When President Trump announced the departure of his press secretary via the usual formal channel of Twitter, he gave her a nice push toward a possible future endeavor:
If it was any president other than Trump we were talking about, this heavy-handed hint might be treated as close to an official declaration of candidacy for Sanders. But with this guy, who really knows?
At a White House event soon after that tweet, with Sanders nearby, Trump made it sound like he was lobbying her to run for governor:
Before calling her forward to speak, Trump suggested Sanders’ political career is far from over.
“If we can get her to run for the governor of Arkansas, I think she’ll do very well. And I’m trying to get her to do that,” he said, again drawing applause.
Sanders didn’t comment, but has said she plans to return to Arkansas, where Trump’s talk of her running for governor in 2022 (when incumbent Republican Asa Hutchison will be term-limited out of office) was accepted as plausible:
In an interview, Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray said Sanders would likely be a top-tier candidate for her party’s nomination if she runs.
“With her name recognition … she’d be right there in the mix,” he said. “I think she’d be a force in the Republican primary.”
Sanders, of course, is the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who was in office for a decade before running for president twice. Indeed, she was in high school when her dad moved into the governor’s mansion. She’s been involved in a variety of campaigns nationally and in Arkansas (including one of her father’s and those of both current U.S. senators from the state). She’d probably be a viable candidate back home even without her relationship with a president who won the state by 26 points in 2016.
On the other hand, if Sanders does run for governor, she could face a brutal primary against two other well-known and popular Republicans who have been positioning themselves to make this race for years: Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Her father may not be of much help since he moved to Florida shortly after leaving the governorship. And as one highly regarded political operative married to another (Bryan Sanders), she could make a lot more money with less risk if she chose to stay in the background in future political contests. She’s probably had enough notoriety for two lifetimes already.