there also isn’t enough known about him to ditch everyone else. But if Vivek avoids damaging his relationship with Trump, I can envision where the almost 77-year-old MAGA promoter would see virtue in choosing a much younger but smarter-than-heck potential successor. Besides, Vivek seems to be the only one with comparable energy to Trump’s.
For the others – Asa Hutchinson and anyone else contemplating an out-of-the-blue run (except for maybe Tucker Carlson) – the mountain they would need to climb is insurmountable. Be it name recognition, background, lack of unique selling point, demographic shortcomings or just plain boring, chances are, if they’re not good enough to be thought of as a serious presidential contender, why would next year’s GOP winner want to add them to his national ticket?
It's safe to say that Memorial Day weekend next year will probably be more interesting in terms of pure political excitement, but as the 2024 race continues to take shape, attention will shift to who the top couple contenders might choose for his vice president. The possibilities seem endless, and that’s a good thing when pondering a match against Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
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