October 2022 Republican Presidential Power Rankings
All eyes are on Ron DeSantis
Welcome to the latest installment of The Duckpin Republican Presidential Power Rankings. These rankings will list, in my estimation, the contenders for the Republican nomination for President on a 1-10 scale. This list will be updated every month; maybe more once we get to late 2023.
The rankings are a combination of polls, data, political environment, and gut feelings. It is not necessarily a ranking in order of who I think should be the Republican nominee, but who is best positioned to win the nomination at that time. Think of it as a snapshot in time. And we know what happens over time; one day you’re the flavor of the week, the next you’re yesterday’s news. Just ask Kristi Noem.
#10: Rep. Liz Cheney (WY) (Previous: NR)
I include Cheney mainly because of the fact that she is likely going to run and, if by some Act of God Republicans rediscover conservatism, she might be positioned to take up the mantle. She will have plenty of time come January when she is replaced by just another Trump sycophant. But Cheney’s roadblocks to the nomination go far beyond losing a Congressional primary.
#9. Larry Elder (CA) (Previous: 9)
Elder for America was a sponsor at CPAC Texas, which is all you need to know about Elder’s Presidential campaign ambitions. Why else would a talk show host and failed gubernatorial candidate be spending that kind of scratch? Is this going to be a Dale Peterson-type campaign? Or something legitimate?
#8. Sen. Tom Cotton (AR) (Previous: 8)
Cotton is one of the few people who helped themselves in the wake of the January 6th attempted coup. He retreated from his position on supporting the silly claims of election fraud and has tried to turn the corner on his obsequious Trumpism. However, he remains enough of a Trump supporter that he hasn’t completely alienated Trump’s base. His legislative record and his military service will go far if he decides to run, though his small voting base in Arkansas could hurt him. He’s also showing up in Iowa and New Hampshire and other 2024 early primary locations pretty consistently now and is now trying trying to cull favor with donors. That’s a clue.
#7. Gov. Asa Hutchison (AR) (Previous: 7)
Asa Hutchinson is the latest candidate who is dipping his toe in the 2024 waters. Hutchinson has a resume that used to matter to Republican voters: two terms as Governor, time in Congress, and Executive Branch experience running the Drug Enforcement Agency. Hutchinson has a bit of a weird background, however, insofar as he is both critical of Donald Trump and his role in overturning the election and simultaneously endorsing election denier Doug Mastriano. I don’t think that Huthcinson’s attempts to thread this needle are going to work out too well for him, as the mixed messages will be confusing. Two Arkansans running, if both he and Cotton run, will complicate things as well (see Bush/Rubio in 2016).
#6: Sen. Tim Scott (SC) (Previous: 6)
No person helped himself more this spring than Sen. Tim Scott did with his rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s address to Congress. The speech didn’t even help his much as the wild Democratic overreaction to it did, particularly with all of the disgusting racist comments Democrats directed at Scott. Scott raised his profile, both within the GOP and nationally writ-large, with his speech. It is uncertain if he plans to run in 2024, particularly with Nikki Haley thinking about it, but it bears watching; especially true considering he is now raking in boatloads of fundraising dollars. He fell on this list because he inexplicably is just another Republican willing to step aside for Trump. The entire situation regarding what his book may or may not say about running in 2024 is beyond weird, even if the publisher admitted fault.
#5: Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (KS) (Previous: 5)
Pompeo had a bit of a moment last year at CPAC and there’s a bit of a buzz around Pompeo at the moment. He won 3rd place at the CPAC straw poll (which only netted him 2% support). Pompeo’s problem, other than the obvious connection to Trump, is his general lack of a political base. Being elected as a member of Congress from Kansas is hardly a wide political base from which to launch a presidential bid. Pompeo, of course, is boosted by his service as Director of the CIA and as Secretary of State. Pompeo may run, and originally it was hard to imagine him becoming the nominee. But Pompeo is already in Iowa and making a compelling case regarding protecting the Republican win in the Iowa 2nd District. His work with Donald Trump and the surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban is going to do him no favors.
#4: Former Gov. Chris Christie (NJ) (Previous: 4)
There is no question now with Christie; he’s running for President and running hard. Christie recently said “I’m also not going to be one of these people who’s going to say, ‘Well, I’ll wait to see what President Trump’s going to do.’ You know, I’m not going to defer to anyone if I decide that it’s what I want to do, and that I think I’m the best option for the party and for the country.” He even says waiting for Trump is disqualifying. Christie missed his best shot to run in 2012, and the shine was gone by the time he actually ran in 2016. I struggle to see what constituency he appeals to if he runs in 2024, Trump or no Trump, no matter how much he tries to out-Trump Trump. However, he has a book now: Republican Rescue: Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden. His recent appearance on the Ruthless podcast made a lot of waves. All this tells us that he’s certainly running but as an anti-Trump, not Trump-like, the candidate.
#3: Gov. Glenn Youngkin (VA) (Previous: 3)
All of a sudden Glenn Youngkin is dropping hints that he may actually run. In the latest sign, Youngkin took a walk on committing to serve out his full term. He took office with guns blazing, and conservative voters are taking notice. And now he’s about to go campaign for candidates across the country. Youngkin seems to have somewhat cracked the code as to how to appeal to Trump voters without alienating non-Trump voters or bending the knee to Trump. It’s a helluva tightrope to walk, but it’s a model a lot of Republicans will be looking to emulate next year. His ability to do that, his already existing national profile, his personal wealth, and a lot of the national media living in his state is going to give him a chance to continue to raise his profile. If he wants to be President, this might be his best chance. And based on his 2022 campaign schedule, he knows it.
#2: Former Vice President Mike Pence (IN) (Previous: 2)
Pence’s profile in this race is similar to that of Joe Biden when he ran in 2020. Arguably, Pence is the most qualified candidate in the field: he’s been a small business owner, a Congressman, a Governor, and of course Vice-President. That last part is what will trip him up. In a primary election, Pence will be hampered by the Trumpiest part of the Republican base that is mad because Pence didn’t violate the law, the Constitution, and common sense and unilaterally throw out the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. One thing, though, that does show the problems that Pence has with the pro-Trump elements of the party is his perceived “disloyalty” to Trump for not going allow with the attempted Trump coup of January 6th, for which he was booed at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference. But a recent donors retreat shows that Pence remains serious. That may be less of a liability as we see Trump’s level of success in dragging candidates across the finish line.
#1: Gov. Ron DeSantis (FL) (Previous: 1)
This is the national moment for DeSantis. The eyes of the country are watching him and his response to Hurricane Ian. Nail this, and DeSantis may be unstoppable. Make a mistake and not only would his Presidential ambitions be hurt, but even his re-elect could come into question. This is why Governors get elected; to lead, particularly during a crisis like a hurricane response.
Dropping Out: Ex-President Donald Trump (#10)