Ever since the 2020 presidential election was called in favor of Joe Biden, the question looming over the Republican Party has been: Who will headline the GOP’s presidential ticket in 2024?
Biden’s victory put an end to Donald Trump’s hopes of winning a second consecutive term in the Oval Office, but there’s a chance we haven’t seen the last of Trump’s political career. Trump has reportedly been toying with the idea of launching another bid for the White House in the next election cycle. The former POTUS was the headliner at CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference – this past weekend in Orlando.
In most cases, political parties move on from candidates that lose elections. We didn’t hear much from Hillary Clinton immediately after her upset loss to Trump in 2016. One-term presidents Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush weren’t often seen on the campaign trail once their terms in office were up.
The modern Republican Party is a different animal entirely, though. Trump still seems to have a firm grip on the party’s fate despite his election loss and having been impeached twice. While some within the party have tried to distance themselves from Trump, it hasn’t gone all that well for them. Republican Senators Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, and Pat Toomey have all been publicly rebuked or censured by GOP groups in their respective states after voting in favor of impeaching Trump last month.
2024 is still a long way off, but it won’t be long until prospective candidates begin the process of campaigning. Whichever party is out of power typically sees no shortage of competition for their party’s nomination. Let’s not forget that about 30 people fought for the Democratic nomination in the most recent cycle before Biden ultimately lapped the field on his way to the White House.
This past weekend’s events at CPAC have shaken up the early odds for candidates that could vie for the GOP nomination less than four years from now. After having remained out of sight for the better part of the last month, Trump’s public reemergence on Sunday propelled the former president back to the top, according to the latest odds from Bovada.
Let’s discuss the 2024 prospects of a few potential Republican frontrunners, shall we?
Donald Trump (+250)
Some expected Trump to announce his 2024 candidacy during Sunday’s speech, but he didn’t formally throw his hat into the ring. He did hint at the possibility of another run, but he spent most of his time on stage lambasting the first month of the Biden Administration while launching various attacks on other political foes.
Trump’s wildly false claims about last year’s election have led to some speculation that he could try to launch a third political party of his own, but he quelled that notion on Sunday. So, Republicans are presumably stuck with him if he does decide to run again. He hinted at trying to help Republicans win back both houses of Congress in next year’s midterm elections. Trump’s presence as the head of the party helped doom the GOP’s chances of retaining the Senate and seizing a majority in the House of Representatives last fall, but who’s counting?
“Trump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner” (Via @TheHillOpinion) https://t.co/TeDjnsp4M7 pic.twitter.com/wfX8jUJfvi
— The Hill (@thehill) March 1, 2021
While Trump was the star of CPAC, not everyone in attendance over the weekend is sold that he should be the party’s future headliner. 68 percent of those asked in a CPAC straw poll said they would want Trump to run again in ’24. That’s a surprisingly small number considering about 97 percent of them approve of the job he did while in office. In a separate poll asking which candidate should run, just 55 percent said it should be Trump. Another 21 percent said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis should be the party’s nominee. CPAC took place in Orlando, so Gov. DeSantis admittedly had a bit of home-field advantage there.
Still, the events of the weekend were enough to propel Trump back to the top of the leaderboard at Bovada. Trump’s +250 odds to win the GOP nomination are the best of anyone in the field. The 45th president is still a hugely popular figure among a broad swath of Republican voters. If Trump does decide to run again, it will be very difficult for anyone else to actually beat him in the primaries. Just like we saw in 2016.
Ron DeSantis (+600)
DeSantis seems to be a popular figure among Florida Republicans, but his national appeal is worth questioning. Before winning the Governorship in 2019, DeSantis served three terms in the US House of Representatives. The 42-year-old has been a proud Trump ally over the course of Trump’s political career, so it would be interesting to see whether DeSantis would actually run against Trump if given the opportunity.
In a separate poll, CPAC attendees were asked which candidate they would support in 2024 if Trump were not on the ballot. DeSantis accrued 43 percent of the vote, which put him well ahead of the likes of Kristi Noem (11 percent), Donald Trump Jr. (8 percent), Ted Cruz (7 percent), and Mike Pompeo (7 percent).
DeSantis has received plenty of praise among Republicans for largely flouting public health guidelines over the course of the pandemic. Florida has been one of the hardest-hit states over the past year, but the vast majority of businesses remained open, while public mask-wearing was never mandated at the state level.
DeSantis’ odds to win the nomination in 2024 have been boosted to +600 as a result of his CPAC popularity. While he may have a strong future in the party, I’m skeptical of his chances of rising all the way to the top so soon. He doesn’t yet have nearly as big of a national profile as some other prospective candidates, which could hurt him once the primaries roll around. I think the Florida Governor is a bit overvalued at the new +600 odds.
Nikki Haley (+800)
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has been billed as the future face of the Republican Party for quite some time. She served as UN Ambassador for a brief spell during the Trump Administration, but she seems to be having a difficult time finding her footing in the GOP these days.
Haley was initially critical of Trump before ultimately joining his administration. She recently tried to distance herself from Trump in light of the January 6 riot at the Capitol. Once she took some backlash of her own for criticizing Trump, she attempted to do another 180 in support of the ex-prez:
Strong speech by President Trump about the winning policies of his administration and what the party needs to unite behind moving forward. The liberal media wants a GOP civil war. Not gonna happen.
