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Handicapping the Race to Replace Meghan McCain on The View: Year-End Edition

After four months, The View is no closer to naming a fifth co-host, but some leading contenders have emerged.
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    Nearly six months ago, I predicted in this space that The View’s next conservative co-host would be even worse than Meghan McCain, who departed the show in early August. McCain’s exit left The View with a massive hole to fill, as her tenure coincided with sky-high ratings and a top-ranking among daytime talk shows. At the time, it stood to reason that ABC would replace her with a more extreme right-wing voice to continue bringing in viewers, even if those viewers were hate-watching, as many did with McCain.

    Flash forward to December 2021, and The View has still not named Meghan McCain’s permanent replacement. Instead, the daytime staple has employed a try-out approach, in which talking heads from across the moderate-to-full-on-Trumper spectrum have been invited to offer their take on the day’s Hot Topics as guest co-hosts, with the most successful of the bunch called back for more chemistry testing. It's worth noting that not all of the Season 25 guest co-hosts are actually in the running for the fifth seat (looking at you, Condoleezza Rice), and others likely disqualified themselves during their first appearance (Michele Tafoya, ahem), but a handful have proven they have what it takes to become The View’s next conservative co-host. As The View closes the book on 2021, here’s who to keep an eye out for in the second half of Season 25 — and who we hope to never see at the table again.

    Guest Co-Hosts Never in Contention for the Fifth Seat

    When The View announced that it would be welcoming “a lineup of conservative guest co-hosts” instead of immediately naming McCain’s replacement, names like Condoleezza Rice and Carly Fiorina stood out among the list. No disrespect to these two ladies, but McCain brought more to the fifth seat than just her Republican politics; she also brought a millennial perspective to a panel of women in their mid-40s and above. The View’s need for younger voices practically disqualified the two immediately, although Rice made a good effort of killing her chances even further when she insisted “it’s time to move on” from the January 6 insurrection.

    Later in the season, The View brought back two familiar faces: Sherri Shepherd, who served as a co-host from 2007 to 2014, and Cindy McCain, Meghan’s mother. Considering that Cindy appeared to discuss her new UN appointment (and not Meghan’s airing of grievances against the show), it’s all but certain the McCain lineage won’t continue on the right-side of the table. And while it would be great to have Shepherd back on The View, she’s not exactly a conservative, is she? (Don’t even mention the flat-Earth stuff. Don’t.)

    Guest Co-Hosts Who Talked Their Way Out of the Fifth Seat

    Congratulations to Gretchen Carlson, Caitlyn Jenner, and Sunday Night Football’s Michele Tafoya, all of whom talked themselves out of a job during their two days on the show. In the inaugural episode of our View in Review podcast, I predicted that Carlson was most likely to succeed among the initial crop of names released by ABC, but when her time finally came, the former Fox News host was entirely unmemorable.

    The same can’t be said for Jenner and Tafoya. Viewers weren’t happy when Jenner was announced as a co-host in September, and their complaints turned out to be right: she repeatedly clashed with the ladies, and on her second day, things got to bad that Whoopi, Joy Behar, Sara Haines, and Sunny Hostin each took a turn dismantling her argument about COVID vaccines. Still, Jenner paled in comparison to Tafoya, who unleashed two days of chaos upon The View unlike anything we’ve seen so far this season.

    Guest Co-Hosts in Contention, But Unlikely to Win the Fifth Seat

    As anyone who’s been on The View can attest to, it’s hard to make an impression when you have just 9 minutes to make your point, and four other people who are eager to weigh in on any given topic. Guest co-hosts Mary Katharine Ham, Eboni K. Williams, Morgan Ortagus, and Kristen Soltis Anderson learned that the hard way, as each struggled to leave a mark during their time at the table. Still, there were some bright spots to their appearances: Ham, a journalist, played the conservative victim card when she insisted she arrives on college campuses “pre-canceled,” while Williams (of RHONY fame) spoke out against Dr. Fauci and Biden’s COVID messaging, and former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus challenged Rep. Adam Schiff in an uncomfortable in-person interview. For her part, Anderson, a Republican pollster and TV personality, had the unfortunate luck of being on The View during the first two days of Thanksgiving week, so she deserves a second chance to dive into meatier topics in the new year.

    Guest Co-Hosts With a Legitimate Chance to Win the Fifth Seat

    The View’s second round of auditions have just begun, but viewers can expect to see these faces on The View again in the weeks and months to come. Mia Love, a former GOP congresswoman from Utah, didn’t make much of an impression in either of her appearances — her most memorable moment came when the co-hosts teamed up to school her on the difference between public and private health — but when she became the first guest co-host to earn a callback, it became clear that ABC execs see her as a viable fifth chair. Though she’s firmly a Gen Xer, Love seems to get on well with the other co-hosts, and even when they’ve disagreed, they’ve had the kind of “civil discourse” that the show’s veterans bang on about.

    On the other side of the intensity spectrum are Alyssa Farah (now Alyssa Farah Griffin), a Trump administration official, and Amanda Carpenter, a Republican commentator who previously worked for Sen. Ted Cruz. Farah notably spent her first ten minutes on The View attempting to distance herself from her former boss, but once that was out of the way, she went head-to-head with the co-hosts and refused to back down when they challenged her conservative talking points. Carpenter was only slightly less combative, but she earned the respect of the co-hosts and the studio audience when she condemned Fox News hosts’ texts about the January 6 insurrection. Farah and Carpenter each struggled to engage in the discussion without stepping on the other ladies’ toes — there’s a fine line between chiming in and interrupting, and both were on the wrong side of it — but if The View really is looking for Meghan McCain 2.0, these two might be their best bet.

    Somewhere between Love, Farah, and Carpenter are CNN host S.E. Cupp and former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer, both of whom identify as right-leaning moderates. Cupp and Setmayer are immensely qualified for the role, but more importantly, they were critical of Trump, seemingly a must for any co-host, regardless of political affiliation. However, when they were on The View, the show became more of an echo chamber than a spectrum-wide discussion, as their views line up with the rest of the panel’s pretty neatly. If Cupp and Setmayer return (and it’s likely they will, as both have guest co-hosted before Season 25), they’ll have to differentiate themselves from the rest of the co-hosts in order to prove they can generate ratings.

    Perhaps The View’s most interesting guest co-host of the season so far has been Jane Coaston, host of the New York Times’ The Argument podcast. Coaston identifies as a libertarian, but on the show she primarily spoke from a progressive perspective on issues ranging from Chris Cuomo’s CNN controversy to the Ahmaud Arbery trial. Like Farah, Coaston brought a much-needed younger perspective to the group’s Hot Topics discussions, reinforcing the sense that whoever The View chooses for its fifth seat should probably be under the age of 40. And if that new co-host happens to be Coaston, a person with fascinating politics and an eagerness to engage with big issues, all the better.

    The View returns with new episodes Monday, January 3 at 11:00 AM ET on ABC.

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    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: The View, ABC, Alyssa Farah Griffin, Amanda Carpenter, Jane Coaston, Meghan McCain, Mia Love, S.E. Cupp, Tara Setmayer