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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

March 22: Ex-Democrat Tulsi Gabbard Can’t Decide Which Bad Ticket She Wants to Join

One of the odder phenomena of the 2024 presidential election is a certain 2020 Democratic candidate who has strayed very far since then. I took a look at her options at New York:

A month ago, when ex-Democratic congresswoman and 2020 presidential wannabe Tulsi Gabbard showed up at a Mar-a-Lago event, I wrote about the logic that could make her a highly unconventional but not entirely implausible 2024 running mate for Donald Trump. Once a major backer of Bernie Sanders, Gabbard’s trajectory toward MAGA-land has been steady since she left the Democratic Party in the fall of 2022, a main course she served up with a side dish of jarring candidate endorsements (e.g., of J.D. Vance). Even when she was still a Democrat running for president, though, her orientation was more MAGA-adjacent than you might expect, as Geoffrey Skelley explained in 2019:

“Gabbard’s supporters … are more likely to have backed President Trump in 2016, hold conservative views or identify as Republican compared to voters backing the other candidates. …

“In fact, Gabbard has become a bit of a conservative media darling in the primary, with conservative commentators like Ann Coulter and pro-Trump social media personalities like Mike Cernovich complimenting her for her foreign policy views. In a primary in which some 2020 Democratic contenders have boycotted Fox NewsGabbard has regularly appeared on the network. Just last week, Gabbard even did an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, a far-right political outlet. She’s also made appeals outside the political mainstream by going on The Joe Rogan Experience — one of the most popular podcasts in the country and a favored outlet for members of the Intellectual Dark Web, whose purveyors don’t fit neatly into political camps but generally criticize concepts such as political correctness and identity politics.”

So her parting blast at Democrats as controlled by an “elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness” didn’t come out of nowhere.

But much as Gabbard might be an outside-the-box running mate for the 45th president, it does seem there is another 2024 presidential candidate whose extreme hostility to mainstream institutions and difficult-to-categorize views might make him a better match for her: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. And sure enough, according to NBC News, the wiggy anti-vaxxer is interested in Gabbard:

“The four-term former member of Congress from Hawaii is now getting consideration for both former President Donald Trump’s and independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s tickets, two sources familiar with the candidates’ deliberations told NBC News.”

The prospect of choosing between these two politicians appears to have left Gabbard feeling she’s in the catbird seat:

“As one source said, Gabbard would be more likely to seriously consider running as Kennedy’s vice presidential nominee had she not been swept up by the possibility of serving with Trump. This person said Gabbard ‘was enticed’ by the chance of serving on Kennedy’s ticket but is now focused on the possibility that Trump will select her.

“’My understanding is that Tulsi is convinced that Trump is going to pick her,’ this person said. ‘Had that not been the case, she probably would have gone with Kennedy.’”

Since Kennedy has scheduled a running-mate reveal for March 26 in Oakland, we’ll know soon enough whether he chose Gabbard and Gabbard chose him. Others rumored to be on his short list include New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, and California entrepreneur and major RFK Jr. donor Nicole Shanahan.

As NBC notes, it’s more than a bit unusual for people to be considered for multiple presidential tickets:

“[I]t’s exceedingly rare for a politician to attract interest from more than one presidential ticket or party. (Ahead of the 1952 election, Democrats and Republicans led dueling efforts to draft another politically ambiguous veteran, Dwight Eisenhower, the former supreme Allied commander in Europe during World War II, for the presidential race.)”

It’s hard to say what Tulsi Gabbard would think of this comparison. After all, Ike was a bit of a warmonger.

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