Former President Donald Trump currently holds a commanding lead as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 Presidential Election. His lead has consistently grown despite facing several indictments. None of his opponents has managed to surpass the 20% mark in national polls or in early caucus/primary states since July. To disrupt this trend and challenge Trump more effectively, a major shift in strategy is required by his challengers.
One potential approach is for the competing candidates to cease vying for second place and instead form a team. This team would identify a president-vice president partnership from within their ranks and select cabinet members from the remaining candidates. The goal would be to work together as a cohesive unit focused on unseating Trump as the primary front-runner.
The Wall Street Journal reports in “Trump’s Challengers Beg for Donations” (Oct. 18) that large donors are taking to the sidelines until the field of candidates shrinks. A consolidation of the field into a team may unleash that funding stream once again. In addition, combining the cash on hand and small donor bases of the candidates would bring strength. Recent Federal Election Commission reports show that the combined cash on hand of the challengers exceeds $45 million, surpassing Trump’s $32 million.
Following the third Republican debate on November 8th in Miami, the candidates pursuing this plan would announce a joint president-vice president campaign before the New Year. They would also identify potential cabinet members from within their group.
The primary consideration in selecting candidates for these positions should be their potential to win the primary and general election. All the challengers possess interesting backgrounds and valuable experience in government and the private sector. Some have proven better fund raisers than others and that may influence which president-vice president team may emerge, but the key question is which combination is most likely to secure a general election victory. The strongest combination appears to be Haley/DeSantis based on polling.
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina Governor, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appears to be a strong candidate for the president position in the primary. National polling averages from 538 and Real Clear Politics show DeSantis has plateaued in second place with Haley gaining momentum and challenging him for that slot. In the early primary/caucus states of New Hampshire and South Carolina Haley is edging out DeSantis for second place behind Trump.
Haley appears weaker among populists, pro-life, and strong traditional values segments of the Republican Party. In this context, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis could serve as an ideal vice-presidential candidate to shore up support among these voters. DeSantis has proven himself as a winner with a convincing victory in the 2022 election. He is also willing to tackle cultural issues head-on and has a history of success in reversing trends objectionable to traditionalist conservatives.
The remaining third-tier challengers can play vital roles in the team as likely cabinet members in the Haley/DeSantis partnership. For instance, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott could take on the role of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to lead efforts in implementing an equality and opportunity agenda. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could serve as Attorney General to rebuild trust in the justice system. Former Vice President Mike Pence, if he wishes to continue serving, could be considered for Secretary of Defense or State. His experience would be welcome, and he has a personal stake in national security decisions with a son and son-in-law serving as military pilots. Vivek Ramaswamy’s energy and intellect could be focused to revamp U.S. education policy as Secretary of Education. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum could serve as Secretary of Energy to implement a comprehensive and balanced energy policy. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson might take on the role of Secretary of Homeland Security having had several related positions in the past.
Another potentially dramatic cabinet offer could be made to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He left the Democratic Party and began an independent campaign. He is polling above 20% against Biden and Trump in some polls. Kennedy would be asked to join this team with a promise to be nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services and the opportunity to transform the institution and break the stranglehold he perceives the pharmaceutical industry has on it.
It is worth noting that a significant majority of Americans, across the political spectrum, have indicated in polling that they do not want a Biden/Trump rematch. The Democratic Party has shut down challenges to President Biden. The Republican Party is fortunate to have a deep bench of high-quality candidates seeking to replace former President Trump. Alone, none of them are likely to unseat President Trump, but by working together, they stand a better chance of achieving this goal.
There is also the opportunity for non-Republicans to express their dissatisfaction with the Trump/Biden match up. Thirty-one states do not have party registration or allow registered independents to vote in any party's primary. If a Unity Ticket were formed it could expand its outreach to independents and even moderate Democrats to support their ticket. This could make the difference in accumulating a majority of delegates in the 31 states.
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