When I was coaching a great deal of my time was spent scouting upcoming opponents. Basketball isn’t that different from politics in that regard. Knowing what your opponent is likely to do along with their strengths and weaknesses is crucial in formulating a winning game plan. In basketball (aside from tournaments) you know your opponent well in advance. In politics it is much more of a guessing game. For example, despite a rather lengthy series of articles about the 2016 election GOP field I never even wrote one about Donald Trump. Like most (including a lot of Republicans) I did not take his candidacy seriously until it was too late. With all that in mind let’s take a look at what I think are the nine (yes nine) possible 2020 Republican standard bearers.
At the top of the list is of course Donald Trump. However, that is far from a given. There is a very good chance that he will not finish the first term, precluding a second. I still feel there is a chance that the Republicans may decide he is a certain loser in 2020 and not nominate him. Whether he runs or not will play a part in determining what several of the other eight do.
Vice President Mike Pence is unlikely to run if Trump is still in office. If Pence wanted to stage a coup he would do it via the 25th Amendment or simply stab Trump in the back with Congress (the more likely of the two). If Trump vacates office Pence will consider himself to be the heir apparent and make a strong run at the nomination.
Nikki Haley has designs on the presidency and many think she would make an attractive candidate (in more than just the physical sense). She has youth on her side and is a cautious politician. She will not directly challenge Trump, but if he is out of the contest she will go at the nomination hard.
Jeff Flake will challenge Trump if he stays weak. Flake will try to sell himself to Republican primary voters as a true conservative who stood up to Trump. In reality Flake did a lot of talking but in the end was always either inconsequential or an enabler.
John Kasich should run and in my opinion will regardless of what Trump’s status is. Kasich was the best of the 2016 GOP candidates at the end of the primaries. Looking at what the Republicans have to offer these days he is one of the few with a lot of experience coupled with some semblance of believability and integrity. (Remember I’m judging him by the yardstick of contemporary Republicans.)
A question mark is Trey Gowdy. Gowdy chose not to run for reelection to the House in 2018 and at this writing is a “free agent”. He also comes from the early primary state of South Carolina. Unless Trump buys him off with a position he desires (a likely possibility) does Trey have anything better to do than take a shot at the brass ring?
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is never talked about as a national candidate but I find him an interesting possibility. He is a popular and successful Republican Governor who just easily won reelection in a blue state. I don’t know a lot about his policies but if he beat Ben Jealous by a substantial margin he would be someone seasoned GOP campaign operatives and big money donors would certainly take a phone call from. If you are looking for a surprise 2020 Republican candidate keep your eye out for Hogan.
Last we come to the similar situations Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse find themselves in. Both are up for reelection in 2020. I don’t know if either state has a favorite son rule which would allow them to simultaneously run for reelection (as a safety net) and the presidency. Remember there is nothing other than politics to stop a friendly state legislature from enacting such a rule well in advance of 2020 filings which would tell us a lot. There is also the chance that they would pull a “Marco Rubio”. In 2016 Rubio promised the voters of Florida that he would only seek the presidency. He tested the waters, suspended his failing presidential campaign and then suddenly found the Senate a great place to earn a paycheck.
Cotton is one of Trump staunchest supporters in the Senate and I cannot see him challenging Trump. Sasse likes to portray himself as a cerebral alternative to Trump, like Flake, his record contradicts his image.
Well there you are; my crystal ball is clear as mud. This much I’m certain of; Trump will be challenged if he runs for reelection and it will be interesting to watch.
Please note: This article was written well in advance of publishing in order to accommodate my holiday travel and grandpa time schedule.
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