The Whispering Grows Louder in Both Parties — Are There Alternatives to Trump and Biden?
Author: Greg Valliere
August 6, 2019
AN AGE-OLD PROBLEM: After the carnage in El Paso and Dayton, Donald Trump, 73, offered condolences yesterday to the people of Toledo. The night before, Joe Biden, 76, offered condolences to the people of Houston and Michigan.
WE’RE NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER, but we’re not running for president, and we have to ask: are both Trump and Biden losing some altitude? Insiders in both parties are concerned about the diminished cognitive skills of both men — and the whispering is growing louder about late entrants into the presidential contest.
FIRST, THE REPUBLICANS: The party will stay slavishly loyal to Trump — as long as he looks like a winner. The House is hopeless for the GOP (12 Republicans, seeing the handwriting on the wall, are leaving the House). What if the GOP’s 53-47 Senate majority suddenly looks vulnerable (it isn’t yet). What if polls show Trump would lose decisively in 2020? Could there be a late entrant?
MITT ROMNEY, FIT AND RAZOR-SHARP AT 72, has indicated no interest in running, but his disavowals haven’t exactly been Shermanesque (“if nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve,” Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman proclaimed in 1884). Romney was the 2012 nominee and a plausible president, and the itch never subsides; we’re hearing that a “draft Romney” movement is taking shape among some GOP dissidents.
OTHER TRUMP CHALLENGERS could include former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Sen. Jeff Flake, but the party’s base would never accept them. The GOP’s next big star is former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who criticized Trump last weekend; she’s only 47 and seems willing to wait until 2024, when she would be a favorite to win the party’s nomination.
A STRONG CHALLENGER IN 2024 would be Mike Pence, also content to wait despite his private doubts about Trump. A huge 2024 field could include Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — and it’s way too soon to conclude that Paul Ryan, 49, is finished with politics.
WE DOUBT that any major Republican would mount an expensive — and ultimately fruitless — challenge to Trump; there’s maybe a 20% chance of a late entrant if Trump’s immigrant tweets and trade wars become even more toxic.
WHAT ABOUT THE DEMOCRATS? Biden’s verbal gaffes have become common in the past few years, and he stumbled several times in his recent debate and still seems to be a very shaky front-runner (and it’s worth noting that he had surgery twice in 1988 to correct life-threatening brain aneurysms, which Trump alludes to frequently). Democrats we’ve talked with worry that there’s no obvious electable replacement if Biden stumbles; Elizabeth Warren has made huge progress but party insiders doubt she could win a general election.
FOUR VERY LONG SHOTS: We’re hearing reports that Hillary Clinton, 71, has not absolutely, positively ruled out a late entry. Same for John Kerry, 75. Same for Michael Bloomberg, 77. And then there’s the longest long shot of all — Michelle Obama, whose radiant personality has elevated her to superstar status among progressives. But she has never held office and has firmly ruled out running.
THERE’S STILL TIME: A late entrant could wait until October or November and still get on all the state primary ballots in 2020. Will it happen? We’ll stick with a 20% chance of a major Republican jumping in and perhaps a 25% chance a Democrat will take the plunge. Far-fetched, you say? Probably — but nothing is far-fetched any more in American politics.
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