Top Five Least Awful Republican Candidates

It won’t be fun, but I urge you to think HARD on this one.

As y’all know, all I want to happen with regard to the presidency is for Joe Biden to win reelection comfortably, and remain alive and healthy for four years, during which someone — I have no idea who — as suitable as he is emerges to succeed him.

But as the philosopher said, you can’t always get what you want. (See video clip below. Or this one, if you prefer.)

All sorts of things can happen. And it’s not just a matter of Joe’s age — look up “Kennedy, John” or “Garfield, James” or “Harrison, William Henry” — although his age makes more people aware of reality than they really should be with younger examples. And there’s a great deal to think about beyond death or physical disability. Anything, from the spectacular to the mundane, can crop up to end a political career. A sharp downward trend in the economy, for instance, would do it.

So, if one wants a sane and happy future for the country, one would look to other options — the “get what you need” part of the philosopher’s equation. Although I earnestly pray that we don’t have to fall back to that, because any of the paths remaining to us would require major miracles even for the country to be just kinda OK.

One course would be some suitable Democrat that is not currently visible on the horizon emerges and somehow seizes the mantle before it settles on the shoulders of Kamala Harris. I have trouble even imagining a scenario.

The other most obvious path would be for someone remotely acceptable to get the Republican nomination. I’ve been shaking my head as each eager GOP candidate has emerged, ready to seize any opportunity that the rapid decline of his or her party creates in the next year. It’s not a pretty spectacle.

But this morning, I forced myself to rank them in descending order, from the least to the worst. Or at least, the top five along that continuum, among the ones who have thrust themselves forward upon the nation’s attention.

Here they are. Be mindful that I haven’t been given a lot to work with here. No actually good, decent, acceptable candidate — such as John Kasich — has stepped forward, apparently because such people see no chance for the likes of them in today’s GOP. So, working with what I have, here goes:

  1. Chris Christie — At this point, you throw up your hands and stop reading, right? You’re like, you think he’s the best? No. Have you been reading up to this point? We’re talking least bad, in a nightmare scenario. The thing about Christie is, I kinda remember when he was a not-too-terrible (but pretty awful at times) governor. No, I can’t shake that awful image of him standing behind Trump, with a look of horror that reflected a man whose very essence had just been scooped out of him, but at least he had the humanity left to know he should look that way.
  2. Mike Pence — Normally, I’d put Pence at No. 1 Least Bad. His worst episodes aren’t quite as lurid as Christie’s, and I’m mindful of the case Paul DeMarco made for him — a lot of good points. But his main bad point remains that he was, willingly, Trump’s boy for four years. Yes, I appreciate that, with MAGA hellhounds on his heels, he refused to abet his master’s attempt to overthrow the election. That, as much as anything, puts him at No. 2. Without that, he might not even make the list. The NYT reports that his announcement video sort of glides over his time as veep, and emphasizes his service as governor before that. Good idea.
  3. Tim Scott — As I’ve said, nice guy, but I don’t see anything from him that comes close to showing he is prepared for the job. I suspect I put him ahead of Nikki for one big reason: I don’t know him. I’ve never even met him, which emphasizes how briefly he’s been a visible statewide figure, much less national. I don’t even know he’s a nice guy — he just seems to be, from a distance. But I know Nikki.
  4. Nikki Haley — I’ll always honor her for taking the flag down. People who don’t know the situation — even people who haven’t seen the appalling videos of her submitting humbly to the neoconfederates — think this was a mere political calculation based on a necessity thrust on her by tragedy. But it was more than that. For a generation, Republicans in South Carolina had run from the issue. Even David Beasley, a very decent guy, only tried briefly to do something before collapsing under the backlash. So I give her credit. As for why she’s not higher on my list — well, search for her name on this blog, and review the entire record.
  5. Ron DeSantis — Clearly at the bottom. I’m unlike Democrats in that his constant harping on Kulturkampf issues that endure him to the MAGA base usually don’t appall me in any way having to do with the substance of the issues. What does appall me is that he spends all his energy on these things, which loom in our politics mainly as ways to divide the country, rather than on real issues that might address the good of all. So what use is he? None at all, that I can see. And has he done things that appall me in a substantial way? You bet. I can’t think of anything I’ve seen any politician do yet in this century that was as disgusting as duping desperate refugees to win the love of hateful people.

They’re all sad prospects — worse than that, really. There’s not a lot of distance between No. 1 and, say, No. 4. Some of the judgments I made are based on small, subtle, even whimsical things. But I decided to make myself do it, and this is what I came up with.

I don’t know much about this Doug Burgum guy who announced today, but he doesn’t sound promising. However, if further evidence offers reason to do so, I’ll post an amended list.

