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Some potential presidential contenders have no chance, but that won't stop the speculation about them

Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., is certainly qualified to be president. But there is no chance he would win the GOP nomination, Stu Rothenberg writes.
Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., is certainly qualified to be president. But there is no chance he would win the GOP nomination, Stu Rothenberg writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Some of the early names being floated as potential candidates for 2024 are silly.

Former Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, for example, has been mentioned for months as a possible presidential candidate. Indeed, Hogan himself told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto that he is giving “very serious consideration” to a White House bid.

Hogan is qualified to run, of course. He is more than 35 years of age, is a natural born citizen, and has lived in the United States for more than 14 years. Moreover, he served two terms as governor of a state, so he has credentials. He has even made stops in Iowa and New Hampshire, which adds to his status as a potential candidate for president.

But let’s get real here.

If you haven’t noticed, the current GOP is not your father’s Republican Party. Or even your grandfather’s — unless your grandfather was a follower of someone like Charles A. Lindbergh or even Benito Mussolini.

Hogan is a centrist, which isn’t bad unless you are running for the Republican nomination for president in 2023 and 2024. If you are in that race, you are political toast.

There are a few pragmatists left in the Republican Party. Very few. So few that someone who is identified as a moderate and has been elected and reelected in a state dominated by the Democrats has no chance — I normally would say “little or no chance,” but I’m trying to be entirely honest here — of winning the Republican nomination for president. 

Everyone knows that, of course, but that doesn’t mean that reporters won’t pummel Hogan with questions about a potentially meaningless candidacy.  

All of which brings us to the topic of the potential candidacy of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. 

Christie ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 but eventually dropped out and endorsed Donald Trump. Lately, he has been quite critical of the former president and has urged his party to turn away from Trump.

Christie likes to mix things up, and he may assume that Republican voters will at some point come to their senses and realize that Trump can’t win the White House next year, so it’s time to look for someone who can.

Alas, even if they did that, Christie’s prospects would be bleak, since other formidable conservatives who have not alienated the Trump wing of the party would be better positioned for 2024.

Unlike Hogan and Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence is a staunch conservative who served for years as an apologist for Trump until the attack on the Capitol of Jan. 6, 2021. He has been well-liked by white evangelicals, a crucial constituency in the GOP.

Since then, he has been critical of the former president, and Trump was not happy that Pence would not go along with the political coup that he and his closest allies planned.

Beyond that, I’m not sure how Pence stitches together a coalition that can help him win the GOP presidential nomination.

He was for Trump — no matter how crazy or how nasty and mean-spirited the president was — before he was against Trump. That means the Trump wing of the party sees him as a lightweight traitor while the post-Trump wing of the party wants to move away as soon as possible from Trump. 

Nominating someone who served loyally under Trump before turning on the former president isn’t the way of doing that.

So, here is half a cheer for Pence for doing the same thing that any law-abiding, decent person would have done.

Finally, there is Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state and director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Trump.

Pompeo, who graduated from the United States Military Academy and Harvard Law School, certainly has been looking and sounding like a candidate. When asked in January by Gayle King about his plans, Pompeo said that he and his wife were “thinking, praying, trying to figure out if this is the next place to go serve.”

I often chuckle when political hopefuls talk about where they can “serve.” Public service is a noble calling, but it can also be an opportunity for partisans to shove their views down the throats of political opponents. I suspect that Pompeo’s idea of “service” involves cutting domestic spending, limiting legal abortion and privatizing Social Security and Medicare. 

When I interviewed then-congressional candidate Pompeo on Oct. 19, 2009, he struck me as both politically ambitious and extremely conservative. 

He described himself as “pro-life” with no exceptions (yes, you read that correctly, no exceptions), as well as having a “down the line free market focus.” He also put himself “in the Jeff Flake — no earmark — part of our party,” according to my notes from the interview. (Sen. Flake, you might recall, was a likable, free-market, libertarian Republican who wouldn’t go along with Trump’s lunacy and eventually retired rather than lose to a Trump loyalist.)

That didn’t sound to me like someone who wanted to unite the country or “serve” in a noble calling.

I don’t know if Pompeo can become a serious contender for the GOP nomination. I certainly expect him to run.  While I never found him very likable, that quality may not matter to conservatives who are looking for a post-Trump hopeful with plenty of credentials.

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