A premature look at the 2024 presidential race

It’s far too early for any sensible observer of the political scene to be talking about presidential possibilities in the 2024 election, so let’s do it anyway.

I have at least one good reason for doing this. On the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of 2024, I will be into my 10th decade and can’t help wondering if one born shortly after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first Hundred Days will be doing much sensible observing by then.

But, if you also would like to question  my current thinking, I’m beginning this assessment of the 2024 election by offering high praise for someone who most assuredly will not be a candidate in 2024, but should have been a dozen years earlier when he chose not to run in 2012.

I refer to the forgotten but not gone current president of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana and chairman of George W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels. (I was reminded of this candidate when an Indiana friend shared a copy of Daniels’ remarkable commencement address to Purdue’s Class of ’21.)

I remember being disappointed  by Daniels’ decision not to run after two amazingly successful terms as governor, the first during the final years of prosperity and the second following the 2008 economic collapse. In his first term, he gave his state its first balanced budget in eight years without a tax hike, transformed an inherited deficit into a surplus and reduced the state’s overall debt by 40%.

Reelected in 2008 with the most votes in the state’s history, Daniels lowered taxes, expanded health insurance, introduced major education reforms and left a state considered one of the most business friendly in the nation.  He would have been a stronger nominee than Mitt Romney, the governor selected by the Republican Party to challenge President Barack Obama. But he didn’t run because he didn’t want to put his wife, whom he’d divorced and remarried, and his children through the inevitable personal attacks of a presidential campaign.  

And consider this: Had Daniels been successful, Donald Trump would be just another aging playboy businessman today, best known for questionable business practices and three wives. 

But Daniels will be 75 in 2024, and I’m weary of having candidates old enough to be my younger brothers as president. I am also tired of having to choose from among talkers, also known as senators, over doers when choosing a president and, as we will see, that’s another story.

It’s too early to tell what shape the country or the 80-year-old incumbent president or the 78-year-old former president will be in on Election Day 2024 but having been their age, I don’t think anyone over 75 should be president.  If this is ageism, make the most of it.

I would therefore like to see someone other than either of the last two presidents running for reelection the next time. As to vice presidents and former vice presidents, let’s give both Kamala Harris and Mike Pence more time to grow or to show if they’re capable of it. That’s putting it politely, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, neither party seems to have many strong governors although a few come to mind. Republicans Mike DeWine of Ohio and Larry Hogan of Maryland have been Republican stars during the pandemic, as has former Congressman Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas. I’d add former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, whose gubernatorial record was pretty impressive.  

But they all lack the media razzle dazzle that Trump brought to presidential politics, which may or may not help them.

A second tier of Republican governors who may appeal more to Trump’s old crowd include the occasionally demagogic Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida but they would be challenged by an overabundance of senators, like the somewhat shopworn Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, along with the fresher faced Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Josh Hawley of Missouri.   

Talkers all, not a doer in the bunch.

The Democratic roster of successful — and unsuccessful — governors is smaller. Ned Lamont did a good job handling the pandemic in Connecticut while generally resisting the pressures of going along with larger neighbors of New York and New Jersey. Other prominent Democratic governors do not jump out of the crowd, although ones to be avoided like Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom do. The past Democratic candidates with presidential appeal are not governors, but senators like Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

As I complete this exercise, you may agree it is, indeed, far too early to speculate on the 2024 race. There is no doubt the emergence an exciting new face or two would serve both parties well. But that’s only happened twice in the past century — Wendell Willkie, who lost in 1940 and Jimmy Carter, who won in 1976.


Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.

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