Dear GOP Delegates,
When you get to Cleveland this summer and no one wins the nomination on the first ballot you will have a very important decision to make.
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will be the clear leaders in the delegate race, but neither man can be nominated. Cruz has become the face of the anti-Trump movement and Trump heads the anti-establishment movement. So Cruz and Trump represent the deep divide within the GOP. To nominate either would be to perpetuate the divide and make it nearly impossible for the party to unify. So you must pick someone entirely different. I have some suggestions.
It would be great to see a successful governor like John Kasich nominated, but I don’t think the party can look to any of the declared candidates from this cycle (a move that would require a change to current party rules – a change that is being considered).
Speaker Paul Ryan would make an excellent choice. He is the intellectual leader of the GOP. But in the end, I think you need to look to a governor. Hillary Clinton is beatable and a Republican with a good reputation and executive experience is an obvious choice to challenge her.
Three obvious candidates
There are three obvious candidates to consider: Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and Larry Hogan of Maryland.
Martinez is a successful and popular governor of a swing state. As a former Democrat she’d appeal to moderate and independent voters. As a woman, she would cancel out Clinton’s cynical attempt to make gender a qualifying factor in the election. As a Latina, her nomination would do much to undo the tremendous damage done to the party image by Trump. But she also rescinded sanctuary status for illegal immigrants who commit crimes in her state which would appeal to Cruz and Trump supporters. Her Achilles heal is the weak job growth during her tenure. That would likely relegate her to the VP spot with Baker or Hogan.
Baker and Hogan offer similar appeal. Both were successful businessmen (which should appeal to Trump supporters) and both won election in very blue states. Perhaps most surprising, given the political make up of their respective states, they are the two most popular governors in the country. Baker and Hogan are fiscal conservatives. Baker is a social liberal, which may anger evangelicals – but I think they’d accept anyone over Clinton.
Hogan has deftly avoided discussing social policies, but he could find success employing the same strategy he used to win in Maryland.
On issues like same-sex marriage Hogan simply acknowledged that it was settled law and he wasn’t interested in relitigating the past. The Supreme Court has determined that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right – it is settled.
Hogan ran on a promise to bring better management skills and a more responsible budget to a state with chronic structural deficits. Hogan tackled the structural deficit and is now battling state Democrats over mandatory spending formulas that threaten the return of deficits.
Hogan is leading a discussion in Maryland that must be held at the national level as well. He’s provided record funding for education (which should win over moderates and independents), has avoided any hint of scandal, and the Maryland economy is doing quite well.
Baker and Hogan are both in their first terms and Hogan has not held elective office before – but the success of Trump and Cruz makes clear that experience in elective office is no virtue this cycle. Neither man is part of the Washington establishment – which is a virtue this cycle.
So there you have it – three solid options to consider in Cleveland. A ticket the included Martinez and either Hogan or Baker would make for a strong challenge to Clinton. Much stronger than any ticket that included Trump or Cruz.
Political Science Chair, St. Mary’s College of Maryland