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OPINION

Playing the Field in 2024

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Whenever you weigh in on the 2024 election there is a constituency ready to pounce. It doesn’t really matter what you write, there are people absolutely dedicated to either that person or NOT that person who will slam your email with exceedingly long, overly angry dissertations about how you’re probably the worst, dumbest person ever. That’s all well and good, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. It would just make everyone’s life much better were that sentiment shared by everyone – Democrats demand uniformity of thought, and so do some Republicans, sadly.

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That being said, I firmly believe that no candidate for any office deserves blind loyalty. They can buy it – if you take a job with a campaign or politician you have to be loyal, they were elected, you were not. I’ve been in that boat as a press secretary in the United States Senate, not agreeing with everything my boss did, but having to sell it and him to his constituents because that was the job. Most people understand the difference between having a job to do and having opinions, some people don’t.

As I look, very early, at the field (and potential field) for 2024, it is with that in mind. I owe none of these people anything, and neither do you. I can like them, but unwavering loyalty is not something any of them deserve. Hold them accountable, always. Elections are not rewards for what someone has done, they are hope for what they will do. Too many assume they can run on biography or past accomplishments without focusing on what they’ll do next. 

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the field. 

President Donald Trump. One thing you can say about him is he inspires a reaction. There aren’t too many people without an opinion of him. Some would lay down their lives for him, others would happily shave years off theirs to never have to hear about him again. His biggest strength is the loyalty he has from people he’s never met and have never even seen a movie with a life like he’s lived. Somehow this billionaire relates to the average blue-collar guy, and they love him. He also has a good record. I don’t see him as the greatest ever, but he was certainly excellent. His biggest problem was he couldn’t get out of his own way; he stepped on his victories and managed to overshadow them with his antics. People who might’ve been persuaded to support him were so turned off by his inability to conduct himself in a way they could be proud of that it didn’t matter what he did, they didn’t want to hear about it. 

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Another problem was that at a certain point you just get tired of the shtick. Stop telling me how horrible everyone else is, shut up about how awesome you think you are, and tell me what you’re going to do. It’s pretty simple. The border was his issue, and he did a great job with it, especially in comparison to what we have now. But he never even tried to address birthright citizenship and anchor babies. That’s a huge part of the problem, and something he said he would do. He didn’t. 

He also listened to Fauci on everything and deferred to “experts” for far too long, and still touts vaccines that clearly don’t work. Operation Lightspeed was a huge accomplishment at the time, but now only remains so as a concept. Trump needs to reconcile that and separate the two.

Governor Ron DeSantis. He’s the golden boy for anyone exhausted by Trump. He’s got a great record in Florida and won in a landslide that even surprised people predicting a landslide. He’s stood up for parents and has taken on the left every time they try some California idea in his state. Unions and corporations alike have lost to him in righteous fights, with seemingly no favor to anyone. While Trump is the current leader on the scoreboard, no one else has bothered to tee off yet. And no tee time is more anticipated than his.

Still, he hasn’t really been tested. Trump would do an interview with anyone as President (which was usually a mistake, but still showed a willingness to stand up to them); unfortunately he’d talk to the New York Times more frequently than friendlier outlets. DeSantis is pulling more of a Joe Biden – only talking to friendly outlets. I get that he doesn’t want to talk about 2024 (yet), but he can dismiss those questions pretty easily while being interviewed as a sitting governor. Any successful candidate has to demonstrate they can walk into the lion’s den, at least on occasion. In a press conference, DeSantis is great. He needs to show he can do the same in an interview.

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Ambassador Nikki Haley. One of the things about Haley is you have to decide which title to go with, she’s very accomplished. But being accomplished doesn’t mean she’s well known. While DeSantis gets all the attention, she has to find a way to introduce herself again. She exists in the space between the other two – having served honorably and well in the Trump administration while an arm’s length distance from the so-called establishment. She’s kind of like that kid in high school who was friendly with the jocks and the geeks, and every other group of kids too. And while that inspires good thoughts, the lack of clearly defined opponents can also be a burden.

No one in politics should be universally liked, it means you haven’t really taken a stand. That’s not to say Haley hasn’t, it’s just not known. She has to make those differences known without ripping off any scabs behind them. There’s little doubt she can do it, she’s run against the establishment in South Carolina when she got started, but she wasn’t up against two candidate (well, one announced and another likely) who suck all the oxygen out of the whole house, forget the room, like Trump and DeSantis are so far. She stands as having the most potential with the highest bar, perhaps ever, needed to climb over to fulfill it. 

The rest of the field isn’t really worth talking about, at least not yet. Larry Hogan left a weakened Republican Party in Maryland and did absolutely nothing to change it. His legacy, to the extent he has one, will be entirely wiped out by the end of this legislative session. Rick Scott is one of the least compelling rumored candidates in recent history, seemingly only interested out of boredom. Tim Scott is compelling, but doesn’t have the accomplishments (yet) or the personality to square off successfully against the rest of the field. That may change as he moves from concept to candidate, but I’m dealing with what is now, not what could be later. Mike Pence just won’t be the guy, sorry, and Mike Pompeo begs the question who was the last Cabinet Secretary to be elected president? (Honestly, who was it? Thomas Jefferson? No, it was Herbert Hoover in 1928.) 

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No one else is even worth mentioning yet. 

There’s something for everyone to hate in this, and somethings to think about. I don’t care if you do the former, as long as you also do the latter. The 2024 election is far too important to simply bandwagon it, one way or another. Play the field, make the candidates win you over, not the other way around. 

Derek Hunter is the host of a free daily podcast (subscribe!), host of a daily radio show, and author of the book, Outrage, INC., which exposes how liberals use fear and hatred to manipulate the masses, and host of the weekly “Week in F*cking Review” podcast where the news is spoken about the way it deserves to be. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekAHunter.

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