Main network of Republican donors seeks alternative to Trump
In the latest sign that Donald Trump may struggle to secure a third consecutive presidential nomination from the Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, a prominent conservative interest group and source of campaign donations, has announced that it will seek to endorse a 2024 candidate other than the former president.
On Sunday, Emily Seidel, CEO of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and senior adviser to her affiliate political action group, AFP Action, sent a three-page letter to her organization’s staff and the group’s network of activists outlining the organization’s strategy for 2024.
“[T]o write a new chapter for our country, we must turn the page of the past,” she wrote. “So the best thing for the country would be to have a president in 2025 who represents a new chapter. The American people have shown they are ready to move on, so AFP is going to help them do that. .
Major Conservative Voice
Americans for Prosperity was founded in 2004 with the support of brothers Charles and David Koch, billionaire industrialists with a history of activism in conservative and libertarian politics. Through its affiliated super PAC and with the cooperation of a nationwide network of wealthy activists, the group has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into American political campaigns since its inception.
Experts told VOA that the fact that AFP is actively campaigning against Trump is bound to pose a challenge for the former president, who announced his candidacy in November but has held few campaign events so far.
“Americans for Prosperity has been one of the most influential financial groups on the conservative side over the past decade and a half,” Sarah Bryner, director of research and strategy at the Center for Responsive Politics, told VOA.
“They rank very well in terms of the amount of money spent overall — and that’s just money we know about, there’s money spent that we don’t know about,” Bryner said, whose organization tracks political spending. “They have a huge network and they are funded by some of the biggest Conservative donors in the country. For this group – this powerhouse – to say, ‘Thank you, but no thank you’ to Donald Trump is a major setback for his campaign.”
No clear alternative
Kyle Kondik, editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told VOA that AFP’s decision is consequential, but its ultimate impact is not yet clear.
“I think it’s important – Koch’s apparatus is very well funded and his support (or opposition) could be the difference in the Republican nominating contest,” Kondik said in an email exchange. “Having said that, I think it’s fair to say that conservative organizations and political elites have never been as supportive of Trump as a lot of Republican voters have been, and I can imagine Trump using the opposition from such groups as an argument for his own candidacy as the campaign heats up.
Kondik added: “At the end of the day, AFP and others are going to have to unite around a real alternative to Trump – [Florida Governor] Ron DeSantis seems like the most logical person to get that support, but we’re only at the start of the campaign and DeSantis isn’t a candidate yet. But if the conservative elites don’t want Trump to be the nominee – and it’s pretty clear that many of them don’t – they will have to work to try to stop him. This announcement is an indication that at least some of these groups will try to do so.
Other conservatives opposed to Trump
By turning away from Trump, AFP becomes the latest major Republican donor to signal a lack of enthusiasm for a second Trump presidency, even though, so far, none have coalesced around an alternative candidate.
The Club for Growth, an activist group focused on lowering taxes and other economic policy issues that has been a force in Republican politics for more than two decades, reported that it was also looking for a new Republican candidate for president in 2024. Billionaire financiers Stephen A. Schwarzman and Kenneth C. Griffin, both major Republican donors, have also indicated their wish to leave Trump.
In the past, however, Trump has demonstrated his ability to overcome scorn from party elites, using his core of die-hard supporters as the foundation on which to build a winning primary campaign, as he did in 2016.
Because of this, some pundits wonder how staunch the opposition to the former president really is among Republican donors.
Robert Maguire, research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told VOA that during the 2016 Republican primary, major donors generally sided with candidates other than Trump, but aligned once his victory became inevitable.
“If he’s able to do it again, I’d expect them to sing a different tune [drop their current opposition to him]”Maguire said.
However, in the meantime, AFP’s announcement is a signal to other potential Republican presidential candidates to start courting the organization’s endorsement, he said.
“It shows how some people, because of the immense wealth they can pour into elections, have much greater access to powerful politicians than ordinary Americans,” Maguire said.
Other potential candidates
So far, Trump is the only one of a number of potential Republican presidential candidates to officially enter the race, although several others appear to be waiting in the wings.
Some of Trump’s possible rivals are former officials in his administration.
Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who served as US ambassador to the United Nations during Trump’s presidency, is expected to announce her candidacy soon. John Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, has previously said he is considering running.
Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, is also reportedly considering challenging the former president. So did Mike Pompeo, who served first as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and then as secretary of state during Trump’s years in the White House.
DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, is widely considered Trump’s most formidable opponent. A popular second-term governor who has won conservative praise for his stance as an aggressive culture warrior, DeSantis has yet to officially express interest in the job.
Others suspected of considering a bid for the Republican nomination include Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who lost the nomination to Trump in 2016, and Virginia Governor Glen Youngkin.