Six years ago this week, I stood in the Oval Office with then-President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and my fellow cheesehead Reince Priebus, who was White House chief of staff. Two years from now, a new president will work in the Oval Office, or President Biden will begin a second term. For the good of the country, I hope it is the former.
Who will seek the presidency in 2024, and who can win? Mr. Trump announced his candidacy late last year. Although he has been slow to hit the campaign trail, I would never count him out. His positive record of achievement over four years earns him his rightful status as the front-runner.
Still, we hear voices from across the country who like what was accomplished under Mr. Trump but who are ready for a new candidate. Those voices got louder after the midterm elections.
The current favorite alternative to the former president is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He had an impressive victory in November — even racking up wins in previously Democratic counties. His record of accomplishments is outstanding.
That said, a strong record isn’t always the path to victory in the primaries. In 2015, I likely had the most impressive record as a governor, but Mr. Trump’s personality overwhelmed me and the rest of the field. Time will tell if that happens again in 2024.
Many of Mr. DeSantis’ supporters say that he is like Mr. Trump without the sharp edges. He stands up to the media, takes strong positions, and gets results. Still, there are others who say why a lesser version of the real thing — kind of like the Coke vs. New Coke debate of the mid-1980s.
Former Vice President Mike Pence looks likely to jump into the race. He had a strong record of leadership as governor and, before that, as a conservative leader in Congress. Without a doubt, Mr. Pence was a significant influence on Mr. Trump’s strong conservative record. From judicial nominations to pro-life stances, he played a major role.
Looking ahead, Mr. Pence’s path forward is to appeal to voters who like the things accomplished under the Trump-Pence administration without the theatrics. For those who want more positive policy results without the drama, he is the guy. That’s his best argument in the primaries.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley certainly has national security and domestic policy experience in her most recent roles in government. When she served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she seemed to be the most successful appointee in the Trump Cabinet, walking the tightrope of being aligned with him on positive things without the burden of being aligned on other less positive items. That was until her comments about the events of Jan. 6, 2021.
Still, Ms. Haley has a positive record as an ambassador and as a governor. She has laid out an aggressive series of policy speeches and statements. Plus, while it is certainly not her reason for running, the fact that a Republican could be the first woman to serve as president of the United States is a significant factor in the minds of many voters.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is a consistent favorite of conservative audiences across the nation. He is a fixture on conservative media, conferences and social media and has a wicked sense of humor. He was technically the runner-up to Mr. Trump in the delegate count. Historically, Republican voters tend to nominate candidates for that position. Still, we have not had a previous president in the mix in our lifetimes, and that changes things for sure.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was just sworn in for his third term as chief executive of the second-largest state in the nation. Like Mr. DeSantis, he helped turn his state into a Republican powerhouse. His leadership in sending border violators to Northern cities certainly received national attention. Plus, Texas is the best place in in the U.S. to do business, according to numerous surveys.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina arguably gave the best speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention. His personal narrative is very appealing, and he has a solidly conservative record in the Senate and House.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has become a conservative superstar. She briefly stumbled when dealing with a women’s sports issue but seems to have recovered. Her solid reelection results give her a compelling case.
Sen. Josh Hawley is still in his first term but is clearly eager to run for the top job in American politics. Before representing Missouri in the U.S. Senate, he was the state’s attorney general.
There are certainly plenty of other names, but a name worth watching is Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. She just signed statewide school choice legislation that will fund students instead of systems. She has done amazing things, like helping her economy grow, cutting taxes, and enacting conservative reforms. She gave an outstanding response to Mr. Biden’s State of the Union address.
There is much to consider for 2024, and it’s only January 2023.
• Scott Walker is president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.
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