Former President Trump did not clear the field with his early announcement and initial rallies. He is going to find the Republican primaries quite competitive.
South Carolina’s former Governor and later United Nations Ambassador, Nikki Haley, began her campaign to be the Republican nominee for President last week. The political pundits were all over the story and most said she is a long shot at best. The handicappers are arguably right, but my sense is their assessment is relatively shallow. So let me go a bit deeper.
Haley, (Governor or Ambassador, take your pick), is the daughter of immigrants who migrated from India. In her announcement speech she characterized herself as “a brown girl in a black and white world.”
Haley’s husband, Michael, lost his mother at age 3, became a resident of a foster home and was subsequently adopted by Bill and Carole Haley. Michael served as a Captain in the South Carolina National Guard and did a tour of duty in Afghanistan while Haley was Governor.
Yes, America has changed. The Republican Party, not known for breaking glass ceilings, first elected Haley Governor of South Carolina after she had served several terms in its State legislature.
Unlike other Republican Governors considering a run, Haley has significant international experience having served as our United Nations Ambassador during the first part of the Trump Administration. This credential is reported as an asset and as a liability.
On the liability side, some pundits believe any association with Trump is toxic. I doubt that. She was certainly not an obsequious member of the Administration.
On the asset side, Governors do not typically have foreign policy experience. We will see how that experience plays out, but I suspect it will be a net advantage as our face-offs with Russia and China are not insignificant challenges.
Most handicappers believe that a large field of candidates will be to Trump’s advantage. That was certainly true in 2016. It is my guess that 2024 will unfold differently.
I anticipate there will be three contenders following the early primaries. Trump, Governor DeSantis of Florida and one other. If, and this is a big if, if Haley proves to be a successful fundraiser, she might well be holding down that third slot as she is widely regarded as a good campaigner.
Successful fundraiser—the test before the test. Major donors are not going to let the 2024 primaries devolve into a scrum. And that is where the long list of wannabes will have to run on a track of high hurdles. All but Trump and DeSantis and perhaps one other will need to win the fundraising primary which is well underway.
There is a relatively long list of Governors and former Governors who populate the potential candidate list, including Maryland’s Larry Hogan. There are some impressive persons on the list but with one exception they seem for various reasons to be long shots.
Virginia’s Governor, Glen Youngkin, is the exception. Finity.Com estimates his net worth at $470 million and reports that he spent $12 million of his own money in the 2021 Gubernatorial campaign. If Youngkin decides to run he will have bonus chips. He arguably has an additional advantage—a record on cultural issues that are roiling America.
The countdown has begun and will both more clearly define the GOP while sorting out it’s pretenders and contenders. One other thought: all of us should lower the rhetorical heat register; in a democracy discussing politics is essential.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.