2024 Republican Presidential Primary: Few Surprises, Yet

Patrick McCorkle
3 min readFeb 1, 2024

As we close January, I wanted to give my thoughts on the Republican Presidential Primary. It hasn’t produced any shockers, but it’s important to analyze as it indicates where the party could go in the future.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropped out on January 21st after a huge letdown of a campaign. He wanted to be Donald Trump’s successor and tried to run to Trump’s right, which was a questionable decision considering the latter’s political positions- how much more right could you get? In trying to out-Trump Trump, DeSantis alienated both stalwart Trumpers and Independents. To be fair, he had to do something to differentiate himself, and being a moderate Republican was probably off the table since he was so supportive of Trump in the past. Overall, DeSantis played his cards too early and got burned, a mistake countless presidential aspirants have made and will continue to make as long as ego plays a factor in the human psyche. In other words, forever.

DeSantis’s 2023 campaign reminds me of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s 2015 campaign. Both men were riding high after smashing gubernatorial victories in their home states but quickly realized that national politics is a different animal than state politics. I’m unsure how DeSantis can mount another successful presidential campaign, due to how he underperformed expectations and ticked off the Trump base. It’s almost better to drop out early rather than prolong a dying effort and widen the fissures between Republican camps.

Vivek Ramaswamy gave homage to Trump while arguing that he was the logical, younger successor. He increased his name recognition and profile for a future election without alienating Trumpers. I feel that he is far more likely to succeed Trump than DeSantis as he is a better campaigner, slightly younger and comes from an Indian-American background, helping combat leftist and Democratic attacks that the GOP is the party of “old white men.”

The race is now between former Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley and Trump. Since Haley is trailing Trump by over 30 points for the South Carolina primary, it’s possible that she will drop out before then. It’s one thing to take a beating in a random state. It’s another if in your home state. Would she be able to recover from that? I’m unsure and lean towards her dropping out beforehand to preserve relationships in the party and reputation for the general public.

I wonder what would’ve happened if the anti-Trump forces had coalesced around Haley from the beginning. Fox News clearly didn’t want Trump again based on their coverage. If the network supported Haley over DeSantis in early 2023, would Trump have been in danger of losing the nomination? Considering that Trump has polled above 50% approval/support in most polls of likely Republican voters, it would be a long shot.

Still, gathering the 30–40% of dissatisfied Republicans would signal that all’s not well in the Grand Old Party. Many polls have Haley beating Biden head to head, as she seems to do better among independents. She’s younger and a woman, giving a distinct perspective as opposed to the two aging males that will be the nominees, barring a setback.

Overall, the primaries have demonstrated that at the current moment, Trump has a firm grip over the Republican Party. That’s not shocking to anyone. However, this campaign has given hints as to who could succeed him. If Trump wins or has a close loss, my gut tells me Ramaswamy is the most likely, provided that another January 6th doesn’t occur. Haley would be a distant second.

Ramaswamy allows for an ideological consistency with Trump while reflecting the diversity of the electorate. Haley represents a return to more traditional Republicanism of the past in policy yet could produce the first female president.

If Trump suffers a defeat of more than 5% points in the popular vote and around 70 electoral votes, then the moderate Republicans will shout “See, we told you he can’t win!” Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan could slink his way back in. A Ryan-Haley ticket could be powerful.

Anyways, there you have my analysis. We’ll find out how right or wrong I am, which makes political predictions fun.

Right?

Eh, maybe. Here’s to a hopefully calm February!

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Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.