It may be four years away, but tryouts for the 2024 GOP presidential primary officially kicked off this week at the Republican National Convention.
With millions of Republican voters tuned it to see President Donald Trump accept his party’s nomination for a second term, the event offered some would-be successors a prime-time opportunity to better introduce themselves and their accomplishments ahead of potential bids for the White House.
More broadly, the convention highlighted the battle for the future of the Republican Party and whether Trump’s abrasive type of identity politics will continue in the coming elections.
Few people channel Trumpism like his children, who spoke at the convention. Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. each gave a prime-time address and have both been discussed as potential presidential candidates.
But the convention also represented the establishment wing of the party that has thrown its lot in with Trump. It’s no secret that Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley ― who all spoke at the convention ― have presidential ambitions. Up-and-coming Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Tim Scott of South Carolina also burnished their profiles by making the case for Trump’s reelection on stage.
It’s difficult to imagine a post-Trump world where the GOP completely reverts to its pre-2016 state, however. Even if he loses in November, Trump will almost certainly still be around and online (fueling speculation that he, too, might launch another bid in 2024).
This convention showed Trump’s firm grip on the party apparatus, which cast him as a kind man who defeated coronavirus and is loved by women, immigrants, and minorities ― none of which is actually true. And it showed that he can get away with just about anything, even breaking the law by holding a political event on the lawn of the White House, because Republicans are unwilling to stand up to him.
The Washington Post via Getty Images Ivanka Trump speaks on the final night of the Republican National Convention with a speech delivered in front a live audience on the South Lawn of the White House.
The president’s daughter and senior adviser is arguably one of his most effective messengers, especially when deployed to bolster his image among women. What was most notable about her convention speech on Thursday is that it occurred immediately prior to Trump’s ― signifying her importance in the family and perhaps establishing her position for a possible future presidential run.
“Dad, people attack you for being unconventional, but I love you for being real, and I respect you for being effective,” she said in her speech introducing her father. “Our president refuses to surrender his beliefs to score points with the political elite.”
“To my father, you are the elite,” she continued, referring to TV viewers. “He only cares about scoring points with you.”
Donald Trump Jr.
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images Donald Trump Jr. pre-records his address to the Republican National Convention at the Mellon Auditorium on Aug. 24, in Washington.
The president’s eldest son may be the only person who is actually Trumpier than Trump. Disregarded by his father for most of his life, Don Jr. has grown into somewhat of a rock star among the president’s supporters ― especially on the campaign trail. When he took the stage at a Trump rally in February, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, he was met by chants of “46” ― as in the 46th president of the U.S. ― raising the prospect of a presidential dynasty.
Trump Jr. is hyperactive on Twitter, even more so than his father. He’s just as in tune with the conservative world of grievance, has similar partisan instincts, is popular among younger GOP voters, and has an equal penchant for getting into fights.
In a vehement address peppered with conservative buzzwords like “cancel culture” this week, the president’s son framed the 2020 election as a choice between “church, work and school” and “rioting, looting and vandalism.”
“Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness Monster of the swamp,” he said.
SAUL LOEB via Getty Images Vice President Mike Pence salutes after speaking during the third night of the Republican National Convention at Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Aug. 26.
A loyal supporter of the president who eagerly stands by him despite his racist appeals, behavior unbefitting a supposed man of faith, and constant disrespect for the law, Vice President Mike Pence had the biggest platform of the GOP convention other than Trump ― albeit one as equally in violation of federal rules meant to prohibit campaigning on federal property.
Addressing the convention in front of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Pence delivered a droll speech attacking Democratic nominee Joe Biden ― one that projected the image of a Republican president from the movies with the usual Americana references to former President Ronald Reagan.
The 2020 election is a choice, Pence said after spinning a fantasy tale of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, of “whether America remains America.”
Handout via Getty Images U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the virtual convention in a pre-recorded video from Jerusalem on Aug. 25.
In another norm-shattering move that broke tradition for a historically nonpartisan Cabinet office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waded into the GOP convention in the middle of an official trip to Israel with a speech from Jerusalem.
With the spires of the city appearing behind him, the nation’s chief diplomat heaped praise on Trump’s foreign policy record, including the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and his decision to authorize the strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
“Delivering on this duty to keep us safe and our freedoms intact, this president has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world,” Pompeo said.
The former member of Congress from Kansas passed on a Senate run in his home state earlier this year and is widely believed to be laying the groundwork for a future White House candidacy. He has made several unusual trips in his official capacity as secretary of state to the early primary state of Iowa ― a launchpad for presidential candidates.
OLIVIER DOULIERY via Getty Images Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the first day of the Republican convention.
Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, once tried to feebly distance herself from Trump and his worst habits, but that’s gone with 2024 on the horizon.
Appearing at the GOP convention this week, Haley made the case for Trump’s reelection and spoke of her immigrant Indian parents and her experience growing up as a “brown girl in a Black and white world.”
“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist,” Haley said. “That is a lie. America is not a racist country.”
The speech seemed to inspire Beltway GOP types like former George W. Bush aide Ari Fleischer.
Nikki Haley walks in tonight as the probable GOP front runner in 2024.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) August 25, 2020
OLIVIER DOULIERY via Getty Images Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina speaks during the first day of the Republican convention.
He’s shown no interest in a presidential run so far, but Trump’s most high-profile Black supporter generated a lot of buzz with arguably the most inspiring and positive speech at the GOP convention this week.
The South Carolina senator offered his life story and recounted the experience of his grandfather during his keynote address on Monday night.
“He lived to see his grandson become the first African American to be elected to both the United States House and Senate,” Scott said. “Our family went from Cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last.”
His friend, former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, immediatelly tweeted his endorsement.
Tim Scott 2024!
— Trey Gowdy (@TGowdySC) August 25, 2020
Handout via Getty Images Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) addresses the virtual convention on Aug. 27.
Appearing on the last night of the GOP convention, Cotton, one of the biggest war hawks in the Senate, attacked Biden’s foreign policy record and accused the former vice president of being weak on the military.
Cotton is an influential voice in the Senate and is regarded as a bit of a Trump whisperer. Things he says and stances he takes have a habit of making their way very quickly into words that come out of Trump’s mouth. He was one of the first GOP lawmakers to go on the attack against China and its early handling of the coronavirus. His call to send in federal troops to quell racial justice protests following the death of George Floyd earlier this summer soon came to be Trump’s position as well.
Out of all the possible 2024 contenders, however, Cotton’s speech had the flattest delivery ― quite the opposite of the fear-and-loathing performance that former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle put on earlier in the week.
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