I’d really like to see y’all to take a shot at this unsavory challenge, and share what you come up with. One overriding rule: Do NOT under any circumstances rank them according to “the one I think would be easiest to beat.” That kind of grossly irresponsible thinking is one of the quickest ways to national suicide. Here’s the truth: Anyone, absolutely anyone — as we saw in 2016 — who obtains the nomination of either of the two major parties has about a 50 percent chance of becoming president. Let that sober you. Least objectionable first, then on down…

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16 thoughts on “Top Five Least Awful Republican Candidates

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    For my main art on this one, I wanted a picture of the 1980 Republican debate in Des Moines. I covered that one, and my cutline would have said, “Once, not that long ago, the GOP could attract a bevy of acceptable people to seek its nomination. Those days are gone.”

    But I couldn’t find one so I went with Rodin…

  2. Carol+Smith

    Sad that this is the BEST the Republican party can offer but I agree with your bad to worse ranking!

  3. Barry

    I was talking to a family member who mentioned DeSantis a few weeks ago. We weren’t really talking politics but I was a little surprised when he mentioned that he thought his entire approach was one to divide people.

    I say surprised because I would have thought he would like DeSantis. I’m not sure who he likes. He never said.

    I agreed with him that I thought it was obvious that DeSantis prefers to divide people because his entire approach is one of multiplying divisive issues so he can take advantage.

    I even told him that I didn’t even think Trump wanted to divide people like DeSantis does- and he agreed. I think Trump does divide people but it’s more a by-product of his words and approach- than his plan. It seems to be the plan of DeSantis- because it’s the only way he sees he can win.

    It’s also been interesting reading some reports of his time in Congress where people said he spent all his time focused on himself and whatever could help him personally- that he never worked behind the scenes to actually get things done, and usually didn’t show up to committee meetings but would run to news cameras.

    That’s not unique in Washington but these reports were coming from Republicans that would likely agree with him on many issues.

    It’s sort of a sad thing to because DeSantis obviously has a lot of talent but he’s so focused on himself and his personal stuff, that he can’t get out of his own way.

    Tim Scott is also talented in many ways. The problem with Tim is that he was such a hypocrite when Trump was in office.

  4. bud

    There is no plan B. A Democrat MUST win the 2024 election. A Republican win would be a complete, utter disaster. Brad’s attempt to accept some sort of fall back plan is foolhardy. I will carefully consider which unacceptable Republican is easiest to defeat. That is the one and ONLY reason to vote in the primary next year. Frankly I’m not even sure Trump is the worst of this sorry bunch. Ron Desantis is a nightmare of epic proportions. With that said I will enthusiastically vote for Donald Trump in next years primary.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And then, if your plan succeeds, Donald Trump will be president for the next four years.

      Bottom line, you need a better plan. Something other than the basic partisan, “hey, don’t worry! we’re gonna win!” plan.

      Read what I wrote. Think. And for God’s sake, don’t do ANYTHING to put the worst candidate this country has ever seen in a position in which he has a 50-50 chance to become president of the United States. AGAIN.

      You are saying exactly what you said in 2016. (Not that you would vote for him in a primary — which is actually much worse — but cheering for him to get the nomination.) And the entirely predictable thing happened. And did you really learn NOTHING from that?

  5. Ralph Hightower

    Christie? Nah, I don’t think so. Quite a left-handed reason that he’s on top.
    Pence? Well, he did finally find his balls to stand up for the Constitution. But there was silence from him that seven million voters conspired to commit voter fraud.
    Scott? Yeah, probably a nice guy. However, he’s lacking a spine to stand up to Trump
    Haley? Just another opportunistic politician who’ll do anything to be president.
    DeSantis? He’s gotten himself into a “pissing contest” with Disney. His advertisement is bombarding TV, and as obnoxious as that ambulance chasing lawyer (the one with the 3^3 (three cubed) numbers. Woke? Code words to rile up his base.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I agree with you on all those things. But remember, my point is that ALL these options are bad, and I’m trying to figure out which would be LEAST bad.

      And you didn’t mention the WORST thing DeSantis has done. It was this

      1. Barry

        DeSantis vetoed spending for flood control infrastructure for several central Florida counties.

        (Some of the counties have said the vetoes won’t stop them because the projects are so badly needed).

        “Unfortunately, many good projects that would have relieved Florida’s taxpayers with everything from flood water mitigation to neighborhood resource centers were vetoed because the governor is disconnected from the needs of average Floridians,” said state Rep. Rita Harris, D-Orlando.

        Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters also slammed DeSantis, saying in a statement that the governor “took it out on Sarasota County” because Gruters endorsed former President Trump in the 2024 GOP primary.

        “It’s mean-spirited acts like this that are defining him here and across the country,” Gruters said, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

  6. Ken

    Still wondering why Hutchinson, Christie and Ramaswamy didn’t get their moment in the sun in this blog post. Seems like somebody didn’t want to give them any respect.


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