Why Are So Many Republicans Running?
Are they bored? Delusional?
Dave Weigel is asking the same question many of us are (“Rise of the ‘One percenters’: Why so many Republicans think they can crash the Trump/DeSantis party“). He spends several paragraphs detailing all of the Republican politicians who are running for the 2024 nomination or at least have their toe in the water. In order, he lists South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, ex-Michigan Representative Mike Rogers, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, ex-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. I don’t believe I’ve even heard of Burgum and had never heard of the 37-year-old Ramaswamy before he announced his improbable bid.
It’s called a “collective action problem” for a reason. Plenty of Republicans think they’d win a general election that Trump would lose; plenty think DeSantis is unready for the big stage; and some think DeSantis is too similar to Trump to justify rallying behind as an alternative. They’ve also heard from would-be allies who’ve seen Trump win over a divided field before and worry they’re reproducing the same mistakes as 2016.
“If there’s five, six, seven real conservative outsider candidates, Donald Trump will win with a plurality because nobody else will come close,” ex-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters seven months ago, at a post-election meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “If there’s only one or two, it’s a fair fight.”
It’s obvious now there won’t be “one or two” non-Trump candidates. Scott, Haley, Hutchinson, and Vivek Ramaswamy are already running, along with a variety of fringe candidates who have attracted less attention. Publicly, Trump is pleased, posting on Truth Social yesterday that the race was “rapidly loading up with lots of people” and that Scott was “a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious.”
The wider-than-expected interest in a 2024 campaign is mostly about DeSantis, not Trump. It doesn’t matter that he’d start a race with more than $100 million. The attitude I’ve heard from strategists is that DeSantis is competing for the same voters as Trump — social conservatives and MAGA nationalists — and that there’s a deep, wide pool of economic conservatives and electability-minded Republicans who nobody’s made the sale to. And with the Florida governor off to a creaky start, they’re feeling even less pressure to stand aside.
Are they right? On the trail with Scott and Hutchinson on Monday, I was struck by how many people who’d taken time out of their day to meet the candidates were already thinking in terms of Trump or DeSantis nominations.
If polling is to be believed, the two front-runners basically satisfy most GOP voters, who give them each high marks on favorability. Meanwhile, the campaign for vice president, which no candidate claims to be competing in, is real for many voters — just as it was in 2019, when many Black Democrats said that Kamala Harris should run for the number two job, and got their wish.
This part of the GOP base, a dominant faction in many midterm primary contests, isn’t crying out for more candidates. But some big donors are — Oracle’s Larry Ellison got a shout-out from Scott at his launch rally — and they, along with the candidates and consultants, are still casting around for a savior.
Ex-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan abandoned his idea of a center-right Trump challenge in March, driving away in what turned out to be a one-car parade. “I made the decision to not enter the race in order to avoid a multi-car pileup like 2016 that enabled Trump,” Hogan told The Messenger over the weekend. “A lot of folks seem to have made a different calculation.”
Honestly, I think this is overthinking it. People are running for the Republican nomination because there’s not an incumbent Republican President. It’s what people who have been vice presidents, governors, and senators do.
Part of it’s ego, to be sure. You don’t get to one of those jobs and not have a big ego. These people really think they’re the best person to run the country.
I don’t know that anyone actually runs for Vice President. It’s a consolation prize, not something worth months of pretending to care about Iowa farmers and New Hampshire breakfast patrons. But it’s still a step up for a small state governor or a governor who’s been term-limited out of a job. (I’d personally rather be a Senator but it’s hard to turn down the offer if the party’s nominee makes it.)
I have no idea what motivates people like Ramaswamy. Maybe he has a message he wants to get out. Maybe it’s a lark.
Where have I heard that name before?
Ah, yes, the guy who likes bribes:
No Republican incumbent in the White House, a sense that the nation is tired of Trump (most of us, yes, but not Republican primary voters), and that magical thinking that somehow, they alone will rise to the top of the heap.
DeSantis has all but unqualified himself as far as I’m concerned. That his asinine book ban policy has allowed a single parent to have Amanda Gorman’s poem from Biden’s inauguration pulled is as pure an example of suppressing intellectual freedom and the first amendment as I’ve ever seen.
The current Republican field is a clown car.
What is interesting about the R field, is that none of the reasonably serious contenders from 2016 have stepped up.
Who you suppose that is?
Attention and money. Mostly money. And attention.
I don’t think a lot of GOP primary voters see it that way. But yes, the GOP primary field is a clown car. As is the whole Party. That Republicans can hold several states, the House, and be competitive for the presidency would be hilarious, if it weren’t so frightening.
