By Nathan Worcester
As more and more candidates jump into the GOP 2024 pool, speculation has mounted about their motivations. Do all of them really believe they could be looking back at America from the Oval Office by January 2025—or do some have a different destiny in mind?
Multiple insiders have stressed to The Epoch Times that anyone who enters contention imagines themselves winning, even with the perceived incumbent, former President Donald J. Trump, already enjoying a commanding lead in many polls (though his chief rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has outpaced Trump in fundraising.
After all, politicians don’t have small egos.
“In his mind, and his consultants’ minds, there’s a pathway,” Trump-aligned consultant Alex Bruesewitz told The Epoch Times regarding Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) 2024 candidacy in a May 25 interview.
Yet, others from a wide range of political backgrounds who spoke with The Epoch Times voiced greater skepticism.
“If all of them legitimately believe they can win, at least a few of them are clearly delusional,” said James Hartman, a Republican political consultant and self-described “Never Trumper” who has worked for Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and other GOP politicians, in a June 15 interview with The Epoch Times.
“Politics is about pole positioning, and the vast majority of Republican hopefuls clearly know they have no chance at winning the nomination, but they’re without question positioning themselves for the number two slot,” Charles Denyer, a cybersecurity expert and biographer of two Republican vice presidents, told The Epoch Times in a June 14 interview.
“While all the Republican candidates say they are in the race to get the presidential nomination, that’s not the case,” said William Bike, a journalist and author of “Winning Political Campaigns: A Comprehensive Guide To Electoral Success,” in an interview with The Epoch Times on June 12.
But another insider, Democratic presidential campaign veteran Richard Gordon, was less inclined to dismiss the presidential ambitions of even the least among the GOP’s 2024 seekers.
“No one ‘technically’ runs for vice president or a cabinet position, and all [GOP hopefuls] would say they aren’t. Each of these candidates sees a pathway to victory, albeit narrow. Having said that, most of them would be beyond thrilled to accept the vice presidential nomination, and some, a cabinet position,” said Gordon, who also serves on the Republican Governors Association’s National Finance Committee, in a June 14 interview with The Epoch Times.
The experts who spoke with The Epoch Times agreed that many Republicans in the 2024 race are putting themselves in a position to be tapped by the eventual nominee.
“A strong showing in any number of early primaries allows the eventual nominee to take note of another candidate’s viability and their ability to help win the general election in November. With little money and marginal name recognition, the likes of Tim Scott, Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley—and others—are jockeying for that hopeful phone call to be selected as the nominee’s running mate, or possibly a cabinet position,” Denyer said.
In the case of Scott and Hutchinson, the early primary in their home state of South Carolina could be the critical test.
Their names frequently recurred as plausible picks for vice president, as is often the case in conversations about the 2024 race. Other names—for instance, that of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—did not.
One reason may be their reputation for hawkishness—a tendency that isn’t uncommon in the state that produced Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). High-level Republicans, eager to put the Trump years behind them, may yearn for a return to the foreign policy stances of the McCain or Bush families.
Gordon suggested that at least some contenders “may be thinking ahead to a post-Trump Republican party and want to carve a place for themselves in it.”
For Scott, Haley, or some other hopefuls, 2028 might mean a lot more than 2024, particularly if conflict with Russia, China, or both has whetted Americans’ appetite for more vigor (or, to some, aggression) internationally.
Another obvious, if uncomfortable, explanation, at least for those conservatives who would prefer to think of themselves as colorblind, is demographics.
The United States is on pace to become majority-minority within decades. The process is already complete in states such as California, now more Latino than white—and the flow of illegal immigrants across the United States’ southern border has accelerated the trend, one in keeping with migrant-driven demographic changes happening across western Europe, Canada, and other countries.
In recent memory, most non-white ethnic groups in the United States have leaned heavily toward Democrats, though that could be changing in some places.
Nevertheless, and at least in the eyes of some, the Republican Party must run non-white candidates to attract non-white voters.
Haley, who is of Indian descent, and Scott, who is African American, check the right demographic boxes for a party that is at other times willing to criticize “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) initiatives.
Those boxes would also be checked by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, now suddenly a part of the 2024 conversation.
