It could be said of American politics that no one runs to lose, but is this really true?
There are lots of rationales people use to explain why candidates run for the presidency, many of which were explored during former president Donald Trump’s initial quest for the White House in 2016. Back then, remember, Trump was merely a prominent career real estate developer whose lifestyle might’ve served as the inspiration for the syndicated 1980’s show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”. After all, “The Donald” owned how many mansions? How many businesses? How many hotels? How many resorts? How many office buildings bore his name? How many TV outfits recruited him for a show?
The accolades came quickly and steadily for Trump, but his entrance into politics still met with a fair degree of skepticism from the elite set. After all, why would a guy rich beyond his dreams run for president on the doorstep of his seventieth birthday? There must be some other purpose they reasoned. Some speculated Trump sought a greater say in the direction of the country and would withdraw once he achieved his larger goal of doing… what? Securing for himself a special wealth privilege for orange toned men?
How about being acknowledged and consulted by the political parties? Would that be sufficient?
Others bet Trump would someday give up on politics and launch his own populist cable news network, or use his newfound hobby to threaten “real” politicians with challenges by Trump favored candidates. Not everyone took him seriously, which was, to some degree, echoed by my own wondering. Up until then, Trump’s life had been dissected in every which way by the tabloids, but I suspected he wouldn’t welcome the extra (and always ugly) scrutiny into his private affairs (pardon the pun) and past marriages.
Or that he wouldn’t be keen on being constantly criticized by the establishment media, the rulers of both parties or the fact his old enemies would have their day in the sun to get their own digs in at him. The historically ego-centered luminary wouldn’t go for it for long, the doubters (again, myself included) surmised. As soon as the going got tough and the polls sank, then the New Yorker would uncover an excuse to go back to his world and develop another skyscraper or something.
The polls never budged. Trump stuck it out until the early primaries and caucuses, did well, won most of them and suddenly Americans took his motivations seriously. Still, there were those who maintained that Trump was doing it solely to bolster his legend and celebrity – and would invariably abandon the hard work to someone else – but Trump didn’t surrender. Why? Because Trump ran to win. He’d said it all along.
In contrast to the Donald Trump of 2015 and 2016, no one questions the candidate’s desire to stick to it until the end this time, or his confidence that he’ll be the last man standing at next summer’s Republican nominating convention. Can the same be said for Trump’s intra-party 2024 rivals? Are they really in it to win it? Or are they possessed with the hope of receiving some form of patronage consolation prize for their effort?
“Several Republican presidential candidates are coming out and assuring voters that their goal is to become president of the United States in 2024, despite former President Donald Trump holding a 50-point lead over most of them. Trump himself said on Sunday that he sees some rival GOP candidates as ‘good potential Cabinet members’ and a possible running mate, as well. However, GOP candidates have been quick to shoot down speculation that they entered the 2024 election to become vice president under Trump or anyone…
“DeSantis said last week on the Wisconsin Right Now podcast that he is not interested in becoming Trump's running mate. ‘I’m not a No. 2 guy,’ DeSantis said. ‘I think I’m a leader. Governor of Florida, I’ve been able to accomplish a lot. I think I probably could do more staying there than being VP, which doesn’t really have any authority.’”
Well, each one of the non-Trump candidates could say, at this point, that they’re not interested in the vice presidency, but the Trump number two slot could become interested in them in less than a year’s time – and they could easily be persuaded to go back on their word.
Yes, Governor Ron said these words, but does anyone believe him? No true contender wants to give up on the big dream this early, so why would anyone expect a viable candidate to come right out and say, “Yeah, I’d accept being second fiddle, especially when the veep gets a cool house to live in, all the Secret Service protection he or she can stomach, three squares a day, enticing trips abroad, a lot less stress and responsibility than the top guy, the freedom to be just as disrespectful to the opposition as you want to be (the running mate’s traditional attack role), and, last but not least, to be seen by the party higher-ups as the next-in-line.”
