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GOP 2024 hopefuls chart paths to run against or around Trump


LAS VEGAS — The open challenge to Donald Trump, a surefire form of political suicide for Republican politicians for much of the past six years, has suddenly become a reliable line of applause.

At a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting here, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu implored Republicans to stop nominating ‘crazy, ineligible candidates’ this weekend here during a showcase of potential nominees in the presidential election. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called the 2022 midterm the third election Republicans lost under Donald Trump — “Three takes and you’re out.” Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie compared politicians’ fear of Trump to their fear of being called a communist in the 1960s amid “litmus tests based on lies”.

Others have been less directly critical but no less bold in suggesting their ambitions to challenge Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. Former members of the Trump administration have positioned themselves as heirs to his agenda, one of between them – former UN ambassador Nikki Haley – declaring serious interest in a 2024 bid despite once ruling out a clash with Trump. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was greeted by a rock star as he touted his landslide re-election and addressed issues inflaming Trump’s base without ever mentioning the former president.

Their presentations at the RJC event – ​​an unofficial kickoff to the presidential primary season – made it clear that Republicans are not afraid of Trump and are even eager to enter the contest, as disappointing results in halfway through triggered a cascade of twisting hands and fingers. pointing in the party.

They also showed a range of theories about how to run against Trump in 2024, underscoring an increasingly public debate within the GOP about how Trump can be beaten. Republicans are split on the wisdom of attacking Trump directly, even as they embrace similar messaging on eligibility. Potential candidates and donors are already discussing the importance of banding together around one person to avoid a repeat of 2016, when Trump prevailed in a crowded field.

Sununu said in an interview that as governor of a first primary state in the nation, he plans to take on the responsibility of urging laggards to drop out.

“People want to move on, there’s no doubt about that,” said Sununu, who doesn’t rule out his own race and said of Trump, “He’ll have to fight for it like everyone else.”

Some would-be Republican candidates — including former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) — have criticized this week’s announcement of a special counsel for criminal investigations into Trump’s conduct. But Republicans have not rallied to Trump as vehemently as in August, when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago while investigating the former president’s handling of classified documents.

“I don’t think he’ll go unchallenged,” Cruz said over the weekend, shortly after opening his Las Vegas speech with a question, “How do you win?”

At a private dinner Thursday for RJC donors and VIPs, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Republicans should avoid factionalism and come together as one family, according to multiple people in attendance. Speaking after McDaniel, Christie echoed the metaphor – and said the family needed to work things out.

“We need to have this discussion openly,” Christie said in her public remarks on Saturday, continuing to criticize Trump’s long and singular hold on the party. “We have to have that family argument. And we have to have it now.

Others have stuck to implied contrasts — and presented themselves as effective fighters on issues Trump has raised. DeSantis, a former Trump ally who served as the RJC Grand Finals speaker on Saturday night, received some of his biggest applause when he noted that Florida this year had been ‘ballot harvesting’. a third-degree felony — one of several Republican-led changes to election laws amid Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election due to widespread fraud.

Spectators stood up to film with cell phones. Pressing around the stage, the students reached out to shake hands with DeSantis.

“I really don’t see the establishment wing of the Republican Party coming back,” said Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary in the George W. Bush administration. “Not in this cycle. I see a legitimate fair fight that can take place over this foreign populist element that is now the new dynamic of the Republican conservative movement.

Fleischer predicted that only “a brave few” will ultimately run against Trump. And while he expected some “more liberal Republicans” to show up – he declined to specify who he was talking about – he flatly said they didn’t stand a chance.

A growing push to move Trump was clear last week at another GOP rally — a meeting of the Republican Governors Association in Florida. GOP donor Bobbie Kilberg recalled standing up in a single session to call the former president a “clear and present danger to the future of the Republican Party.” Christie received a standing ovation for such harsh criticism, she said.

Hogan, whose speech in Las Vegas highlighted his ability to win in a decidedly blue Maryland, said governors paid little heed to Trump’s presidential announcement, which unfolded as it unfolded. as they meet. “I came back to the hotel room later after these events and couldn’t even find it on the changing TV channels,” he said in an interview.

Doubts extend even to supporters of Trump’s false insistence that 2020 was stolen. Lew Sanders, a local GOP official in Arizona who echoes Trump’s campaign demands, said he would support DeSantis in 2024 “no questions asked” – and heard from many Republicans worried that Trump would hurt their midterm chances. -mandate. “I’ve heard it so many times it makes me want to vomit,” he said.

Andy Sabin — who donated to Trump’s 2020 re-election bid and said he’s invested about $1 million in mid-range Republican efforts this year — lambasted Trump’s endorsement picks in a interview. He said he would back “anyone but Trump” for the presidential nomination in 2024, echoing other major donors who have soured on the 45th president.

Trump nearly made an appearance at the three-day RJC rally but was added to the schedule late last week after announcing his third run for the White House. A meeting of Trump with top RJC supporters was previously discussed but never materialized, according to a person familiar with the planning, who cited scheduling difficulties. A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Asset focused his remarks on Saturday on restoring his administration’s policies that Biden has reversed, saying at one point, “The future, in some ways, is kind of going back in time.”

The virtual speech led to an unusually stiff performance from Trump, who stood on a podium in front of flags at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida and repeatedly glanced sideways, unable to read the play. Trump has repeatedly backtracked on his false allegations of fraud in the 2020 election — a refrain that was conspicuously absent from his Nov. 15 announcement speech and that Republicans have increasingly denounced as harmful to the party.

Yet Trump received a standing ovation for mentioning his administration’s policies involving Israel, in particular moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, and brokering a diplomatic deal between Israel and other countries including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Trump also chastised some American Jews for not liking Israel, echoing his October social media post that the White House condemned as anti-Semitic. At the RJC meeting, he was applauded.

Trump advisers have dismissed his potential rivals as runners-up and has-beens languishing in early polls. A crowded pitch could play to its advantage by dividing the opposition, like in 2016.

But six years ago, none of the other candidates wanted to challenge Trump directly, which is clearly not true this time. Even Trump’s closest allies at the RJC conference did not rush to his defense. Representative-elect Max Miller, a former White House aide who won a congressional seat from Ohio with Trump’s help and immediately endorsed Trump for president, only briefly mentioned his work for Trump in a speech on Saturday.

Republican National Senate Committee Chairman Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who issued a Trump-backed challenge to Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell last week who lost 37-10, declined to comment on whether Trump should campaign in Georgia for Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker in next month’s runoff.

Haley, the former United Nations ambassador under Trump, pushed back on blaming Trump or bad candidates for midterm disappointments, instead blaming Republican infighting and fundraising and early voting deficits. “We have to look in the mirror,” she said in a speech on Saturday. “We are behind the times.

She said she would have “more to say soon” about a potential 2024 bid – and has the infrastructure for a presidential campaign ready to kick off whenever she makes her decision, according to a person familiar with the planning.

Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.) avoided the hand twist on Trump altogether, using his Las Vegas speech to present his life story in a rousing sermon style that had the audience reacting with cheers , whistles and even a “Hallelujah.”


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