Who will challenge Trump in 2024?
If former President Trump decides to run for a second term in 2024 – which I put at less than 50/50 – will he have competition?
A challenge is almost certain to be mounted — in my judgment. I am not talking about some obscure crazy or the perennial losing libertarian type. I mean a serious contender.
There are any number of possibilities – and they come from three GOP constituencies.
The first are the Trump-hating malcontents. This includes folks like Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and former Ohio Governor John Kasich. Congressman Adam Kinzinger could be in that group. His is a big leap from the People’s House to the White House, but he has garnered enough name recognition to make such a race possible. If Pete Buttigieg can jump from the obscure mayor of South bend, Indiana to a credible presidential candidate, Kinzinger could also gain traction.
Then there are those who have been MOSTLY Trump allies, but not without clear demonstrations of independence from the former President – much to his chagrin. Now, it looks as though former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is edging in the direction of another presidential bid. Another possibility is former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. It is no secret that Texas Senator Ted Cruz would like to move into the Oval Office. Other potential candidates include Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Iowa Senator Jody Ernst and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.
Finally, there are those who are perceived to be trump loyalists. Leading in that category is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. By all measures, he is the most popular among Republican voters to succeed Trump – that is to “succeed” Trump, not necessarily go up against Trump. Conventional wisdom is that he stays out. He is young enough, at 43, to make a run for President for the next 36 years – up to the year 2056 if you consider Biden’s age when first elected as a measure.
On the other hand, the best political opportunities are the most impending. While a DeSantis challenge to Trump seems very unlikely, there have been recent reports that the relationship between the former President and the Governor has cooled a bit – and that DeSantis popularity is the reason. Also, DeSantis refuses to say he will not run in 2024. The chill is only a faint whisper, but there is a whisper.
What may be fueling that speculation is a belief by many insiders that DeSantis could actually beat Trump in a head-to-head contest. If such a competition arose, Palm Beach County could be a bellwether. The current Palm Beach GOP leadership is part of Trump’s hardcore base. And why not? Trump lives there. The ties are both political and social. Hanging round with a President of the United States at Mar a Lago is a heady experience.
Trump has his own fan club in Palm Beach County – Club 45. It does not get a lot of attention from the media, but it is composed of thousands of local residents and draws the most powerful leaders in the Republican Party as speakers. A typical audience can reach 2000. Even as an outrigger, it is more influential than the County GOP.
Sufficed to say, Trump has a huge support base in Palm Beach. BUT … so does DeSantis. If Trump and DeSantis were on the ballot in the Florida presidential primary, I believe the Governor would take at least half of the Trump fan club in Palm Beach. The leaders of Club 45 might stay with Trump, but I do not think the membership would lockstep behind them. I feel almost certain that DeSantis would carry Florida in such a contest.
While Rubio ran in 2016, he would probably be sidetracked by a DeSantis candidacy. If DeSantis is out and Rubio is in, the Senator would have a much tougher time taking Florida away from Trump.
If Trump enters the race, then it all depends on how many others challenge him. His best and maybe only chance of winning the GOP nomination is to again have a large field of opponents divide up the vote.
While it is much too early to analyze the 2024 election, it is not too early to keep an eye out for the potential candidates to start maneuvering. The first piece on the board to move appears to be Christie. Others will follow. Yes, the 2024 presidential campaigns are starting already.
So, there ‘tis.