Some Republicans Already Looking Ahead To 2020

The 2016 Republican Convention is barely halfway over, but some Republicans are already looking ahead to 2020.

Stampeding Elephants

Republicans in Cleveland aren’t done revving up for the 2016 election, but some candidates and potential candidates are already looking ahead to 2020:

Speaking to Iowa Republicans here on Monday, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin repeatedly reminded them of his childhood in the state that kicks off the presidential nominating process. Before the same crowd on Tuesday, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas had his own boast. “I’m the only politician here this week that married a girl born in Iowa,” said Mr. Cotton, admitting it was a “pander.”

Bruised by their indecorous primary, which left some of the party’s brightest stars reduced to wounded pets on the side of the road and pessimistic about taking over the White House in November, many Republicans are quietly turning their focus to 2020.

Jockeying for future presidential campaigns is a feature of every party convention, and the Republican meeting in Cleveland this week is no exception. But the subtle wooing and chit collecting have taken on a new air of urgency this year, with many party leaders openly skeptical about whether Donald J. Trump can defeat Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump’s ascendance has shown that Republican voters craved alternatives to conventional candidates from governor’s mansions and Congress.

But that is not stopping a conventional array of aspirants from lining up once again. The roster of potential 2020 candidates includes several of this year’s primary losers, including SenatorsTed Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Mr. Walker, as well as younger hopefuls like Mr. Cotton.

They calculate that the experiment with Mr. Trump, if he loses, will trigger buyer’s remorse within the party. The next nominee will be well positioned, they estimate, because the electorate will be ready for change after three consecutive Democratic terms in the White House.

“If you thought this year was an attractive race on our side, imagine 2020,” said Phil Cox, a former executive director at the Republican Governors Association. “You’ll have 30 people running.”

The article goes on to note the extent to which several Republican politicians who seem likely to be potential candidates in four years are already taking steps to maneuver themselves into position as potential candidates in the event that Donald Trump falls short this year, and while it seems like it might just be a bit pre-mature the reality is that these conventions are a natural place for such candidates to start the long process of introducing themselves to top-level activists in early primary states since it is the one time that so many power brokers, party leaders, and activists are going to be gathered in one place at a given period of time. Obviously, candidates undertaking this process need to be careful not to be seen as deliberately trying to undermine the party nominee, but given the divisions that are evidence even as the Republican nominates Donald Trump, but given the stakes it’s rather inevitable that potential candidates thinking ahead to 2020 or 2024 would at least begin the process of networking and introducing themselves to people whose support they would likely be soliciting support from in the not so distant future if the GOP ends up losing the race for the White House in November. You can expect to see similar moves from Democratic candidates who may anticipate a need to begin preparing themselves for a primary fight in four or eight years, especially given the fact that the one thing the 2016 race revealed just how weak a bench the Democratic Party has right now thanks in no small part to losses at the Senate and Gubernatorial level in 2010 and 2014. One can voice complaints about the fact that the process for the next election, or the one after that, is already in play, but this has been nature of American politics for some time now and it’s unlikely to change any time soon. Part of it is due to the size of the nation itself, of course, and part of it is due to the manner in which the Presidential primary system works and the fact that it requires candidates to have networks ready to go in all fifty states relatively early in the process if their campaigns are going to be considered viable.

As for potential candidates in 2020, there are some names on the list that should be obvious to anyone who paid attention to the 2016 race for the Republican nomination. Even as he was nearing the end of his doomed campaign to deny Donald Trump the nomination, for example, Texas Senator Ted Cruz was positioning himself as a conservative alternative who could come back four years later essentially saying “I told you so.” Indeed, many of the that Cruz took toward the end of his campaign, such as the early naming of a running mate, mirrored Ronald Reagan’s 1976 campaign, which served as the launching pad for his ultimately successful bid for the nomination of his party in 1980. Barring the unforeseeable, one can expect Cruz to be a candidate again in four or eight years. Among the 2016 candidates, it’s also likely that we’ll hear again from Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and John Kasich. Indiana’s Mike Pence, who would be running as an incumbent Vice-President in 2024 in the best of circumstances, is also likely to see this campaign as his best chance of boosting himself into national prominence, especially among conservatives. One name that would be a new addition to the list is Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who has sought to differentiate himself as a top GOP voice on foreign policy. Finally, several current Governors who will see their terms expire during the course of the next four years, including Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, John Kasich, and Scott Walker, could be considered potential contenders in 2020 or beyond. Beyond this list, there are likely others out there that nobody is considering who will sprint into national prominence in the coming years and consider themselves as potential nominees. After all, if Donald Trump can do it, why can’t they, right?

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Sure, 2020 should be a better year for the GOP than 2016 as it turned out (assuming a Clinton win in the fall and a Dem Senate majority) but a priori 2016 should have been a decent year for the GOP to win the White House and hold serve on the Senate by either going 50-50 or 51-49 in either direction with a great 2018 map.

