Nearly two months into President Joe Biden’s White House term, lawmakers and strategists have already launched discussions over whether the president plans to pursue reelection. If he doesn’t—as he’ll be eighty-two-years-old come election day—Vice President Kamala Harris would likely become the favorite Democratic Party leader to seek the presidency in 2024.
Having one White House front-runner for the party is largely different from the crowded primary that the Democrats saw in 2020 when there were twenty-seven candidates in the running at one point.
Republicans, however, may embrace a similar crowded scenario in the next presidential election, as there are almost a dozen GOP presidential prospects eyeing a bid.
While former president Donald Trump is still the powerhouse of the Republican Party, teasing another White House run in three years and towering in 2024 presidential primary polls, other GOP lawmakers have also emerged into the national spotlight, including former vice president Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, to take the reigns of the party in a post-Trump era.
But one other potential candidate—Tucker Carlson, host of Fox News’s Tucker Carlson Tonight—has also been floated as a contender, serving as, perhaps, one of the most Trump-like candidates in the speculated running.
“Carlson has been keen to focus on the supposed failings and absurdities of Democratic elites, and that puts him in as good a position as any to inherit his supporters—those for whom Trump, as an individual candidate and office-holder, carried some extra appeal beyond the standard Republican brand,” Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said.
Carlson is a prominent, outspoken figure in the party, as he’s boasted anti-immigration, anti-free trade, populism, and America First economics that Trump supporters value. His show has been rated the most-watched cable news program in history and is also one of the most-watched shows in its time slot.
Labeled “the new Donald Trump,” Carlson has garnered the power to still connect with Trump’s Make America Great Again coalition, as the former president, along with much of his following, has been blacklisted from major social media platforms such as Twitter.
“Carlson is a real contender for the Republican nomination. He has broad name recognition, is articulate, knows how to appeal to Trump supporters, and is not afraid to describe the world in ways that appeal to the Trump base. His diatribes against immigrants, cancel culture and Black Lives Matter will make him very appealing to Trump supporters,” Leonie Huddy, a political science professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said.
But experts have also said that Carlson’s days in front of the camera could be both good and bad for his presidential campaign.
Carlson found himself under intense scrutiny recently, as he insulted female soldiers, saying that having pregnant women fighting in our wars is “a mockery of the U.S. military.”
“So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits. Pregnant women are going to fight our wars," he said on his Fox News program earlier in the month, referring to newly developed standards in the Army and efforts to create a flight suit for pregnant military personnel. “It's a mockery of the U.S. military. While China’s military becomes more masculine as it’s assembled the world’s largest navy, our military needs to become, as Joe Biden says, more feminine.”
The Fox News host received a slew of backlash from lawmakers and journalists, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Army veteran who lost both legs in the Iraq War.
While Carlson does have national name recognition—an advantage that several other 2024 rumored White House hopefuls do not carry—his questionable remarks on Fox could harm his bid from attracting more than just the Trump voter base of the party. And Trump’s widespread attraction is slowly declining since the 2020 presidential election and Capitol riots, as a new Morning Consult/Politico survey revealed that fewer GOP voters support the former president for 2024. Trump saw a twelve-point drop in the poll from January compared to his 54 percent of support in the same survey in November.
“But the Republican Party will nonetheless have some big questions about style and emphasis to sort out before 2024. Different parties at different times have drawn different lessons from electoral defeats,” Reeher said. “It’s still too early to know, but I tend to think that Republicans will tack in a different direction, slightly more to the center and more toward ‘traditional’ candidates with deeper resumes in government.”
So, the larger question is how long Trump will hold an iron-like grip over the GOP and whether he’ll play the role of the kingmaker in upcoming elections. That will indicate who runs in the 2024 presidential election and how much success they’ll see on the campaign trail.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, and The Hill.