Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, and Donald Trump to Face Off In 2024? – With presidential candidates expected to begin announcing their campaigns in the wake of the November midterm elections, and with former President Donald Trump already on the campaign trail despite not having made an official announcement, the rumors of what the GOP field will look like have begun.
Among the top three contenders are former President Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and perhaps most curiously, former Vice President Mike Pence. And if those rumors prove true, it could result in a more contentious, bitter, and vicious GOP presidential primary season than we saw in 2016.
According to one YouGov/Yahoo News poll, some 36% of Republican-leaning independents and registered Republicans would throw their weight behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and other polls from Florida, Michigan, and New Hampshire have also given DeSantis the advantage over former President Donald Trump.
While DeSantis is popular among Republicans, however, running in 2024 carries the risk of becoming unpopular. During the 2016 presidential primary season, Texas Senator Ted Cruz went hard against Donald Trump, even announcing running mate Carly Fiorina before eventually losing the nomination and slamming the New York businessman as a crook and a “pathological liar.”
Though the pair have since resolved their differences and become political allies, Cruz’s chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination have dwindled dramatically. Once a contender to win the nomination, Cruz has barely registered on a number of 2024 polls over the last year. In a New York Times/Siena College poll from July this year, Cruz came third with 7% support, behind Donald Trump with 49% and Ron DeSantis with 25%.
While DeSantis could undoubtedly be within a shot of winning the GOP nomination if the anti-Trump vote can be consolidated behind his campaign, he risks angering a dedicated section of the GOP base – a move that would not only risk his popularity if he loses but which could also dissuade Trump loyalists from turning out to vote in November 2024.
The idea of a former vice president going up against a former president in a presidential primary is unprecedented. Even the fact that former Vice President Mike Pence is considering a 2024 run is significant, as it widens the divide between the two men that peaked on January 6 when he broke with Trump on his Electoral College role. It also risks both candidates potentially tarnishing the work they did together in the White House in 2017.
While Pence may enjoy some support from Trump supporters based solely on the fact that he was loyal to the former president for four years, he’s unlikely to chip away at Trump’s gargantuan support within the GOP. He will, however, have a good shot at winning over what’s left of the Never Trump vote and other more traditional Republican voters who care more about fiscal responsibility than Trump’s brand of populist nationalism.
Nonetheless, former Vice President Pence appears to be all-in on a 2024 run, speaking at conservative events across the country and preaching about the successes of his time in the White House. The Washington Post noted that Pence typically makes no direct references to the former president. During a recent speech at the Florence Baptist Temple in South Carolina, he repeatedly made reference to the Trump-Pence Administration – and not former President Trump.
Speaking to the New York Times in an interview published in May, Pence also appeared to indicate that he would be willing to go for the GOP nomination in 2024 even if Trump runs.
“We’ll go where we’re called,” Pence told the newspaper.
Don’t Forget About Liz Cheney…
The former vice president is unlikely to be the only candidate vying for the vote of more traditional GOP voters, however, with Rep. Liz Cheney refusing to rule out a 2024 run herself during an interview over the weekend. Speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN, Cheney said that she has not yet made a decision on a possible 2024 run, and that her focus right now is on fulfilling her role on the controversial and politically-charged January 6 committee.
“At this point, I haven’t made a decision on 2024…I’ll make a decision on 2024 down the road,” Cheney said.
And, while Cheney and Pence may see eye to eye on plenty of issues, their approaches to former President Trump and his supporters are very different. While Pence keeps Trump at a respectful distance, Cheney is actively working to pursue criminal charges against the former president. For that reason alone, Pence and Cheney could find themselves at odds during primary season.
Cheney could also run as an independent.
Some polls, however, suggest that the former president’s grip over the Republican Party could be slipping somewhat. The same YouGov/Yahoo News poll that revealed DeSantis’ popularity also showed that more than four in 10 Republicans believe that Donald Trump should not run for president again, or that they aren’t sure. However, a majority remains on his side.
Trump said earlier this month that he has already made his decision on running in 2024, and given that the campaign rallies continue, it’s clearer than ever that the former president is preparing his third run for the White House. Unlike in 2020, however, he could face some real competition for the nomination – which is likely one of the reasons why he is reportedly mulling an early announcement.
Brace yourself for a brutal primary season. Donald Trump, it seems, will have come competition.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.