Hey, who’s up for the start of the 2020 cycle? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Well, Politico and Morning Consult are on it — but they’re not alone, as we’ll see in a moment. In a poll taken after the vice-presidential debate on Tuesday, Mike Pence’s 2020 stock has skyrocketed:
Mike Pence’s national political stock has skyrocketed since Monday night’s debate, and the Indiana governor is now the favorite to top the 2020 Republican presidential ticket if Donald Trump loses.
Twenty-two percent of Republicans say Pence is their No. 1 choice to be the next GOP nominee if Hillary Clinton knocks off Trump in November. Pence is beating Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump himself by nine percentage points, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll of 1,989 registered voters this week. Twelve percent of Republicans polled said they’d like to see Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) run again, 11 percent favor Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and just 7 percent are holding out hope Ohio Gov. John Kasich mounts another bid.
Before we get to those numbers, let’s look at the impact from the debate on this election cycle. Pence succeeded in improving the perception of Republican nominee, with 39% overall seeing it more favorably, and 30% less favorably. That compares to 31/37 from Tim Kaine’s performance about Hillary Clinton. Among independents, Pence got a 31/24, while Kaine scored a much worse 20/39. For women overall, Pence scored a slight improvement overall at 35/31, while Kaine did slight damage at 32/35, but the numbers among independent women show Pence did very well, 34/22 to Kaine’s 19/42. While Kaine scored well among Hispanic voters (53/23), Pence got positive numbers as well — 36/31.
All in all, Pence did what Trump needed him to do, while Kaine ended up doing some damage to Hillary — albeit minor, and probably not enough to show up in her polling. That’s one reason why Pence shows up in the poll position for 2020, but the other is more basic — he’s the only other figure in the mix at the moment. He just came off a good debate and his role has explicitly been to serve as a bridge to conservatives and moderates within the Republican party. Small wonder Republicans choose Pence when pollsters ask this question within 48 hours of the debate. The 13% level he gets actually seems a little low in this context.
In essence, this is simply a reaction to the news cycle. One cannot take this seriously, not four years before the next election. Had a poll like this been taken in October 2012, would Donald Trump have come out on top? Would Ted Cruz have been in second place? Lots of things will happen between now and the start of the primary cycle in 2019 which will impact the standing of those involved, including whether or not Pence, Cruz, and others remain in office at all, and the evolution of the Republican bench over the next three years.
But, as noted above, that’s not stopping people from getting a head start — people like Tom Cotton, Nikki Haley, and Scott Walker, for instance, who’s suddenly developed an interest in Iowa and New Hampshire:
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton begins a four-day, eight-stop tour across Iowa on Saturday, an itinerary raising eyebrows even in a state used to attention long before presidential campaigns begin.
Mr. Cotton is hardly the only upwardly mobile Republican staking a claim on the next presidential campaign. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spoke at a fundraiser for Iowa state senate Republicans last week in Dubuque—the same night Mr. Trump was stumping in his home state.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was scheduled to campaign in New Hampshire for GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu on Thursday before canceling the trip to prepare her state for Hurricane Matthew. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who lost to Mr. Trump in this year’s GOP primary, stumped for Mr. Sununu last month, and Mr. Walker is to do so next week.
Mr. Cotton’s Iowa visit, which doesn’t include any appearances for Mr. Trump’s campaign, is widely seen in Iowa as a sign the 39-year-old senator is exploring a 2020 presidential bid before this year’s votes are counted.
There will be no rest for the weary, it seems.