No matter how many times he denies it —and he does whenever asked — I’m in the camp that believes Jared Polis will one day, and maybe not all that many days away, run for president.
There are many reasons to think so, and not just because more than a few Democrats will almost certainly be looking around for alternatives to a Joe Biden re-election campaign in 2024.
For one, there’s this: Just a few days ago, prominent conservative columnist George Will wrote a piece suggesting that Democrats would be wise to look closely at Polis, whom Will describes as a politician with a “knack for leavening his high-octane progressivism with departures from that church’s strict catechism.”
In Colorado, there are a lot of progressives who would dispute the “high-octane” description, but there is little question that Polis, for better or worse, is not a strict follower of any particular doctrine.
Like most politicians, Polis is ambitious. Unlike many politicians, he is not simply rich, but extremely rich and has, with each step up the ladder, used that wealth to his political advantage. And he seems to have been on the right side — politically speaking — in his handling of the pandemic, which means, at least to me, way too much on the libertarian side of things.
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But before we go too far here, Polis would first have to defeat Heidi Ganahl, his GOP opponent in the coming governor’s race. And, to show he could be anyone’s idea of viable in a national campaign, he’d probably have to beat her relatively easily. For those of us who have watched Ganahl’s stumbling campaign, it’s not hard to envision both a Polis win and a big Polis win. And I say that even while noting the incredible $11 million that rancher Steve Wells is spending out of his own pocket to help Ganahl beat Polis.
Still, there may be one large problem. For those of you with good memories, you may recall that Will wrote similar columns about the presidential prospects of two other Colorado governors — Bill Owens and John Hickenlooper. And we saw how those suggestions worked out. There may even be a George-Will-Colorado-governor jinx at work here.
Will likes Polis’ connection to charter schools and his objections to trade protectionism. He didn’t mention that Polis wants to eliminate Colorado’s state income tax, but I’m sure that’s a plus for Will.
Maybe the most amazing thing about Will’s column is that when he mentions that Polis was the first openly gay male elected governor, he apparently doesn’t see it as as issue. I guess we should thank Pete Buttigieg for that.
In any case, there is much that will happen between now and 2024 when the next presidential election occurs. First, we have the midterms this November, and Biden’s fate — and maybe also Donald Trump’s — could well rest, in large part, on whether Republicans get the traditional party-out-of-power rout or Democrats ride the pro-abortion-rights, Dodds-backlash to keep hold of power.
We should not forget the matter of Biden’s approval ratings, which had slipped into the upper 30s, and we can’t help but wonder how much territory he can reasonably expect to reclaim. His ratings are now moving in the right direction, but slowly, and he’s still well under water.
And then there is the fact that Biden, already the oldest person to assume the presidency, would be 82 in 2024 and 86 by the end of a second term. Please don’t accuse me of ageism here — I’m old myself — but here’s the kind of thing you heard from Trump at his latest rally: “We have a president who is cognitively impaired,” Trump said, with his usual lack of respect for facts and truth, “and in no condition to lead our country, which may end up in World War III.”
By 2024, when Trump will be 78, his age may not be an issue, but there is the question of whether he’d have to be running from prison. I don’t mean to get your hopes up. Here’s a way-too-early prediction: Trump will be indicted in Georgia for crimes related to election interference. Despite all the evidence, Georgia — with its significant MAGA population — will have a very hard time finding 12 jurors to unanimously convict him. That may set a trend.
For that matter, we may get a test of how many times a former president can be impeached/indicted and remain a viable candidate. Presumably with each indictment — and last I saw, he and/or his company are under at least six separate investigations — the Trump cultists would become only more cult-like, and Trump’s typically grievance-based campaign could move into the full-blown martyr stage.
If you saw Trump’s speech in Ohio — and I confess I watched only the clips — Trump was not only his erratic, rambling, Big Lie-obsessed self, but he was also apparently openly winking at the QAnon crowd, even playing music that the New York Times described as “all but identical” to a favorite QAnon song. Can anyone begin to explain that? Even Lauren Boebert was smart enough to see she had to cut any ties to QAnon.
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch described it a little more colorfully: that no one could have thought that “U.S. authoritarianism would also come with a bat-guano crazy musical soundtrack — music that sounds like a Bible Belt altar riff but is actually tied to the weirdly popular QAnon conspiracy theory whose legion of followers believe there’s an elite global cabal of child-trafficking, baby-blood-drinking liberal politicians and movie stars.”
Many of the Trump cultists in the crowd raised their right arms— do we need to know more? — in QAnon fashion. At some point, Biden may have to remove the “semi” from his “semi-fascism” description of MAGA philosophy.
If it were up to me — and I’m pretty sure it’s not — I think the country would be OK with two new candidates this time around, although I get more than a little concerned when hearing that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis might be the leader in the GOP clubhouse to succeed Trump. The good news, I’m told, is that DeSantis’ charisma quotient is somewhere close to Ted Cruz’s.
And while DeSantis’ Martha’s Vineyard stunt — sending operatives from Florida to Texas to round up 50 Venezuelan asylum seekers to put on airplanes and drop them in a rich, liberal haven — may sound like a fun idea to much of Trump’s base, you’d have to think/hope that most Americans would be horrified. As it turns out, many of these asylum seekers — who would be here legally, by the way — are actual human beings.
I’m sure Jared Polis — who, Will says, could be the answer to Democrats’ “2024 prayers” — recognizes the casual cruelty of the stunt. I’m not sure that, by itself, makes him presidential material, though. I mean, it’s fair to guess that Bill Owens and John Hickenlooper both thought it was a bad idea, too.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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