A Depressing Look at the Current List of GOP Presidential Candidates

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #85 | By: Abigail Hunt | July 18, 2023
Photo taken from: www.nbcnews.com



As the political primary season looms, the candidates of the Grand Ol’ Party are going to extreme lengths in donation solicitation in order to qualify for participation in the primaries. From the pack of right wingers competing for the chance to unseat President Biden have emerged a handful of front runners to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination – namely, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Vivek Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis, and Mike Pence, who each met the qualification bar of 40,000 unique donors. Still floundering for footing are Larry Elder, Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Perry Johnson, and newcomers Ryan Binkley, Will Hurd, and Francis Suarez. These low-hanging fruit are doing their best to scrape together a money pile tall enough for them to reach the primary stage. 

In a fundraising bid that puts the Girl Scouts to shame, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is offering $20 gift cards to the first 50,000 who donate at least $1, spending a cool $1 million to earn as little as $50,000 in donations if he makes his goal. Ramaswamy offered a 10 percent donation kickback to each donor, and that tactic may have helped, as he is set to participate in the first Republican National Committee-sponsored primary debate scheduled for August 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Conversely, former South Carolina Governor – and former U.N. Ambassador under Trump –  Nikki Haley, 51, has brought in close to $30 million in donations. Haley’s totals are dwarfed by DeSantis, 44, whose funding – including from Super PAC support – is at $150 million and growing. Trump, as is par for the course with him, fails to provide a full accounting of his campaign funding. The latest numbers show Trump out-earned DeSantis, but the numbers for the third quarter will paint a clearer picture, as DeSantis entered the race later in the year, well into the second quarter.


The new competitors

Many of those vying for the nomination  are from a new generation, the majority being in their 40s and 50s. Miami mayor and Cuban-American Francis Suarez joined the race a few weeks ago. Suarez is so far the only Hispanic candidate in the running, and he joins a younger and more diverse group than past election cycles – Tim Scott, 57; Nikki Haley, 51; Francis Suarez and Will Hurd, both 45; and Vivek Ramaswamy, the youngest in the group at 37, are POC candidates more than a decade younger than the current and former Presidents, Trump and Biden. Older and arguably more conservative than Trump is Larry Elder, 71, a POC candidate who, like Tim Scott, denies the existence of structural racism. Ramaswamy, still a long-shot, would be the first Indian and the youngest president in history were he to be elected to office.

Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer with expertise in cybersecurity, represented Texas’s 23rd Congressional District for six years and has thrown his hat into the ring. Hurd’s home district includes a long stretch of the Mexican border, and he’s a vocal critic of previous and current administrations’ dealings with the immigration crisis facing border states. 

The GOP offerings for leader of the free world are typically white and male, and in the past several years, also quite old. Not to worry, conservatives. Tradition holds. Trump, 77, the eldest of the group, has the highest approval rating of the lot, despite his many well-known failings. Former Vice President Mike Pence is 64; Doug Burgum, 66, and Perry Johnson is 75. Current President Joe Biden is 80 – the oldest sitting President in U.S. history. 

Ryan Binkley, 55, is CEO of an equity group and founder and pastor of Create Church in Richardson, Texas. Binkley made the decision – after vacillating on it for eight years –  that his next calling was to lead the country, because what do we need more of in politics? Completely irrational judgment calls based on millennia-old outdated religious texts that subjugate women and demonize anyone who doesn’t fall in line and the private funding to push that agenda! At least he’ll have Iran as a resource if he gets his way. Binkley talks about bridging divides and in the same breath praises the overturn of Roe and condemns the LGBTQ community to hell.     

Speaking of zealous religiosity, Trump has been stirring the pot of evangelicals by appealing to their self-perceived moral superiority, ranting about tyranny and evil, claiming he battles against “sinister forces” in a “righteous crusade. Haley is a former U.N. Ambassador vocal with her criticism of both the current and former administrations dealing with China, pointing out that Chinese chemicals are the base ingredients for fentanyl, which killed more than 64,000 people in the U.S. just last year. Lest ye think Haley is not a religious zealot in her own right, like the rest of the GOP field, Haley supports a federal ban on abortion. She  could be a voice for immigrants, women, and POC, but instead she falls in line with the rest of her ilk, increasing the likelihood that she’s essentially “a diversity hire” for the candidate pool who will fade away well before the election. 

Like a shadow creeping across the land, the extreme ideals of today’s good ol’ boy party grow dark and deepen. Despite the fact that several candidates are decades younger than either President Biden or Trump, they bring the same medieval mindset. 

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