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) March 1, 2021
That tweet came less than a month after Haley said,
“We need to acknowledge he [Trump] let us down. He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.” Haley went on to say that she believes Trump has no future in the party and that he will “find himself further and further isolated.”
Well…which is it? Haley’s flip-flopping likely isn’t going to win her much support among either faction of the Republican Party. The pro-Trump wing will point to her criticisms of Trump as a disqualifying factor, while the anti-Trump segment is presumably trying to figure out which side she’s actually on.
Haley clearly wants to throw Trump under the bus and move right along, especially considering she almost surely wants to run for the White House herself at some point in the future. As mentioned, any candidate that runs is going to have a tough time earning enough support if Trump is also in the mix. Haley tried distancing herself from Trump. When that failed, she tried to backtrack again.
Until she figures out which path she wants to take, it’s hard to imagine Haley finding enough footing to gain any traction.
Mike Pence (+1000)
Former Vice President Mike Pence has seemingly broken up with Trump after Trump’s actions on January 6.
Trump essentially whipped a mob into a frenzy, and that mob eventually stormed the Capitol. Some of them were looking to get their hands on various political operatives that they believed were working against keeping Trump in power. Pence drew Trump’s ire that day, so he drew the ire of the insurrectionists, as well.
Pence is in a tough spot. He may be upset that Trump almost had him killed a couple of months ago, but the former VP also knows that Trump looms over the entire party. So, Pence is trying to privately insinuate that he holds no ill will for his former boss:
In meeting, Pence speaks highly of Trump, talks about how this moment is similar to 2009 and tells GOP members he plans to launch a group to defend Trump-Pence record. “He spoke very favorably about his relationship with President Trump,” Jim Banks told me https://t.co/AIDK2Wpkz6
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) February 24, 2021
Pence’s future political aspirations are no secret. The former Indiana Governor presumably wants to run for the presidency at some point. Of course, Pence is going to have a lot of work to do if he wants to gain enough steam. An awful lot of Trump’s supporters think Pence was involved in getting Trump ousted from power, so it won’t be easy to change their minds. In the aforementioned CPAC 2024 poll, Pence received a paltry 1 percent of the vote.
Pence was Trump’s right-hand man for years, but look at some of the other Republicans that have risen to prominence in recent years. People like Trump, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert, and Matt Gaetz are awfully different than a more traditional Republican like Pence. The party may try to preach conservative values and principles, but Pence may not have the temperament to capture the imagination of the GOP’s new base moving forward.
Ted Cruz (+1400)
Ted Cruz has been in the news lately for a variety of reasons. He was a key figure in the January 6 insurrection. Just last month, he caught some flak for fleeing Texas for Cancun as the Lone Star State was being crushed by a winter storm.
Trump’s old punching bag has been one of his most staunch supporters, as well. Despite the contentious nature of the 2016 campaign, Cruz happily fell in line once Trump came into power. Cruz’s aspirations are no secret. He was Trump’s biggest hurdle back in ’16, and it’s easy to imagine the Texas Senator mounting another charge for the White House in the near future.
In a speech at CPAC, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz joked about his trip to Cancún during the winter storm and promised that Donald Trump would be a lasting force in the Republican Party.
“Let me tell you this right now: Donald Trump ain’t goin’ anywhere.” https://t.co/C32TeELEqR
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) March 2, 2021
Cruz’s popularity in his own state is up for debate, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the Republican Party. Cruz’s decision to support Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud was a pretty clear indication of his plans to seek the party’s nomination in a couple of years. Cruz is going to have to win over Trump’s base of voters if he has any hopes of successfully running for president.
As is the case with most of the other names in the field, Cruz’s chances ultimately hinge on whether Trump himself decides to run. The +1400 odds you can get right now on “Lyin’ Ted” are admittedly appealing, especially given his fairly successful run in 2016. If Trump bows out, Cruz will become one of the early 2024 frontrunners.
Kristi Noem (+3000)
Like DeSantis, Kristi Noem gained some notoriety last year for railing against public health measures in the midst the pandemic. The South Dakota Governor didn’t do much of anything to try and combat the spread of the virus, which earned her plenty of praise from those within her own party. That sounds counterintuitive until you remember what the GOP looks like these days.
Noem railed against Dr. Anthony Fauci during her own CPAC speech over the weekend, which drew the applause of the crowd. She has publicly said on numerous occasions that she does not plan to run for the White House in 2024, but candidates say those kinds of things all the time. Obviously, we should take those words with a grain of salt at this point.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday said South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s criticism of him at CPAC was “not really helpful” to the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic https://t.co/ONonEtYIsb pic.twitter.com/ovcUV1KCag
— POLITICO (@politico) March 1, 2021
While Noem (+3000) faces longer odds than many other prospective candidates, the Governor could be a solid buy-low opportunity. She and Haley are the leading female candidates among potential nominees, but I’d sooner bet on Noem at +3000 than Haley at +800 given Haley’s struggles to find a lane. As mentioned previously, Noem was third in the CPAC straw poll behind Trump and DeSantis.
The upside here is obvious. Unlike some others in the field, Noem’s 2024 odds haven’t gotten much of a post-CPAC boost. If she does decide to change course and run, she could become a pretty compelling candidate. Take a shot on Noem’s +3000 odds at one of these political betting sites.
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