Trump’s Convention Gave a Peek at 2024 Republican Lineup

The Republican National Convention this week was the first big tryout for some potential 2024 contenders, even as it sidelined others.

President Donald Trump made his case for a second term as other Republicans began to subtly -- and not so subtly -- lay the groundwork for their own bids four years from now.

The Republican field runs along a spectrum from those who fully embrace Trump’s pugilism and populism to those who would temper it with traditional conservatism or wrap it in a more optimistic sales pitch.

Republican strategists say that, win or lose, Trump will be the lodestar of the 2024 nominating contest, with candidates occupying lanes defined largely by which elements of his political persona they adopt and which they reject.

But they say only a massive loss in November could cause the party’s grassroots to consider moving in a different direction entirely.

“If Trump barely loses this thing, then we no longer have a Republican Party, we have a party of Trump,” said Patrick Griffin, who has worked as a consultant to four GOP presidential campaigns.

Ladbrokes, the U.K. betting company, has Vice President Mike Pence as the favored Republican at this very early stage but is offering odds on everyone from first daughter Ivanka Trump to Fox News personality Tucker Carlson.

Here’s a look at the 2024 primary field so far and how the potential contenders are like -- or unlike -- Trump.

Trump Loyalists

Matt Terrill, who was a campaign strategist for Marco Rubio, said that the contenders who will be most affected by November are those most loyal to Trump. “If Trump wins, you might be looking at a Pompeo or Pence as a leading contender,” he said. “If he loses, that’s really going to hurt their chances.”

Vice President Mike Pence

Pence has been a loyal foot soldier and served as a vital link to evangelical voters for Trump. He gave a workmanlike speech at the convention, but his past as a conservative member of Congress and governor might reassure party elites.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo

The West Point graduate and former Tea Party congressman has expanded his resume with stints as CIA director and secretary of State under Trump. Earlier this year, he decided against seeking a Senate seat in his home state of Kansas. But he confirmed in 2019 that he is interested in an eventual presidential run, and his meetings with conservative donors have drawn attention.

Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump

If Republicans still want Trumpism, who better than another Trump? The president’s son and daughter have high profiles within the campaign and the White House that could position them to take over the family’s political business in four years. Don Jr., in particular, has become a sought-after surrogate on the campaign trail.

Trump Converts

Trump’s win in 2016 brought a few traditional Republicans with larger ambitions into the fold. Though they are now allied with the president, they retain enough of their own independent identity to chart a slightly different course in 2024.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley

The former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations remains on good enough terms with Trump that she got a prime speaking slot at the convention. Her decision as governor to remove the Confederate flag from the state house grounds and the less combative tone of her speech showed that she could potentially steer the party toward a more middle ground.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

Another 2016 primary candidate scorched by Trump who later came to see the light, Rubio, who won re-election to the Senate after ending his presidential campaign, has been among the party’s most vocal critics of China, Russia and Iran. He also teamed up with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as one of the architects of the Paycheck Protection Program coronavirus aid.

Trump-Style Populists

Trump’s success in taking working class White voters in 2016 from Hillary Clinton demonstrated that a more populist campaign could change the electoral math. These potential contenders would be most likely to follow the course he laid down in that election.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley

Hawley has criticized “cosmopolitan elites” on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, putting forward proposals on video games, drug pricing and college debt that he says would do more to help “the American middle.” He’s also said he would only vote for Supreme Court candidates who have said on record before they were nominated that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court decision that protects abortion rights, was “wrongly decided.”

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton

The Arkansas senator has taken a different populist message, with a hard line on immigration and hawkish takes on Iran and China, while making national news with a proposal to deploy the military on U.S. streets after some protests turned violent.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem

A former member of the House and the state’s first female governor, Noem has been making nice with Trump and building her national profile through media appearances and a speech at the convention. She’s signed bills cracking down on abortion and allowing concealed handguns without a permit that would play well with the grassroots. Her name is being tossed around by Trump insiders as a potential second-term cabinet member.

Like Trump in a Key Way

Detractors and supporters alike agree that Trump has what Dana White, the president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, referred to during the convention as “unique attributes,” which can make it hard to tell which ones were crucial to his political success. These candidates share at least one key quality with Trump that might give them an advantage.

Florida Senator Rick Scott

Like Trump, the two-term Florida governor and senator is a wealthy businessman who can spend his own money getting elected. He ran for the Senate in 2018 as an outsider who would shake up Washington, although that will be a harder sell after serving six years.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz

The failed 2016 candidate has cheered for the failure of the latest $1 trillion rescue package proposed by McConnell, who served as a major foil for the anti-establishment crusade that powered Cruz’s first presidential run in 2016. He remains perhaps the Senate’s most conservative Republican on immigration.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

Paul, a libertarian, also sparred with Trump in the president’s 2016 run and has criticized the president for going along with trillions in new debt to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, setting himself up as the candidate of austerity, which may be in vogue again with the debt projected to top $30 trillion by 2024.

The Not-Trumps

Longtime Republican consultant Bruce Mehlman said that the contenders who are most unlike Trump are mostly quiet right now, since there are numerous examples of careers ending for Republicans who took on Trump directly. “For Republicans, resistance is futile, so non-Trump Republicans are biding their time,” he said.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott

The only Black Republican in the Senate won praise from Republican strategists for the sunny optimism of his convention speech, which told his family story of going “from cotton to Congress.” If the party is looking for a change of tone, he would fit the bill.

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse

Sasse has been critical of Trump’s trade wars, his friendliness toward Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his tendency to push the limits of presidential power. He’s also written books lamenting the decline of civility and touting the virtues of self-reliance.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

The Maryland chief executive has been one of the biggest critics of Trump, especially on his handling of the coronavirus. Hogan himself got high marks from his constituents for his stewardship of the pandemic in his state. He raised the possibility of running for president in 2019 before deciding against it, but has not ruled out a 2024 run.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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