The Republican candidates jockeying for position in advance of the 2024 race for president all have one thing in common; they’re not Donald Trump.
It’s a big handicap and, in the end, maybe a deal breaker with Republican voters. But no one is saying that less than two years out from the beginning of the presidential primaries, with a lot of news to be made between now and then.
Donald Trump is going to dominate the field — as long as he stays out of jail and remains in reasonably good health. But in the event that something untoward happens to Trump, a slew of candidates want to be ready “just in case.”
And even if Trump wins the nomination, someone has to be in a position to be chosen as his running mate. Angling for the second spot on the ticket may not be as glamorous as being the presidential nominee, but there are few politicians who would turn it down.
What we’re seeing now are preliminary moves from some of the potential candidates to get a foothold in early states. There are the pilgrimages to Iowa and New Hampshire as candidates look to make contacts and generate early interest.
Shadow campaigning more than two years out from a presidential election is not a new phenomenon. But the intensity with which it’s now taking place on the GOP side of the ledger is an indication that the presidential primary will begin in haste shortly after the midterms. It also suggests that some presidential aspirants and party bigwigs believe there is a brief window to try and define the contest before Trump himself jumps in.
But a look at the travel schedule of Virginia Governor Glenn is an intriguing glimpse into a different kind of strategy. Youngkin is visiting battleground states like Michigan, Nevada, and Arizona in order to give GOP candidates a boost and generate early enthusiasm for his run. And he’s also been to Nebraska and several other midwestern states.
Youngkin has refused to rule out running for president in 2024, and his folksy charm and easy manner play particularly well in rural America. And this week, he will be in Oklahoma and South Dakota, where Kevin Stitt and Kristie Noem have run into unexpectedly difficult races. Youngkin will look to remind voters in those states of the importance of the fight against woke education and point out the dire alternative.
He will also be in New York on October 31 to see if he can put GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin over the top in his race for governor against incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul.
Youngkin is set to hold separate rallies on Nov. 2 for Noem and Stitt, both of whom are seeking second terms. Noem is running against Democrat Jamie Smith, the South Dakota state House minority leader. While one survey released by South Dakota State University earlier this month showed Noem only leading Smith by 4 percentage points, Noem enjoyed a much larger lead in a recent survey by The Hill and Emerson College.
It’s in Oklahoma that Youngkin could do the most good. Stitt is running against a Republican-turned-Democrat and the incumbent is facing stiff opposition from Native American tribes. Democrat Joy Hofmeister, the state superintendent of education, switched parties and has largely neutralized the education issue. But Republican governors have made a huge ad buy in the state and Youngkin will give Stitt some star power going into the final stages of the campaign.
Youngkin’s 2024 chances will hinge on his ability to convince Americans that his low-key persona is what’s needed for America in the aftermath of the pandemic and Joe Biden’s ruinous stewardship of the economy.