Donald Trump has hardly been out of the White House for 18 months, and yet the various electoral lanes for the 2024 Republican primary are already beginning to ossify around him. There is, of course, the Trump lane, with the ultimate audience of one. And there is the lane populated by the candidates weaned from his presidency, such as Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo. There’s also the lane teeming with MAGA carpetbaggers, like Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Rick Scott, Josh Hawley, and his new arch nemesis, Ron DeSantis. And, finally, there are the never-Trumpers, like Larry Hogan, Liz Cheney, John Kasich, and Asa Hutchinson.
Lastly, there are a few rumored candidates who don’t fit neatly into any of these lanes: namely Mike Pence, whose vice presidency saw him emerge from a little-known, unlikely-to-be-reelected culture warrior into an indefatigable apologist who dutifully sanitized Trump until the very end, when he refused to dignify his election fraud nonsense; and Glenn Youngkin, who is neither Trump-created nor Trump-inspired nor really Never Trump. Pence and Youngkin are both seemingly folksy, practical conservatives who can talk credibly about the concerns of families, despite the latter being worth hundreds of millions thanks to his roughly 2 percent stake in Carlyle. They’re also both classic “nice guys,” who embrace cultural issues, but not as virulently as DeSantis. And the two are likely going to have to go through each other to have a credible shot in the already-crowded field.