A very deep bench for the Republicans for 2024
Oh, this is gonna be fun. One of the great things about living in South Carolina is that we’re the center of the political universe every four years when the Presidential races begin. It doesn’t last long, but for a little while, we are under the microscope and we like it.
We know about the “elephant” in the room—the former President Donald Trump. But, unlike four years ago, he’s not getting a free pass to the Republican nomination. This time, there’s company. Talented company! Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is very legit and very well-funded. South Carolina’s own Nikki Haley, our former Governor and the former Ambassador to the United Nations has good national name recognition. US Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is a fascinating candidate to me. More on him in a moment. There’s Asa Hutchinson, the former Gov from Arkansas and Vivek Ramaswamy…an entrepreneur who are also in the race.
Let’s look briefly at each of them…
Donald Trump is the elder statesman of the group. By a lot. He’s 76 now. The strengths in the eyes of most Republican voters is that he had a very successful one-term Presidency. It was untracked by covid but until the pandemic arrived, the economy and foreign policy activity were considered very successful by his base. He was under and will always be under constant scrutiny. He’s probably the most-loved and most-hated political figure in modern history. There’s very little-to-no middle ground with Trump. He’s facing several legal issues. If he’s the Republican nominee, the entire election will be more of a referendum on Trump vs. Joe Biden or any other Democrat’s record.
Ron DeSantis is the other tier-one candidate on the list. He is considered Trump-like in his approach without the baggage. He’s Yale educated and has a Harvard law degree. He’s served in the US Military and has been a very successful two-term Governor in Florida. He’s only 44 years old. What are his perceived weaknesses? Can he charm people nationally? Does he have that “retail” ability to win over donors? Clearly, he is the biggest threat to the former President other than Trump’s own baggage that is.
Nikki Haley is obviously one of the best-known political figures here in South Carolina. She’s young and energetic at age 51. She won two statewide races as the Governor. She gained some valuable experience as Trump’s Ambassador to the UN. She obviously brings diversity as the only declared female and as an Indian-American background. She’s turned her perceived weaknesses into strengths. In a General Election, she has a lot of positives. Her bringing down of the confederate flag in South Carolina could be divisive in a primary but would play well nationally in a Presidential election.
Tim Scott is incredibly intriguing. I call him “the reluctant candidate”. I don’t think Senator Scott likes playing the political games. I don’t think he loves being a politician. His candidacy is almost a calling. He brings diversity as the only African American Republican US Senator. His strength is also his only perceived weakness. People really like him and think he’s too nice to battle with a Trump on a debate stage. That will be a challenge. While America does crave someone nice who can unite people, you won’t win the nomination unless you can stand up to the former President.
So, who else might run? Former VP Mike Pence, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, former NJ Governor Chris Christie and former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Okay…so, let’s bring this home with some real commentary.
- What happens in SC when Nikki Haley and Tim Scott split loyalties and donors? By having them both in the race, Donald Trump benefits.
- Will any of Trump’s legal issues have any impact at all on the SC Primary? Remarkably, his supporters are so loyal that they don’t seem to care about all the smoke around Trump’s campaign. Is there any fire there? We’ll see what happens in Georgia, NY and Mar a Lago.
- There are many many many well-known people who want someone other than Trump. The question is whether they will have the courage to go with DeSantis or one of the 2nd tier candidates.