Last post, I debuted the theme of the 2024 Power Rankings (chess!) before my first Power Rankings of the 2024 Democratic Primary. If history holds, however, that primary won’t be that competitive because Democrats have the incumbent, President Biden, running for re-election. Usually it’s the party without the president running for re-election that has the competitive primary. With the GOP over the next year, we’ll find out if that’s the case.
Like last post, I’ll not only rank and tier the candidates that have declared their candidacy, but I’ll also consider potential candidates as well. Let’s look at the chessboard and figure this thing out.
Tier 0: Less Than Pawns
Just like with the Democratic Party, there are scores of candidates officially registered as Republican presidential candidates. Ballotopedia lists 199. Most aren’t even pawns. They’re the dust that collects on the board between matches. Tier 0 is dust.
Tier 5: Pawns
28. Former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney: Sorry, Aunt Liz. This isn’t your father‘s Republican Party.
27. Former Ambassador to UN John Bolton: Bolton, the old school neoconservative loose cannon foreign policy hawk, is considering a run in order to stop Donald Trump, which is pronounce every syllable hi-la-ri-ous. Bolton has a clear weak spot in his political ambitions: Republicans don’t like him, Democrats don’t like him, and people who aren’t Republicans or Democrats don’t like him. I wouldn’t be surprised if his family doesn’t like him. Jesus is lukewarm on him. Buddha could take him or leave him. John Bolton is not going to win the Republican nomination.
26. Talk radio host and former GOP candidate for governor of California Larry Elder: He was able to elevate his brand during the effort to recall California Governor Gavin Newsome, ultimately far outpacing the alternatives to Newsome. However, despite Republican optimism, Newsome comfortably kept his job with 62% support of voters. Despite Elder’s losing effort, he claims he’s now ready for a presidential run. He isn’t.
25. Former Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton: We kick off the top 25 with someone you’ve never heard of, nor has anyone outside of a few thousand Montanans. But, he’s a real live politician elected to a statewide office, and he’s officially declared his candidacy for president, so here he is. Do I think he can become a contender? I do not. He probably shouldn’t quit his new day job, which I assure you is the most fun of anyone on this list — he started a band called Corey Stapleton and The Petty Pirates. He’s got 79 youtube subscribers, which is about how many votes he’d get in a Republican Primary.
24. Former Texas Congressman Will Hurd: Hurd is considering a run. I like him, which has usually been a bad sign in a primary. (Just ask John Kasich, Chris Christie, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker.) Hurd’s profile is just too low — and his willingness to work with Democrats too high — to be a force in a Republican Primary.
23. Former Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers: Congressman Rogers is also considering a run, but I just don’t see a leap from the lowly House to toppling Trump.
Tier 4: Mid-pieces (knights and bishops)
Tier for 14th (or 14-22 in some order): The following big names have said they aren’t running. If they change their minds, they’d be rooks. They’d only do that, however, if something were to derail the Trump campaign, but even then I don’t see them as kings or queens:
Tucker Carlson, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst, Josh Hawley, Brian Kemp, Mike Pompeo, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Glenn Youngkin
13. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum: A governor! Now we’re talking. As evidence of his interest, he’s made the ever-suspicious Iowa trip. As evidence of potency, he’s extremely popular back home. Morning Consult consistently finds him among the most popular governors in America, regularly 30+ points above water:
Plus, North Dakota represents everything Democrats don’t like: it’s a conservative, rural, sparsely populated state that somehow gets as many senators as California. And if Democrats hate it, that means Republicans must love it. And who better personifies North Dakota than its governor?
None of the above necessarily makes him a strong general election candidate, but a popular governor of a red state is not the worst place to start in a Republican Primary. Of course, he has low name recognition in a field with a lot of high name recognition candidates, so without anything that makes him stick out he’s far from a serious contender.
12. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson: He’s an official candidate and about as Republican Classic as this field gets, which is not a good thing in Donald Trump’s Republican Party. He’s a former Congressman and head of the DEA. As a two-term governor of Arkansas, he’s a solid conservative; he was a pro-life governor, tied Medicaid to work requirements, and was an opponent of the LGBT movement. He was also pretty popular; after initially winning the governor’s mansion with just 55% of the vote in 2014, he was re-elected with 65% four years later.
BUT! He was also highly critical of Trump and those who supported his attempts to overturn the election results. That’ll make him anathema to most of the party. He’s also 72, so he has a hard time making a “turn the page” argument.
11. Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez: He’s an enormously popular Republican from Miami, he’s Latino, and at 45 he’s the second youngest person on this list. These factors give him a good story to tell and a great general election argument. He’s considering a run, and I’m interested to see if he gains traction. However, I would think he doesn’t run if his governor, Ron DeSantis, does.
10. Entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy: My worst mistake four years ago was underrating Pete Buttigieg in my initial rankings. He was a talented but unproven guy with a weird last name that no one had heard of… and a year later he won the Iowa caucuses and only a PPFA-fueled Amy Klobuchar surge denied him the New Hampshire Primary — and perhaps the nomination — as well.
Vivek Ramaswamy, who has already declared his candidacy, might follow Buttigieg’s path, and for that reason I’m making him our highest ranked mid-piece. He’s a bright guy on the microphone, effectively conveying intensely conservative values. At 37, he’s younger than I am (which I don’t appreciate in the least), and he can therefore make a credible “turn the page” argument, which can’t be made by Burgum, Hutchinson, and names still to come.
At the same time, his is not the kind of message that would alienate Trump voters, were Trump to fall apart. If anything, he might resemble Trump in key ways. Like Trump, he enters the race as a wealthy non-politician. Like Trump, he has a lot of experience on TV. And he’s even borrowing from Trump’s platform, calling all his ideas a part of “America First 2.0”; in other words, he plans to out-Trump Trump, but without the Trump baggage. This could work!
I can’t make him a rook, as for the moment he’s almost totally unknown and we have some huge GOP names still to come, but nonetheless I do rank him in the top ten over some established Congressmen and governors. He has potential. I can only assume you heard it here first.
Okay, that’s it for Tier 4. That leaves our rooks and royalty, with nine candidates spread across them. Who’s it going to be? With my next post, I’ll let you know.
2 thoughts on “PPFA’s First 2024 Republican Primary Power Rankings”
[…] I debuted this cycle’s theme (chess!) and ranked the Democratic candidates. On Wednesday, I began the Republican ranking that I will conclude today. Here’s who we had so […]
[…] Republican Primary candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, whose has otherwise been putting on a messaging masterclass in these early stages, says, “Free speech & open debate. Don’t hide from it like Biden. Practice what we preach.” Last night he added, “It’s pathetic that the DNC is shielding Joe Biden from debate. Real men don’t hide.” Jewish Space Laser theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene asks, “How are Democrat voters ok with this? Your own party is telling you that you have no choice and they refuse to even give you a choice.” Conservative Twitter is aflame with outrage‘ and accusations of hiding Biden. […]