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A DeSantis-Haley ticket? Now, that's the way Republicans move past Trump

By Jon Gabriel,


Opinion: Did 2022 teach conservative voters that candidates welded to The Donald don't win, or do they want a third disappointing election day in a row?

Jon Gabriel

opinion contributor

A podcast listener asked me if the fight over Arizona’s 2022 election would be settled before the 2024 election.

If he had said “the 2024 campaign,” my answer would have been an easy “no.” They’re still squabbling over November ballots while the contest for the White House starts this month.

The second entry into the GOP presidential primary will be former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Multiple sources have leaked that her official kickoff is slated for Feb. 15.

At least we can enjoy a politics-free Valentine’s Day.

Donald Trump will not win again

Donald Trump tossed his hair into the ring three months ago, but the intraparty fight finally has been joined.

Haley’s track record, charisma and personal history are ideal for the Republican Party, or it would be if this was 2014. It remains to be seen if GOP voters will embrace any calm, effective, optimistic leader in the post-Trump era.

Did 2022 teach conservative voters that candidates welded to The Donald don’t win, or do they want a third disappointing election day in a row?

2024 in the Senate:Democrats in DC quiet so far on Ruben Gallego

Haley is well-liked by most Republicans but doesn’t have anything like Trump’s passionate support. Nevertheless, she was a long shot in her elections to the Palmetto State Legislature and governor’s mansion. Perhaps lightning will strike a third time.

She was smart to announce early, while other potential aspirants are still playing the “will he or won’t he” game. Former VP Mike Pence, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump Secretary of Everything Mike Pompeo, and a baker’s dozen of other hopefuls will likely jump in this year.

A broad field was Trump’s best asset in the 2016 primaries, a lesson the GOP already forgot. It’s easier to dominate a debate crowd when the lecterns on stage have to be replaced with bleachers.

Haley, DeSantis could finally give Gen X a shot

The good news for Haley and several other expected candidates: they aren’t well into retirement age. Both she and DeSantis were born in the 1970s, finally giving Generation X a shot at the Oval Office.

For sheer energy alone, the 51-year-old Haley and 44-year-old DeSantis will be a marked contrast with 76-year-old Trump, let alone 80-year-old Biden.

Our last two presidents entered office as the oldest chief executives who ever served. The fact that Haley and DeSantis are arguably more accomplished and mature than either can’t be ignored.

As a Gen-X independent who usually supports Republicans, I would be happy with either governor taking the nomination. But I’d be even happier if they teamed up.

In his four years in office, DeSantis has proved to be a hard-working and hard-charging governor, known more for getting things done than inspiring crowds. He’s more Cal Coolidge than Ronald Reagan.

But many voters miss the sunny optimism of leaders like the Gipper. That’s where Haley can deliver, both in the suburbs and across party lines. She’s still a tough leader but can soften the harsh edges of DeSantis, especially after the thrashing he’s taken in the national press.

It's time for a new generation to lead

Haley won reelection by double digits after doing a great job in the top office and moving South Carolina past some ugly remnants of the state’s history. And she, like DeSantis, motivated centrist Democrats to vote red despite their party registration.

Can you imagine Nikki facing down Kamala on the debate stage? The vice president ended her presidential primary campaign after being savaged by Tulsi Gabbard of all people.

The less said about a DeSantis-Biden debate, the better. The refs would call the bout after five minutes after plying Biden with a generous helping of smelling salts.

There’s your ticket, Republicans. Let Trump and Biden spend 2025 on the golf course. It’s time for a new generation to lead America forward.

Jon Gabriel, a Mesa resident, is editor-in-chief of and a contributor to The Arizona Republic and On Twitter: @exjon.

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