Among the MAGA light — candidates whose embrace of (or quarrels with) Trump are passing affairs — are Virginia’s formidable new governor, Glenn Youngkin, former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Their chances turn on these questions: Is there sufficient demand for a different electioneering and governing aesthetic from Trump’s, one far less combustible and combative? Might the country want a candidate who collects the remnants of George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism and the suburban moms demanding control of the kids’ education?
Both were hallmarks of Haley’s time in Columbia, at the heart of Youngkin’s perfect pitch in 2021 and make up an element of Ducey’s appeal in Arizona through two terms as governor. Ducey’s record of flat taxes, charter schools and more cops along the border fits squarely in the party’s normal lane for a governor from the West, but Ducey might be forcibly drafted by one of the formerly powerful but now sidelined business advocacy associations inside the Beltway that need to rebuild burnt bridges to the GOP. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz might also claim that space and stand as Ronald Reagan’s heir. But Texas isn’t the West so much as it’s own world, and Reagan’s sunny optimism is more Ducey than anyone else on the left side of the Rockies.