    The problem is becoming fundamental. The GOP base is batshit insane and the current rule set plus the need to pander to the batshit insane is a significant structural impediment to the GOP. And if the GOP loses this fall (especially if the Dems get a very unlikely trifecta) there is a three way civil war — Trumpeteers vs. Never Trump (Establishment Division) vs. Meh Trump/nominate a good dog whistling “TRUE CONSERVATIVE” (Cruz/Cotton division)

  2. Slugger says:

    Of course an organization that shares the duopoly of power in our country should look ahead for needs of the country. Personally, I would favor some process to limit the candidates to a manageable slate of responsible people instead of the come-one, come-all reality show circus we had this time. Some of you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

  3. SKI says:

    Nikki Haley is the one I’m watching. Not necessarily for 2020 but definitely for 2024. She earned a lot of respect for her handling of the aftermath of the Dylan Roof killings and her willingness to take action to remove the Confederate Flag and then again this past year when she opposed an idiotic trans-bathroom bill. Her personal story will also be a compelling message. She will certainly be on everyone’s shortlist for 2020 VP if not a candidate for the top job herself.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    A pretty damning report in the NYT that says Trump is going to put his VP in charge of everything and he is only going to be in charge of “Making America Great Again”.
    He really is only in this for the attention. The spotlight. Like all Republicans…he is totally disinterested in, and incapable of, governing.
    So…show of hands…who thinks Mike Pence should be President?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/20/magazine/how-donald-trump-picked-his-running-mate.html?_r=2

  5. CSK says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I had read somewhere recently that Trump’s kids were behind the Pence pick.

    A few weeks ago Paul “Rasputin” Manafort remarked that Trump was seeking a vice president who would do the “things Trump doesn’t want to do.” Presumably that means “all the work.”

  6. Scott says:

    @CSK:

    who would do the “things Trump doesn’t want to do.”

    Sort of like an illegal immigrant.

  7. CSK says:

    @Scott:

    Precisely.

    I sometimes amuse myself by trying to envision what a Trump presidency would be like. First thing: A sign erected on the White House roof reading “Trump White House.” Second thing: East Room gets turned into a casino. Third thing: Lincoln Bedroom gets turned into a combo Jacuzzi/sauna. Fourth thing: Hot tub in the Rose Garden. Fifth thing: Toss out all those old, crappy antiques Jackie Kennedy collected and replace them with some new, modern, classy imitation French provincial pieces.

  8. Pete S says:

    @SKI: That is why the GOP as a party is in so much trouble. Nikki Haley has governed as a pretty standard issue conservative in most areas. There just seems to be about a 0% chance that the same base voters who supported Trump’s putrid campaign will turn around in 4 years and support a female visible minority candidate who pushed for the removal of a symbol of white supremacy which was still proudly displayed on government buildings. She may be a conservative in terms of policy, but the GOP base seems to be voting on emotion and rage and cannot spell policy.

  9. Jim R says:

    @SKI:

    Nikki Haley is the one I’m watching. Not necessarily for 2020 but definitely for 2024. She earned a lot of respect for her handling of the aftermath of the Dylan Roof killings and her willingness to take action to remove the Confederate Flag and then again this past year when she opposed an idiotic trans-bathroom bill. Her personal story will also be a compelling message. She will certainly be on everyone’s shortlist for 2020 VP if not a candidate for the top job herself.

    Amazing how low the bar for being a comparatively sane Republican has gotten (and yet it’s a bar cleared by so few).

  10. Andrew says:

    @Pete S:

    Ding.

    Another reason why mental health is something the GOP does not want to take on as a serious issue. How else would they retain their propaganda filled, conspiracy theory filled constituents? Which seems to be the only consistent portion of their base, that is not looking for logic, reason, and pragmatism.

    Why try to be reasonable, when you can just blame the NWO, fluoride in the water, the secret Pentavert or whatever it’s call these days? The Jews, the Muslims, the everyone not white?

    There are rubes to be fleeced, and they have a whole lot of money to spend. They are willing to pull that lever and send that check, just hear the perpetuating of ignorance and fear.

    Smart people are crazy, and crazy people are smart.

    Dogs and cats living together Yes, Trump has a no dick.
    Bring on the rapture!! Yee-Haww!

  11. Jen says:

    @SKI: IIRC, Nikki Haley has had to deal with some personal controversy that could be of issue for a national run.

  12. SKI says:

    @Pete S:

    There just seems to be about a 0% chance that the same base voters who supported Trump’s putrid campaign will turn around in 4 years and support a female visible minority candidate who pushed for the removal of a symbol of white supremacy which was still proudly displayed on government buildings.

    Yeah but how many of them will be dead in 4 or 8 years?