The last point being the most relevant, at least for the younger presidential candidates this cycle. The only vice presidents – or running mates – in recent memory who weren’t really considered the “next in line” were George W. Bush’s right-hand man, Dick Cheney, and maybe senile Joe Biden himself, simply because the old goat would’ve been thought to be too old and past his prime to have higher ambitions.
Biden was over eighteen years older than the nation’s first black president (and no, Bill Clinton doesn’t count here), so who would’ve ever thought Barack would one day be looking from the window of one of his mansions at a man like senile Joe, who’s always been renowned for his ability to “f*&&* things up” (Obama’s own words)?
The truth is, with some of the announced candidates in the 2024 GOP field, how could they not be keeping one eye on who’s vying for Trump’s running mate? For many, many, months, most race observers had narrowed down the potential winners to Trump and DeSantis – and none of the others really made much of a move, except maybe for a small one by Vivek Ramaswamy – so why are they there in the first place?
The answers are simple, really. Obnoxious establishment hired rhetorical gun Chris Christie is there only to try and make Trump look bad. Or humble. Or feeble. Or foolish, none of which will happen anyway because the former New Jersey governor himself looks more like a puffy cartoon character than a serious presidential player. North Dakota governor Doug Burgum (who?) has less than zero chance of getting on the debate stage, much less winning the White House.
So maybe the North Dakotan figured the only play he had as Trump’s V.P. would be to run for president. Ditto for also rans like Asa Hutchison (who bashes on Trump, so scratch him) and Larry Elder and the other handful who are so obscure their names aren’t coming to mind right now. There’s a fine line between running for president to establish a “See, I did it!” topic to talk about at parties and family get-togethers and those who do so only to draw notice for a high-level cabinet post.
Nikki Haley got in to stake her claim to the “I’m a woman!” GOP slot, and thus far, she’s the only one of the variety. It gets her attention but other than a few blurbs on her political resume, she’s basically a blank slate. What’s her slogan? Anyone? Anyone? (Haley’s website lists “Strong and Proud”.)
Some observers could be cruel and imply that Senator Tim Scott is making a pitch for the “black guy” designation, though Scott is much too capable and accomplished and inspiring to be judged only by skin color. Regular commentators have said Tim Scott would be on Trump’s short list for his running mate, and I believe it.
Tim Scott is basically running for vice president, and the wide-held belief doesn’t take away from him. Scott’s relentlessly positive message of inspiration and hope has a place in politics, it just won’t draw many voters in this day and age where the opposition is evil and heinous and most partisans would only accept someone aggressive and fearless for their own side. Scott could be president someday, but only after having served a term or two sitting behind the president during the State of the Union Address.
Vivek Ramaswamy asserts that he’s only interested in being president, and he’s believable in stating it. The question is whether the quick talking idea generator would entertain an overture from Trump to fulfill another role within the administration, since on the surface, Ramaswamy appears poised to take on just about any job and do it well. Vice President? Why not? Can’t you imagine Vivek squaring off against Kamala Harris in the vice presidential debate?
How about Attorney General? Sure. Secretary of State? I can see it. Flatten the bureaucracy czar? Definitely.
The only 2024 Republican we can be sure with 100 percent certainty isn’t running for vice president is… Mike Pence. No need to elaborate.
As I’ve stated before, I believe it would be in Trump’s best interest to take the high road when this is all over and offer an olive branch – and the vice president’s job – to Ron DeSantis. Trump could put DeSantis in charge of leveling the deep state or reinvigorating the military, reforming education, tax reform, regulatory reform… whatever needs to be done. And Trump could then home in on Making America Great Again.
There are plenty of jobs in politics but only one quadrennial party nominee. Many hopefuls vie for the podium, but only one will reach it. Here’s hoping the most capable among the 2024 Republicans will weigh service with the new administration if it comes to pass. And let the politicking take care of itself.
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