The Top 10 GOP Presidential Candidates for 2024, Ranked
It now looks like it will go quite well. Kemp led former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) 60% to 32% in a recent Fox News poll, further cementing him as the clear favorite. His win wouldn’t necessarily affirm Pence’s political stock — Kemp was already showing double-digit leads — but it would be a nice boost for Pence and his presidential aspirations.
And it’s just the latest example of Pence carving out a calculated distance from former President Donald Trump. And he navigated the potential pitfalls relatively well: Although Trump criticized the former vice president for not helping him annul the 2020 election, it did not represent the kind of sustained campaign he often hurls against his apostates.
What if a narrative takes hold after May 24 that Pence beat Trump in a (even oversimplified) proxy battle? Trump’s reaction would say a lot about his intentions for 2024 and Pence’s bet.
For these reasons, we’re at least momentarily pushing Pence to the top of our initial list of the most likely candidates for the 2024 GOP presidency. As usual, this list takes into account both the likelihood of them running in first place and the probability that they win.
Also mentioned: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem, Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
10. Asa Hutchinson: The question has long been whether the GOP would ever appoint a Trump critic — even a nice one — in 2024. The answer is probably still “no,” but the governor of Arkansas has charted an interesting course. He criticized his party for being too heavy-handed in legislation on issues such as transgender rights and the punishment of so-called “woke” societies. And on the latter, he called Trump’s most likely heir, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). Hutchinson has also weighed in on the possibility of a campaign, recently saying it’s “on the table” when he isn’t in office after 2022 – and that Trump’s candidacy wouldn’t necessarily deter him. (Previous ranking: N/A)
9. Chris Sununu: The governor of New Hampshire is one of the few famous Republicans in the country to support abortion rights and must now walk a tightrope. After the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion was announced, he stressed that he would keep abortion “safe and legal” in New Hampshire. But last week he also claimed to have “done more on the pro-life issue” than any recent New Hampshire governor, as he signed a 24-week abortion ban. Navigating both his criticisms of Trump and his views on abortion is asking a lot in today’s GOP. (Previous ranking: 9)
8. Glenn Youngkin: The governor of Virginia recently confronted one of his first major sources of tension with the GOP base — his cautious response to demands for a crackdown on protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices in his state. Virginia state law also apparently makes such protests illegal, but rather than asking for state action, Youngkin eventually joined Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in asking the Justice Department to take action in its place. (Previous ranking: 8)
7. Donald Trump Jr.: In case you had any doubts about the type of campaign Trump Jr. would run, he recently criticized Congress for sending money to the “clown show” in Ukraine and suggested it was a good idea to bomb Mexican cartels. Whenever Trump Jr. is questioned in a race without his father, he does remarkably well for a political novice. But he also seems quite content to be a bomb thrower throwing taunts from the touchline. (Previous ranking: 5)
6. Ted Cruz: Speaking of Republicans who backed against Trump’s favored nominee, the Texas senator was stumped for Dave McCormick over Trump’s choice of Mehmet Oz just before the Pennsylvania primary. Cruz argued that McCormick was the most conservative candidate likely to win the Senate seat. McCormick’s run against Oz now looks set for a recount, with Oz having the slightest advantage. (Previous ranking: 7)
5. Tim Scott: Former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney recently listed the South Carolina senator as one of three candidates who could beat Trump in a primary, alongside DeSantis and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. (We can’t laugh at these things as easily as before, but Johnson seems unlikely to run as a Republican.) Scott also recently took aim at Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen’s comments about the economic impacts of the ban on abortion. (Previous ranking: 6)
4. Nikki Haley: Haley is perhaps the biggest boom-or-bust candidate on this list. She showed real political talent, but she also tops the ranks of Republicans who seriously misplayed their hands (or, more likely, spoke her mind) after Jan. 6, 2021. She offered a series of conflicting thoughts on where the party should go on Trump. In this, she is not unlike House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), For her part, Haley was more committed to the idea of a post-Trump party. that McCarthy never did — and more publicly — to step down when it became clear that was not good policy. (Previous ranking: 3)
3. Mike Pence: Given the precipitous drop in his GOP numbers after Jan. 6, it’s hard to see him as a frontrunner for the GOP nomination. But they didn’t completely fall off a cliff. And again, he seems to be navigating a sticky situation relatively well, given the circumstances — creating his own brand and softly criticizing Trump with no backlash. We’ll see if it holds up next week. (Previous ranking: 4)
2. Ron DeSantis: We are increasingly of the view that he could really give Trump a hard time if they clashed – as DeSantis obviously refused to rule out. Most polls show his deficit starting in his teens or 20s, with Trump below majority support. It’s a big lead for Trump, but hardly impenetrable over the next two years. Indeed, one would expect someone of Trump’s stature to have such a lead at a time when so few people are paying attention and probably don’t know much about DeSantis. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Donald Trump: The very, very big question is whether Trump is running. We can all over-analyze the tea leaves on this, but it’s somewhat mind-boggling that Trump hasn’t done more about this fact that his Supreme Court nominees look set to overturn. Roe vs. Wade. Also worth watching in the coming weeks is how Trump’s candidates fare in a series of competitive primaries, following a few high-profile losses and likely another in Georgia. Either way, it will send a message to his would-be usurpers — and potentially to Trump himself, about whether he even wants to risk the party balking at his run. (Previous ranking: 1)