Whether President Donald Trump wins a second term this fall or loses to former Vice President Joe Biden, it’s virtually impossible to imagine him — and the movement he has created — disappearing anytime soon.
That reality means that there will be a fight within the Republican Party to be the “next” Trump or, since the 45th president views himself as one-of-a-kind, the heir to the Trumpian political legacy.
And make no mistake: That fight has already begun. Here’s a look at the contenders to be the Trump heir (listed alphabetically by last name):
* Tom Cotton: The Arkansas senator made massive waves last week with an op-ed in The New York Times in which he argued that the military should be used to end protests over the death of George Floyd. The op-ed led to the resignation of the Times opinion editor — and allowed Cotton to blast liberals and the media. “My op-ed doesn’t meet the New York Times standards,” Cotton told Fox News. “It far exceed their standards which are normally full of left-wing, sophomoric drivel.” If that isn’t Trumpian…
* Josh Hawley: Hawley, who is just 40, may not be as well known nationally as Cotton — yet — but the Missouri senator’s focus is purely in the Trump bloodline. He has been leading the charge against alleged bias on social media platforms and is pushing for American foreign policy to focus far more on China. (Sound familiar?) The local press is starting to notice. “Hawley 2024? Missouri Republican could be ‘Trump 2.0,’ say conservative supporters,” read a headline in the Kansas City Star earlier this year.
* Mike Pence: When the former Indiana governor decided to accept the VP nomination from Trump, he resolved then and there that if the billionaire businessman won, his political fate would be forever tied to Trump. And in office, Pence has made that connection very, very clear. He has spent the first three-plus years of Trump’s term not allowing enough space for an envelope to pass between them. Bill signing? Pence is over Trump’s shoulder, looking at the President approvingly. Speech? Pence is over Trump’s shoulder, looking at the President approvingly. Coronavirus task force briefing? Pence is over Trump’s shoulder, looking at the President approvingly.
* Donald Trump Jr./Ivanka Trump: Why not an actual heir as the political heir? We know that Trump keeps his inner circle very tight — and limits it mostly to family. Of the two offspring, Don Jr. looks like the more ready to run; he has made a number of comments over the last few years about his interest in political office. But never underestimate Ivanka; she is the only Trump child to actually hold a job in her father’s White House.
The Point: While the Trump heir won’t be the only lane in either the 2024 Republican primary fight, it will be a lane. And it could well be the dominant one. Which is why politicians (and not politicians) are scrambling so early to be the chosen one.