By this time two years from now, and probably quite a bit earlier than that, we will know the identity of the Republican presidential nominee for 2024. Most likely it will be 2016 and 2020 nominee Donald Trump. If he doesn’t wind up running, the nominee will probably be Florida governor Ron DeSantis, or possibly a potential candidate from the ranks of MAGA-friendly conservatives. The Washington Post has a list of them, including (in their “top ten”) Donald Trump Jr., Mike Pompeo, Rick Scott, Nikki Haley, Ted Cruz, Glenn Youngkin, Tim Scott, and Mike Pence.
We don’t know for sure what will happen. But we do know at least two pols who will emphatically not be raising hands with a running mate in Milwaukee in the summer of 2024: soon-to-be-former congresswoman Liz Cheney and term-limited Maryland governor Larry Hogan. Cheney just got trounced in a Wyoming primary by Trump endorsee Harriet Hageman for multiple acts of treason against Trump, and Hogan, aside from being himself a harsh Trump critic, holds policy views (e.g., being basically pro-choice on abortion) that haven’t been acceptable for a Republican presidential nominee since the 1970s.
Yet both these far-out-of-the-mainstream Republicans are the object of regular 2024 speculation in the press. It’s not only a waste of time and journalistic malpractice, but borderline disinformation.
From the way some talking heads covered it, you might have thought that Cheney’s humiliating primary loss was actually a presidential launch event. The Bulwark’s Amanda Carpenter, who is actually a big Cheney fan, nicely captured how ridiculous it was:
All the big-name reporters camped out in Wyoming on Tuesday — not to watch her lose but to build their 2024 storylines. And she whetted their appetites with an announcement shortly after her loss that she converted her campaign committee to a leadership PAC named “The Great Task” to “oppose any Donald Trump campaign for president.” Accordingly, the cable shows went into overdrive, speculating about what’s next for Cheney and demanding answers from her backers about her likely strategy to win the GOP nomination.
I don’t want to pick on any big-name reporters in particular, but this CNN report from immediately after her primary loss was typical:
In the wake of her loss to Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman on Tuesday, Cheney began building an apparatus to support her future political moves — including a potential presidential bid as a Trump foil. Cheney acknowledged Wednesday morning that she is considering a run for president in 2024, a race that Trump is largely expected to enter soon.
“It is something I’m thinking about, and I’ll make a decision in the coming months,” Cheney said on NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday.
The most appropriate follow-up question — “Are you high?” — did not come.
The idea of Cheney 2024 is so firmly embedded among the chattering classes that the Associated Press got their reporters from the first three presidential primary states to assess the idea. It did not fare well:
Republican voters and local officials in three of the states that matter most in presidential politics — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — believe the soon-to-be-unemployed congresswoman has little path to relevancy in a 2024 presidential primary, never mind a path to victory. Some sympathizers fear she would actually help Trump if she runs …
Voters were openly celebrating her loss at the Iowa State Fair, a must-stop for presidents and presidential contenders ever since the state began hosting the nation’s opening presidential primary contest a half-century ago …
Matthew Bartlett, a veteran New Hampshire Republican operative who worked in Trump’s State Department but quit after the Jan. 6 insurrection, said there’s plenty of buzz across the state about presidential candidates — save one.
“Not one person is talking about Liz Cheney,” Bartlett said. “I don’t think she knows what she’s doing.”
Like Cheney, Hogan has kept presidential speculation alive by dropping “hints” of a 2024 candidacy now and then. But in some media venues, he’s pushing on an open door. Hogan appeared on Face the Nation on Sunday August 28 to complain about Republicans nominating unelectable candidates like Dan Cox, the election-denying MAGA bravo who recently knocked off Hogan’s chosen successor in a Republican primary:
Host Major Garrett observed that the term-limited governor had recently traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire and asked, “When are you announcing your 2024 bid?”
Hogan quipped, “Maybe this morning,” before demurring, “I’m just going to finish my term as governor.” The governor suggested that he has been merely going to New Hampshire to “help the House Republican caucus up there.”
Look, it’s understandable media types are interested in unorthodox pols like these two out-of-the-party-mainstream figures. Cheney is the daughter of a vice-president who used to define truculent conservatism. She rose very quickly to the top tier of House GOP leadership, and she has been an undeniably powerful representative of anti-Trump Republicanism before and during her admirable performance on the January 6 committee. Hogan is the popular two-term Republican governor of a very blue state. But that makes these two strange birds outliers of passing interest, not serious aspirants for the leadership of their party, which is going in a very different direction as quickly as possible.
So please stop buying into the notion that the alleged White House aspirations of Cheney and Hogan are newsworthy. There are millions of fine people in this country who would probably like to be president and might do a good job, but just a relative handful who are viable prospects. Let’s focus on them instead of promoting those who might be viable if the two major parties were entirely different from what they actually are.