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AOC: The Next President of United States?

AOC on MSNBC. Image Credit: MSNBC Screenshot.

Trump vs. AOC in 2024? How it Could Happen – Must it be? An SNL skit comes to life on our cable news screens in 2024?

The normal question might seem: Seriously? Why would Democrats nominate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for president in 2024? She would be 35 by the time she would take office in early 2025.

But after a column in The Hill by a Democrat political consultant, headlined “AOC is the Democrats’ best shot against Trump in 2024,” the rather absurd idea is gaining traction.

There was much flawed logic in the piece. To assert she is “best shot” to beat Trump might overstate the weakness of an indeed weak 2024 Democrat bench that doesn’t include President Joe Biden. It also might understate former President Donald Trump’s capacity to sabotage his own campaign.

What the writer, Michael Starr Hopkins, had right is that AOC does have a massive social media following and has become a cultish type of figure among some as the one to carry the torch of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

If 2024 is Trump vs. AOC, the premium will be on the performative as never before as two boisterous candidates that take a “no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity” approach to politics, clash.

When either Trump or AOC says something off the wall, it’s not even considered a gaffe any longer. But opponents on both sides love to highlight outlandish comments. Both are extraordinarily protective of their image and ultra-sensitive about criticism.

Trump says those who attack him are attacking middle America. AOC says those who attack her want to date her. Not sure either is true. But another similarity is that both seem to gain energy and more commitment from their supporters by every attack from critics.

There is no need to explain that Trump – if he chooses to run – would be a heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination for the third time.

A path for AOC to the White House—or her party’s nomination—requires substantially more explaining. But it seems pretty plausible. Biden says he’ll run again. But the growing consensus is he won’t – and about three-fourths of Democrat voters don’t want him to.

As I wrote about before, that leaves a weak field led by Vice President Kamala Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and a few B-list governors.

AOC checks off many boxes in a party defined by identity politics. Harris has intersectional bona fides too, but she performed horribly as a presidential candidate in 2020 and dropped out before the Iowa Caucus. As vice president, she’s only known for her word salads and hysterical laughing fits. Buttigieg, by contrast, won in Iowa and performed well in other primary states. But he was the candidate of the more upscale suburban Democrats and didn’t catch fire with the progressive activist base as Ocasio-Cortez has.

In a line Hopkins, the political consultant, almost certainly didn’t believe, he wrote The Hill piece, AOC “did her homework and tried to fly under the radar while learning the nuances of Congress and the levers of power that run it.”

Well, no. AOC has demonstrated zero command of any issues, and spends most of her waking hours on TV or social media building a platform. She has been a show horse not a work horse in Congress. Still, that’s not bad politics if she seeks higher office.

Further, one doesn’t have to be a wonk to have good political skills. Like AOC, the entire Squad is more focused on causing a stir than writing successful legislation. But these members would be nothing but an ignored ragtag band of slakers and malcontents in the House if AOC wasn’t their de facto spokesperson and leader. As I wrote about in “Abuse of Power,” AOC managed to outmaneuver the more experienced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which proves showmanship goes a long way in politics.

Hopkins made a much stronger case writing, “There will be no going high when they go low anymore. It appears the only rule is there are no rules, and AOC is ready to enter the cage and fight for our democracy.”

Democrats, of course, never went high. As I also explain in “Abuse of Power,” Trump’s primary victory in 2016 was based heavily on a perception that Republicans lacked the will to get in the gutter like Democrats. GOP voters recalled Democrats called John McCain a warmonger and accused Mitt Romney of waging a war on women. These nominees brought knives to a gunfight and snowballs to a rock fight and lost. In 2016 Republicans wanted someone to punch back and bring a bazooka to a gun fight and a boulder to a rock fight.

This time, if the core base of Democrats perceives the Biden administration and perhaps Democrats in Congress, as weak, AOC might convince the base that she has bazookas and boulders as well to fight.

Hopkins also wrote, “She’s Barack Obama if Barack Obama was an actual progressive.” I’m not sure Obama would appreciate that comparison. Regardless of what you think of 44th president, he understood public policy. But a takeaway point here is that Obama in 2008 wasn’t supposed to win his party’s nomination but captured a cultish following, just as Trump later had. One could imagine AOC getting the same from a far-left sector of her party’s base.

In a head-to-head contest, Trump would likely prevail over AOC. For all his faults, Americans would know what they would get from him. Given a binary choice, a younger, female, socialist version of Trump might not be so appealing to battleground state voters. Trump also has a record of accomplishments to point to from his four years in the White House. For all the Twitter and Instagram followers she has amassed, AOC hasn’t sponsored successful legislation. Everyone measures success differently.

Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of “The Right Side of History” podcast. Lucas is also the author of “Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump.”

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Fred Lucas is chief national affairs correspondent for The Daily Signal and co-host of "The Right Side of History" podcast. Lucas is also the author of "Abuse of Power: Inside The Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump."