Opinion: The Republican silly season has begun

Photo/Mark Peterson/The New York Times / Empty chairs and an American flag are photographed using a multi-image filter during the town hall of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie where he announced his presidential campaign at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H., on June 6, 2023.
Photo/Mark Peterson/The New York Times / Empty chairs and an American flag are photographed using a multi-image filter during the town hall of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie where he announced his presidential campaign at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H., on June 6, 2023.

Whenever I want to put myself to sleep at night, I run through the names of all the former vice presidents. OK, sorta peculiar. It might be time for a break. Maybe I'll just try making a list of Republican candidates for president.

Back when Donald Trump announced it all seemed sorta life-as-usual, but now the race is definitely on. There are currently somewhere between 12 and 400 Republicans eyeing the White House.

All the major names are men except Nikki Haley, who's arguing that "it's time to put a badass woman in the White House." Well, yeah. There's very little chance Haley's campaign is going anywhere, but I think we can all agree she could really perk things up.

We're also expecting some energy from the newly announced candidate Chris Christie. Rather than dodging the whole Donald Trump matter whenever possible, Christie stresses that he's running to save the country from a former close colleague who he now calls a "lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog."

On Wednesday we acquired Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota. His great claim to fame is having built a software company that he sold for more than $1 billion. Warning: Do not call Burgum a billionaire. He's really not into that. You'll hurt his feelings.

Vivek Ramaswamy doesn't have that problem since he's reportedly worth only $600 million or so (biopharmaceuticals). Still, he's invested at least $10 million in the race so far and it's gotten ... well, hey, we're talking about him.

OK, and let's see ... there's Perry Johnson. Ever heard of Perry Johnson? He ran for governor of Michigan last year but got thrown off the Republican primary ballot for invalid petition signatures. Which must have been a little embarrassing for someone who made his fortune building a firm that promises to help your company meet business quality standards.

You don't need any previous government experience in your bio to be on the campaign trail. Ryan Binkley of Texas is out meeting and greeting in Iowa, and he's never done anything remotely like this before. Although he claims he started thinking about running for president around eight years ago. So it's not like he hasn't been mulling.

Binkley bills himself as a pastor and — wait for the shock — super fiscal conservative. He's also the CEO and co-founder of Generational Group, an investment banking firm that specializes in mergers and acquisitions.

Are you picking up on a theme here, people? We have a very crowded field of super-rich candidates. There actually are some candidates who don't seem to have a ton of money. We haven't gotten to Larry Elder, a California talk radio host and columnist who did very well against other Republicans in the Gov. Gavin Newsom recall election. Which was certainly a great triumph for Elder except for the part about Newsom beating the entire recall idea back by huge margins.

Or Asa Hutchinson, the 72-year-old former governor of Arkansas. OK, not necessarily a new broom.

I guess Sen. Tim Scott really ought to be up higher. He is the best-known Black candidate in the field so far.

Mike Pence is a sorta interesting challenge. You will remember that when Trump lost the 2020 election, Pence had an allegedly ceremonial role certifying the results. Which he did, guaranteeing a normal transfer of power and getting to hear the Jan. 6 crowd of rioters chanting "Hang Mike Pence."

Should we be grateful? I mean, yeah, sure, when it comes to writing his obituary. But do you want to root for Pence this time around?

Sigh. Will the Republican field get any bigger? Or is it going the other way? I was watching one of the TV news channels the other day and suddenly a headline flashed:

"Breaking News: Sununu Passes on Presidential Campaign."

Yes — shocker of the week! — the governor of New Hampshire has decided he's not going to try for the nomination. Possibly the highest-ranking Republican in the country who definitely doesn't want to give it a shot.

Guess you'll all have to stop saying, "Yeah, but wait until Chris Sununu gets in there."

The New York Times

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