How do moderate Republicans approach the 2024 presidential election? For those who are reluctant to vote for Donald Trump, what are the alternatives?
There is no shortage of potential GOP candidates, as noted in Max Greenwood’s survey in The Hill, with this headline, “The 10 Republicans most likely to run for president in 2024.”
What’s expected is that all, including former VP Mike Pence, will opt out if and when the GOP’s presumptive nominee posts a glitzy video of himself alongside his spouse, Melania, on a Trump Tower escalator, this time going upward.
These presidential hopefuls are already positioning themselves, making appearances at the early primary states or setting up political action committees to boost GOP candidates ahead of the 2020 midterm elections. Of course, all of them must cope with the tricky dynamics of being viable without upsetting their presumptive and vengeful leader. Should Trump opt out, it will be a messy primary with each of the wannabes targeting the MAGA base, pushing the party further to the right.
Republicans remain hopeful looking at 2024, given President Joe Biden’s poll numbers spiraling downward, his age, the COVID tsunami crippling the economy, and Democrats’ struggle to accomplish their agenda with slim margins in the Congress. At the same time, if Donald Trump becomes the GOP nominee in the next presidential election, a fragment of the party loyalists will likely face a daunting choice between fear about another Trump presidency and reluctance to vote for a Democrat.
Has Trumpism taken over the Republican Party, trashing its traditional values and beliefs championed by leaders such as Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan,and Mitt Romney? At a forum in Rochester, NY, I recently appeared alongside a former Republican Congressman who observed that “Donald Trump had hijacked the Republican Party.”
But where to turn?
Concerns about Trump led some prominent anti-Trump Republicans to set up the Lincoln Project in 2019. In The New Yorker, Paige Williams published an analysis highlighting the project’s influence on Republican politics, claiming that its attacks on Trump were splintering the party’s traditional base. It even dared to cross the line, formally endorsing Joe Biden for president in April 2020.
Beyond producing a number of anti-Trump TV ads and its leaders making regular appearances on cable network news programs, would the Lincoln Project make a difference as we approach the 2024 presidential election? A better path, in my view, is to transform the Project’s Political Action Committee into an independent third party, and then proceed with ground level operations to secure enough signatures to get on the ballots in key battleground states.
There’s a clear parallel to this suggestion. Back in 1992, Texas billionaire Ross Perot launched his candidacy by forming an independent party that placed his name alongside then President George H.W. Bush and the Democrat challenger, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. Before the era of social media platforms, Perot built a national base among those who read his On Wings of Eagles and were inspired by his highly publicized rescuing of two U.S. citizens in Iran. He also had a populist message – strong opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and pledge to reduce the national debt – that resonated nationally at the time.
On election night Perot won 18.9% of the popular vote, the highest share of the vote won by a candidate outside of the two major parties since Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party in 1912. Perot’s gambit had a riveting effect on the Bush candidacy, with Perot taking votes away from him in key states.
George H.W. Bush was one of just two incumbent presidents (besides Jimmy Carter in 1980) since World War II to lose a re-election campaign. While Perot did not win a single electoral vote, he certainly had an impact on the outcome — Clinton flipped a total of 22 states that had previously voted Republican in 1988.
The Lincoln Project could charter an independent party and get it on the ballot in key states, but the obvious question is who would be on the ticket. One suggestion would be the pair of Rep. Liz Cheney and former Ohio Gov. Robert Kasich. Both have credentials and the guts to refute Trump’s claims of election fraud and authoritarian rule. Their focus would be on true GOP policies and issues that would offer an alternative for the disheartened Republicans who will be casting ballots in the 2024 presidential election.
Liz Cheney’s latest public comment sounded the alarm for many fellow Republicans: “Donald Trump can never be anywhere near the oval office again.” The ousted former president will likely end Cheney’s career in the U. S. House of Representatives, but she may be the one who foils Trump’s return to the White House ever again.