  13. Guarneri says:

    @Andrew:

    That’s quite a post. You were saying something about poor mental health?

  14. SKI says:

    @Jen:

    IIRC, Nikki Haley has had to deal with some personal controversy that could be of issue for a national run.

    Not sure what you are referring to. All I could find on a quick trip through The Google was a 2011 allegation by a blogger that he had an “inappropriate physical relationship” with her – something she vehemently denied. Unless there is something else, I don’t see that derailing a campaign in 2020 or 2024.

  15. Jen says:

    @SKI: Yes, allegations along those lines. I didn’t think it amounted to much, but friends who have worked in politics for years seem to think that there would be issues. Whether that is from an unforgiving right wing that holds women to a different standard, or just wishful thinking from Dems, I don’t know.

  16. Franklin says:

    @SKI: Sorry, but Haley seems a bit too reasonable for modern Republicans. Definitely a RINO. Ann Coulter has already said Trump should deport her.

  17. Pete S says:

    @SKI:

    Ultimately you are right, but 8 years is not enough time. The party is doing nothing to bring in young diverse voters, so this bloc should still retain a lot of party influence for years to come. This is at least 40% of the party right now, and seemingly the most motivated 40% when it comes to voting. Even if a quarter of these folks are no longer voting in 8 years, with limited new blood coming in that means they are 33% of the party. Easily able to defeat a minority candidate in the primaries, especially if there are 15+ candidates again. And 8 more years of spreading a toxicity that repels young voters from joining the party.

    I really want to agree with you. Even 4 years ago she could have been a strong Republican candidate. But the party she is prepared to lead doesn’t exist anymore.

  18. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    I think what’s happening with Fox News and Roger Ailes is a lot more important to how 2020 will shake out than anything happening at this convention. Under Ailes that network adopted the deliberate strategy of ramping up fear among their viewers to get votes for Republicans. This is why we live in a country where actual crime rates are at their lowest since the 60’s, but fear of crime is at all time highs. I don’t think Fox News viewers and Trump supporters are batshit-crazy, I think they’ve been fed a deliberate diet of lies for so long they no longer recognize facts. If Fox continues down that path, nothing much changes for 2020 except people get more and more desperate as they hear their country is going down the drain and politicians aren’t doing anything about it. If Ailes apparently imminent exit changes the tone, the Republican party might be able to return to something approaching sanity.

    I’m placing no bets on which outcome is likely. Just stating that if we’re looking ahead to 2020 and what might happen then, keep an eye on Fox, not what people are doing in Cleveland.

  19. JohnMcC says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: I had the same thought when I heard that Mr Ailes was on his way out the door, that Fox will change in significant ways, seeking a new demographic because of the aging of their audience. We’ve seen the collapse of the entire so-called intellectual wing of the so-called-conservative movement; National Review and such have lost to Breitbart! The danger from conservative heads exploding will exceed the danger of getting mugged by the BLM or killed by an ISIL terrorist.

    On the larger question of the 2020 election there has to be some question about the ability of the R-party to put together a real national campaign in four years after the shellacking that they seem to be headed for. The delta between Pres Obama and Gov Romney was about 5 million votes. This convention has the job of making at least 2.5 Obama voters decide to jump on the Trump Train. Or alternatively, making 5 million Dem’s stay home on election day. The voters who seem to be inclined to abstain from at least the Presidential vote all seem to be Republicans. I’m wondering if the turmoil we see on the convention floor will spill into state parties. Will there be resignations and challenges to local party leadership? Will the ‘regulars’ survive until the midterms of ’18?

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican: Yes. Everyone bemoans the hyper partisanship in the country. Half the country believes a completely bizarre view of the world. A view in which the President is a Kenyan ISIS supporter, the SoS wanted four consular staff to die, and the higher global temp readings reported by NASA are part of a socialist plot of mad scientists. FOX wasn’t the most extreme source, but they certainly made a big contribution to the detachment from reality.

    And we’d better pray that this changes. If Hillary hasn’t produced unicorns and rainbows for everyone by 2020, the stage is going to be ripe for whatever the GOPs hork up.

    (You want to tell me both sides do it, tell me which mainstream liberal views have become detached from reality, or even more extreme. I’ll give you gay rights, where I, for one, hold different views than twenty years ago. What else?)

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Indiana’s Mike Pence, who would be running as an incumbent Vice-President in 2024 in the best worst of circumstances,

    FTFY Doug. You’ll get my bill in the mail.

  22. Jen says:

    “You’ll have 30 people running.”

    Wasn’t this part of the problem this year? Too many running, no one to coalesce behind until it was too late?

  23. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jen: But next time will be different.
    (Bwahahahahahaha…)

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: I thought the problem was that their really deep bench turned out to be nothing more than a mud puddle in an Ozark gravel road