“I think Mayor Suarez could have an interesting impact on primary voter behavior—if he makes it that long—especially in Florida and, nationally, among Latino voters,” Hartman told The Epoch Times.
Some Trump loyalists see Suarez and others as part of an establishment strategy to divide and conquer the former president’s fans.
“Real story: Never-Trump cartel is invisible hand here. They back this puppet hoping he can drain off Trump’s massive Cuban/Latino support in Florida. Puppet Pence carving Christians. Scott stopping Trump momentum in early primary SC [South Carolina]. On and on,” Trump administration veteran Peter Navarro wrote on Twitter.
Race and Gender
There may also be pressure to put a woman somewhere on the ticket.
Citing anonymous sources “close to Trump,” an Axios report from March of this year claimed the former president’s vice presidential short-list was made up of four women: Haley, former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.
Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung denied the assertions.
“Anyone who thinks they know what President Trump is going to do is seriously misinformed and trying to curry favor with ‘potential’ V.P. candidates,” he said.
Bike told The Epoch Times that demographic considerations are guiding political calculations in both major parties. He pointed out that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, both ran alongside black female lieutenant governor candidates—Julia Stratton and Winsome Sears, respectively.
He also noted President Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as running mate.
Biden had previously pledged to select a woman for his vice presidential slot. He likewise vowed to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court, ultimately choosing current Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace Stephen Breyer.
From some angles, the future of American politics looks more and more racialized.
“I think Trump-Pence was the last all-white male ticket we’re going to see for a while, and maybe ever,” Bike said.
“I think with both parties, we will see a white male candidate for president, and a woman or minority or both for vice president—not only in 2024, but from now on,” he added.
“Tim Scott and Nikki Haley know they could win South Carolina, but they’re also savvy enough to know that they aren’t going to get the nomination, and they’re running for vice president,” Bike continued.
Never Trumper Hartman was more optimistic about the odds for the pair of Palmetto State competitors.
“I suspect he Scott will do rather well at first and might certainly be a good VP pick if he doesn’t finish on top—unless, of course, Ambassador Haley prevails, in which case she’d be ill-advised to choose a running mate from the same state,” Hartman said.
Rightly or wrongly, some candidates are taken more seriously than others.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, for example, was dubbed a ‘kamikaze candidate’ by former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer.
“For those people who don’t like Trump because of the mean tweets, are they going to like the guy who is mean about Donald Trump?” Spicer said.
Some who spoke with The Epoch Times had a more charitable take on Christie—or, at the very least, see him as someone who is actually gunning for the top job rather than a lesser post.
“I think Gov. Christie is a serious candidate, but I don’t anticipate he will garner the momentum he would need to secure the nomination,” Hartman said.
Bike listed Christie alongside DeSantis, Hutchinson, and former Vice President Mike Pence as those who “are definitely running for president and not for VP or the cabinet. They’ll either win or go home.”
“Christie and Hutchinson, in particular, have already proven this by being critical of Trump,” Bike added.
Another contender, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, wasn’t taken quite as seriously by the insider commentators.
“Vivek is running to showcase himself and his brand, nothing more. While he’s definitely a true firebrand conservative, his strategy is no different than countless other candidates who jump into a major political race because they have millions to spend at their free will,” Denyer said.
Bike categorized Ramaswamy with other smaller contenders who “don’t have a high enough profile to be VP—they won’t contribute anything to the ticket.”
“Despite what they say, they’re running for cabinet posts,” he continued.
“Mr. Ramaswamy is probably well-intentioned but has no legitimate shot at the Oval Office. Among other things, his talk of raising the voting age to 25 could result in a miniature surge of young voters going to the polls—to vote for someone else,” Hartman said.
It’s possible the unique circumstances in 2024, from Trump’s legal battles to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s outsider bid, could open up unexpected opportunities for unusual candidates.
Yet, to many informed observers, the broad outlines of the coming contest are already apparent.
“I don’t see a dark horse for the GOP nominee—it’s either Trump or DeSantis, that I say without much reservation. Both men have a massive war chest to spend, will spend it to the very last dime, with one coming out victorious in what could be a bloodbath march towards the nomination,” Denyer told The Epoch Times.