Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.
sarah (Sarah Frostenson, politics editor): We’re still more than three years away from November 2024, which means we have no idea who is actually running in 2024 — although we are already busy watching what potential candidates do — but it’s not too early for us to make some terrible (and not so terrible) picks as to who will win the 2024 GOP nomination in our first waaaayyy too early 2024 draft.
It’s been a while, so the rules are as follows: Four rounds, so between the five of us, 20 potential 2024 Republican nominees, and we’ll be doing a 🐍 snake-style 🐍 draft. And remember, the goal is to pick the actual nominee.
The order is:
And I used random.org to determine the order (so it’s clearly not rigged).
geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, elections analyst): I get the boring pick.
sarah: It’s so funny to me that everyone thinks there is already an obvious choice for 2024. 🤔
alex (Alex Samuels, politics reporter): Don’t steal my pick, Nathaniel!
nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, elections analyst): I’m stealing it, Alex!
sarah: Alright, Geoffrey. You’re up!! What is this obvious pick of yours?
geoffrey.skelley: The Republican Party is currently the party of one Donald J. Trump. So while we’re still a couple years away from presidential campaign announcements, I think I have to pick the former president.
It’s too early to go crazy about polls, but Morning Consult found in February that 59 percent of Republicans want Trump to have a major role in the party, and a majority also said they’d support him in a primary against many of the leading GOP alternatives.
The last time a defeated president ran as a party’s nominee four years later was in 1892, when Democrat Grover Cleveland ran again after losing reelection in 1888. Perhaps we’re due for another comeback. Trump himself is teasing a run, so I’m going to take the idea seriously.
sarah: I should have known this was coming as a Round 1 pick, but I guess I just don’t buy that taking a page out of Cleveland’s playbook is a good electoral move. That said, Trump certainly has surprised me before.
nrakich: Yeah, to me, the biggest question is whether Trump runs again. If he does, I think he would clear the field of all other serious candidates (other than perhaps an anti-Trump protest candidate, like Bill Weld in 2020). If we’ve learned anything from the last four years, it’s that other Republicans are scared to go up against Trump lest his loyal followers turn on them.
sarah: I’m not so sure about that. I think there still would be a melee. It isn’t a scientific poll, but I thought it was telling that far more CPAC attendees (95 percent) wanted Trump’s policies/agenda to survive than for him to run again (68 percent). And yes, 68 percent is a lot, but considering CPAC had a gold statue of Trump… support could have been much higher.
But OK, you’re up, Nathaniel!
geoffrey.skelley: Now things will get interesting.
nrakich: With the second pick of the draft, I choose Sen. Ted Cruz.
President Biden’s victory in the 2020 Democratic primary made me think a lot about the value of name recognition and starting off with a known brand.
And right now, other than Trump, there are only a handful of Republicans who have near-universal national name recognition (as measured by polls asking whether people have an opinion of them): Cruz, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell … and McConnell is obviously not running for president. So between Cruz and Pence, I think Cruz is a much more dynamic campaigner and more willing to emulate Trump’s bomb-throwing style. So he gets the edge for me.
alex: You didn’t take my pick, but I’m surprised you put him as No. 2 considering how disliked he is in GOP circles.