This writer has always been under the impression that the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016 caught not only the political pundit class, polling firms and the American people off guard, but also Donald Trump himself. At times, he appears a reluctant President and would rather be ensconced in the comfort of his Trump Tower penthouse while flying off to play golf at one of his many golf courses without the press in tow as he shuffles his money-on-paper from one place to another. And, I really do not believe Melania signed on for this when she married Trump.
That being said, what if in late 2019, Trump declares himself the greatest President in the history of the United States and hangs a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Who is waiting in the wings? Using a strange system of consulting political pundit sites, but most importantly Vegas and British gambling sites, this writer has developed a proprietary system of evaluating possible GOP nominees in 2020 should Trump decide he’s had enough. So, here are the top ten people (actually 11 since there was a tie at #10):
#10. Tom Cotton and Jeff Flake
It is a travesty of integrity to mention these two people in the same sentence. When Flake gets the endorsement of Sean Penn, you know there is something seriously wrong with this soon-to-be former Senator from Arizona who was so disliked in his home state he was in primary trouble. His self-righteousness has endeared himself to the #Resistance. Conversely, although one is certain some will find faults with Cotton much like they did with Rubio over a single issue, Cotton has more integrity in his little finger than Flake has in his entire body. Besides: anyone who can tell off Schumer on the floor of the Senate gets a leg up in my book.
#9. Mitt Romney
Romney has to first win his Utah primary after failing to gain the party’s convention endorsement which means that Utah Republicans may have a problem with the GOP’s version of Hillary Clinton- a Presidential election loser who won’t go away. Romney seems like a nice guy and Obama must be wondering how Romney knew Russia was still a threat to the United States, but he didn’t. Should he win the Utah Senate seat (a good probability), then less than a full term in the Senate will be viewed as political opportunism.
#8. Michael Bloomberg
The former New York mayor, if ever nominated, would be the greatest thing for gun sales since the Inauguration of Barack Obama. This wolf in Republican clothing is your typical liberal Northeast RINO who espouses more Democratic talking points (gun control, taxes, climate change) than some actual Democrats. Sure, he has the money and the name recognition, but does the Republican Party really need Michael Bloomberg sporting an “R” after his name?
#7. Ben Sasse
Starting to get to the serious choices. However, besides pontificating on Facebook and virtue signaling on Twitter, can anyone point to a single legislative achievement? I admit I like Sasse from the first time I read up about him. He has experience in the healthcare field and in education. He’s young and articulate. Maybe he is a face to consider in 2024 or beyond, but 2020 may be a little too soon, a la Marco Rubio in 2016. Speaking of which…
#6. Marco Rubio
He’s young, articulate, dynamic and can turn the argument back on your garden variety liberal with the best of them. He has the name recognition given his 2016 run and there are likely many donors out there who would still give him a chance. Plus, he is charismatic and Hispanic. Of course, there is the Gang of Eight thing that people will repeatedly bring up, but is a thing of the past. Hopefully, he learned from that mistake and will not repeat it. All of that being said, most reports indicate that Rubio is treating his second term in the Senate with more vigor than in his first which was basically more of an audition for a Presidential bid. Maybe somewhere down the line and some legislative achievements under his belt, but I do not see it happening in 2020.
#5. Ted Cruz
Will Republican voters get it right this time? Personally, this writer is surprised Cruz comes in at #5 since six months ago he was #2. Why have pundits and odds makers somewhat soured on him? Perhaps some of it is due to some polls showing Cruz may not have an easy time winning reelection in 2018 in his Senate reelection bid. Or perhaps others have moved ahead of the pack of considerations (read on). Cruz is probably the most consistently conservative choice in the bunch and likely tap into a good donor network. Plus he is constantly in the news and can Tweet with the best of them which seems to be a prerequisite for the office these days.
#4. John Kasich
Please, NO! He says he has no inclination to run in 2020, but he has kept alive the donor spigot. Come early 2019, being term-limited, he will be looking for a new job and I doubt an analyst for Fox News or MSNBC has the allure of the White House. This “Aw, shucks…” Republican rendition of Joe Biden sees himself as some commonsense, down home anti-Trump and will likely sell himself as such. In fact, I would not be surprised if he actually primaried Trump should Trump decide to run. Kasich has too much of a big head to just fade away.
#3. Nikki Haley
One of the reasons Cruz dropped is because of Nikki Haley who did not even register in the top 10 six months ago. Since then, Haley has certainly endeared herself to conservatives with her foreign policy stances as UN Ambassador. After the dolts the Democrats put in that position (Samantha Power, Susan Rice), Haley is a breath of fresh air willing to take on Putin, Venezuelan dictators, Iranian mullahs, and that joke of a government- the Palestinian Authority. As a former Governor of South Carolina, she has executive experience and is well-versed on domestic issues. Plus, she’s a woman of Sikh (Asian) heritage. It would be interesting to see how the Democrats play their identity politics game against Haley.
#2. Paul Ryan
Ryan is the other reason for the drop in Cruz stock. Although there were rumors, his retirement from the House (as Speaker, no less) was still somewhat of a surprise. While some were saying this was because he saw the writing on the wall and the GOP would be relegated to minority status in the House come 2019 and he got the hell out of Dodge, perhaps this was for other reasons…like a Presidential run. Whether the GOP retains or loses the House in the midterms, watch Ryan carefully and whether he maintains a high political profile. Maybe he views himself as the picture of stability and a policy-driven candidate after four years of Trump. One caveat: voters do not really care about the nuances of policy prescriptions. Is Ryan capable of throwing out red meat?
#1. Mike Pence
Of course, the current Vice President is always considered the heir apparent in these situations. Eisenhower had his Nixon, Reagan had his Bush and Clinton had his Gore. Overall, other than the fact that as Governor of Indiana he wilted under pressure by some LGBT activists, Pence has done an admirable job as Vice President usually staying above the fray. It is not like the #Resistance has not tried to taint him with lies, half truths, and occasional slander… and attacked his wife to boot. I guess the question will be one of his association with Trump. If Trump’s approval ratings are decent or even rising as decision time nears, he can always latch onto that star. If not, the decision to retire to Indiana may be made easier.
All in all, the top 10 Republicans, with a few notable exceptions, are light years ahead of any of the walking dead the Democrats can put forth. Those who are the exceptions (Flake and Bloomberg primarily) can always find another home outside the GOP. At this point, this writer would take Kasich over any of the geriatric set the Democrats may put forth, or the outright socialists like Kamala Harris or the cringe-worthy antics of Corey Booker. No matter who the GOP candidate is in in 2020- Trump or whoever (except Flake and Bloomberg)- please, oh please Hillary, run again.