With the midterms over, the political focus is shifting to the upcoming presidential election. Former President Donald Trump’s announcement last month, that he is in fact running in 2024, helps us to understand what the GOP field will look like. Trump is in.
Trump vs. Pence and DeSantis?
Trump’s bid for the 2024 ticket will likely be challenged.
Trump’s stock has never been lower. His endorsements for the 2022 midterms fared poorly. He’s mired in lawsuits and investigations. He, of course, lost the 2020 presidential election.
In short, Trump is vulnerable.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, has become a nationally prominent figure, the number one challenger for the GOP ticket.
And then there’s Mike Pence, the former vice president who just released a memoir, So Help Me God, and appeared on Fox and other media outlets, speaking about how the GOP has “better choices” than Donald Trump; Pence is posturing as if he will run for president, too.
GOP Candidates Play a Waiting Game
So, that sets up a hotly contested GOP primary: Trump, DeSantis, Pence.
Who has the advantage? Who will win?
Let me start by dismissing the weakest candidate.
Mike Pence is not on par with Trump or DeSantis. Pence is of course a national figure. He served as vice president for four years, which is typically a launching pad for the presidency itself.
But Pence lives in Trump’s shadows. Most of what Pence does is considered, innately, in reference to Trump. And nothing seems to get Pence headlines like talking about Trump. This serves to suggest that Trump is still the significantly more powerful figure. Pence will be on the outside looking in if he opts to run against Trump and/or DeSantis.
Trump will still be a viable candidate to earn the 2024 ticket. Trump, who announced his candidacy for the third consecutive presidential race, is a full-blown political institution. A portion of the right-wing U.S. population actively worships Trump. He started a movement: MAGA. He will be formidable.
But Trump’s stock has never been lower. He seems to be aware of it. When Trump announced his candidacy from his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump’s energy was low. His speech was boring. The performance was very much off-brand. Observers were surprised to see the former president seem so deflated for such a significant moment. It makes sense, however. Trump has been getting shellacked in elections for years. And he’s pushing 80 years old. One would expect him to slow down, to lose interest.
Perhaps his heart isn’t in the race anymore. I wouldn’t draw that conclusion from one underwhelming rally event, but the surrounding context hints at Trump losing some drive.
Either way, whether or not Trump is fully invested, DeSantis is surging. DeSantis may have overtaken Trump as the preeminent figure in the Republican Party. That’s a difficult claim to quantify – but DeSantis is right there. He won Florida with a 20-point margin over former mayor Charlie Crist.
Remember that Trump won Florida in 2020 with just a 5-point margin over Biden. DeSantis is posturing to overtake Trump. Many from the mainstream GOP are throwing support behind DeSantis; Murdoch and his media empire (Fox News, New York Post) appear to be pivoting to support DeSantis. Trump knows it, too. The former president has been lashing out against the Florida governor recently, sensing that the threat is real.
A GOP Civil War in 2024?
The fight for the GOP ticket will be bitter. Any contest featuring Trump is going to be bitter, really. But what makes 2024 so compelling is that we may see Trump dethroned, after monopolizing the GOP for seven years straight. Whether DeSantis can unseat Trump remains to be seen. Whether another challenger emerges to dethrone Trump remains to be seen. But you can count on Trump having a tightly contested path to the GOP ticket.
More: Is Donald Trump Going Crazy?
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.