Money. It’s all about the grift and furthering your wingnut career
Get those donations and write off bills to your campaign. Sell some merch and yourself to boost your post-election profile. If you do well, it leads to be later prospects and more lucrative deals. However even a quick flame out can net you tens of thousands of dollars you didn’t have before and greater media presence. Win-win essentially
Matt Bai had a piece at WAPO yesterday called, The quiet race to be the GOP’s biggest loser in 2024 begins. The piece isn’t very interesting. But the title seems apt.
ETA – straight to moderation. But I can edit it while it’s in purgatory. I don’t get the upvote option for anybody else, but I can edit mine. WordPress seems a wonder to behold.
@daryl and his brother darryl: @KM:
So, in other words, they’re doing it for the same reason Trump did in 2016: as a branding exercise. He didn’t expect to win then either.
My “like” button has disappeared into the void.
Somewhere along the line they all watched “The Producers” and came to the realization that an unsuccessful attempt can be very profitable for the principles. Publicity, donations, campaign expenses can all line your pocket nicely. They are even singing “Springtime for Hitler.”
@Slugger: You know, “The Producers” is a pretty good analogy, especially when it comes to Trump. The scheme in that movie was to get a lot of investors to put in 100% of the money each towards a play. When it was a bomb they each would have lost everything they invested and looked no farther. But when it was a success, they each were looking for their payoff, which exposed the underlying con. In 2015 I long contended that even if Trump somehow won the nomination he wouldn’t be dumb enough to accept it because it would expose all his illegal activity over the years, which is exactly what is happening now. My mistake was one so many people make wrt to Trump: the most important thing to remember is that Trump is a moron.
@CSK: Rubio and Ted Cruz come to mind.
I advised Trump from early on to 1) Pardon everyone he could, including himself because, why not? 2) Resign the office. 3) Flee to a country without extradition treaties, or a conveniently corrupt government.
But he’s a moron. So there’s a pretty good chance that he dies in a concrete box after seeing his business ’empire’ burned down around his ears, and his children lining for their own cells.
Dammit, I meant to say “why,” not “who.” But the question has been satisfactorily addressed. 😀
What @just nutha: said. Those were the two I had in mind.
I suspect the Cruz has figured out that as a Senator he can never be the ass hat that a governor can, there will never be prez and is resigned himself to the Senate. For Rubio, it maybe that he figures he’s better off waiting till 28 or even 32. Trump will be gone from the scene and enough “Olds” would have croaked that R’s will need to abandon the culture wars.
I think it is pretty obvious why so many Republicans are running, they think, probably correctly, that DeSantis has no shot and if Trump can’t run or won’t run (health, prison, mercurial personality), someone will have to pick up the pieces.
@Michael Reynolds: “I advised Trump from early on to 1) Pardon everyone he could, including himself because, why not? 2) Resign the office. 3) Flee to a country without extradition treaties, or a conveniently corrupt government.”
For all practical purposes, he is *still* getting away with it.
For the most part, yes.
But the verdict in the Carroll lawsuit hurt him in two very vulnerable spots: his image and his money. Plus Carroll seems poised to do it twice more (a pending case and a new one).
I don’t know whether to bet on a conviction in New York, but I think it’s approaching better than even odds other indictments will turn up in Fulton County and at the DOJ by this summer.
Thought that needed a fix. I hope you don’t mind.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
An acceptable criticism.
Personally, I was thinking more in terms of peyote or LSD, but YMMV.
Tim Scott’s campaign logo is quite special.
I wonder if Benito the angry Cheeto expected a coronation.
That is, he’d run unopposed, or with minimal opposition, and win every primary.
Oh, he’d want a coronation. I don’t know if even he is delusional enough to expect one.
I’m surprised there are any former governors willing to run for the Senate. From chief executive at whatever scale, to backbench legislator. You’re not going to chair any subcommittees; you’re not going to write any significant legislation; if you don’t vote the way leadership tells you, they will make your life hell. I was very surprised that Hickenlooper, after two terms as mayor of Denver and two as governor of Colorado, ran for a legislative job. Although there’s always the financial angle. Look at Sinema’s increase in net worth in the relatively short time she’s been a Senator.
@Michael Cain: Once you’ve been governor, the choices are 1) run for President, 2) run for Senate, or 3) get out of elective politics and cash in. The advantage of the Senate is that it’s a 6-year term—so less grubbing for money than in the House—and still a rather prestigious club. Both of Virginia’s Senators (and most of Virginia’s modern Senators) have been former governors, because we’re one of the few states left that doesn’t let our governors serve consecutive terms.