I’m part of a group that makes annual predictions at the end of each year, which we review the following December. We’re often (usually) wrong, but it’s a source of a lot of laughs and groans.
This time, in addition to the usual three predictions, we will also make a call on the upcoming Presidential election (only 3xx shopping days until which). I will pick the Dems to win (as much out of hope/desperation as from expectation).
One of my other predictions will be that someone other than Joe or He-who-shall-not-be-named (HWSNBN) will be leading the ticket for one of the major so-called parties. I was surprised to find that several others in the group also foresaw an alternative to the current front-runners; some plumping for Nikki Haley, some for Gavin Newsom, some less specific. This may be our hopes getting out in front of what we think is likely, but there are some real possibilities
I wrote some time ago (111320) about the dysfunctional state of our party system and its two principal components. Neither has improved, indeed the GOP seems to lurch from crisis-to-crisis, exhausting our adjectives of ignominy.
Among their similarities, both parties have been effectively frozen by a nominal leader who insists on carrying the flag despite considerable dissension. The principal difference is that the Dems are unhappy and not doing anything visible about it (fringes and flakes notwithstanding) and the GOP is unhappy but won’t acknowledge it despite the bizarre melodrama of the primaries and debates (which include a consignment of fringes and flakes, e.g. Cornel West, Marianne Williamson and RFK, Jr.).
Indeed, the entire GOP process would be easily considered a charade if 1) the political media weren’t so desperate for something to write about, and 2) the just-in-case factor. As the flagship, the orange-haired one has taken on a lot of water, alienation of his non-base, a multi-ring legal circus in which he sticks his head in the mouth of four judicial lions simultaneously, and a non-trivial age/physical condition risk. All the jockeying between Christie, DeSantis, Haley, and Ramaswamy makes no sense unless they’re silently betting on their front-runner imploding. While politics makes for strange bedfellows (tawdry allusions intended), it’s hard to see any of the first three taking second-seat on the ticket and Vivek doesn’t add anything.
Conceivably, they might be out there spending many weeks and millions to build some name recognition for 2028, but the ROI on that angle seems pretty attenuated and speculative. No, they’re out there to position themselves for some dramatic scramble this Spring or Summer, either at the Convention or (if late in the game) at some extraordinary session of the Republican National Committee. He won’t go willingly, he has no conscience, and pretty much the entire apparatus is in permanent kow-tow mode, so this scenario depends less on prosecutors and judges and more on a demonstrable medical condition. Although if the constitutional disqualification angle gets some traction with SCOTUS (see Central Bankers, 011224) under the 14A (or my own favorite: the 22A (see Petard, 080423), he may have a judicial denouement.
If he does go, Haley is the odds-on favorite in my book. Not only does she appeal to younger/women/minority voters (esp. vis-à-vis Joe), but the others all have big drawbacks, especially in terms of electability. Early polls show that she would trounce Joe; so if HWSNBN drops; I’m betting Joe will back out too.
On his own, Joe is another situation entirely: his medical prognosis is more problematic and he’s a much more sophisticated political operator. I think he would be happy to bow out but for his fear of the return of his predecessor and the fact that his VP is underwhelming has put him in a political box. Harris (the Veep) was a so-so Senator with the right optics to make it to the ticket in 2020 and has not inspired since either in terms of “rizz” (formerly known as charisma) or substance. But the optics make it impossible for Joe to back out and endorse someone else.
The alternative is for him to, in effect, declare an open primary and let a gang of folks try to garner enough attention and money to blast through what remains of the selection process (timing would be key here). The list includes several of the also-rans from last time: Buttigieg and Klobuchar (Bernie and Elizabeth Warren are now past their “sell by” dates), our own Governor Gavin Newsom, and…and…and…. Actually, it’s hard to imagine who else has got the name recognition and stature to give it a go (run through the list of Governors and Senators for yourself: Jay Pritzker of Illinois?, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan?, Cory Booker of New Jersey?). [The same is true if his withdrawal is “involuntary.”]
Now, each of them (and many other dreamers) have, I am sure, run their own scenarios, polls, and shadow teams of donors and operatives (if they haven’t then they’re not competent to run a country). The scenarios depend mostly on timing, with Joe dropping before the primary season starts, or end of the Spring before the Convention . It would be a highly disorienting process for both Dems and the media. The shock of actually having to make a decision in an open-ended, unframed (i.e., without lots of media crafting of the categorization and labelling), plus the drama of the unexpected could send us off into the proverbial uncharted territory in terms of who and how they are chosen. It would actually be exciting (and fun!). After the Convention, the Dems would be stuck with Kamala moving up from her VP slot.
The later the timing, the larger the problem of legitimacy looms. A candidate who isn’t vetted by the months/years-long slog would have to find a way to connect—almost instantaneously—with Democratic voters (perhaps in a primary, perhaps a wholly-open Convention) and then the broader electorate. Wow! My head is spinning with the complexities and uncertainties. The Convention (mostly local political operatives) could even pick someone eminently qualified to be President but who didn’t want to or couldn’t make it through the gruesome primary process (OMG!!). Maybe they might even draft Michelle.