Trump takes fire from potential GOP nomination rivals in first big cattle call of 2024
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — He’s still the dominant figure in the GOP and the heavyweight in the budding battle for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, but former President Donald Trump’s firm grip on the party he transformed seems to loosen.
The former president repeatedly took incoming fire this weekend in Las Vegas at the annual meeting of leaders of the Jewish Republican Coalition, a gathering of party activists and donors that has been seen as the first call major to GOP cattle in the upcoming race for the White House.
“The Republican Party is a much bigger and more powerful party than it was before I arrived,” Trump said in a live remote address to the confab that was added to the program at the last minute.
Trump spoke on Saturday, four days after following nearly two years of flirtations by officially launching a third campaign for the White House. The former president’s announcement came a week after his party’s lackluster performance in the midterm elections. The GOP failed to win a majority in the Senate, lost key gubernatorial races and secured a wafer-thin majority in the House of Representatives — disappointing Republican expectations for a “red wave” election.
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A growing number of Republicans following the midterm elections criticized the former president for encouraging far-right MAGA-style candidates – who backed Trump’s unproven claims that the 2020 election was volleys – who won the GOP primaries but ended up losing in a crucial and competitive general election matchup.
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Highlighting Republicans’ midterm setbacks in 2018 (when the party lost a majority in the House), the 2020 election (when the party lost the White House and a majority in the Senate), and the midterms of the Last week, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, “We keep losing and losing and losing and the fact is the reason we’re losing is because Donald Trump put himself first the world.”
“It’s time to stop whispering. It’s time to stop nodding knowing we can’t talk. It’s time to stop being afraid of anyone,” Christie said. a Trump ally turned critic. “I’m ready for this fight.”
Christie, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 before dropping out and endorsing Trump, is pondering his own bid for the White House in 2024. So is the term Maryland governor. limited, Larry Hogan, another Republican critic of Trump.
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“Trump said we’d win so much we’d get tired of winning. Well, I’m sick of our party losing. This is the third election in a row we’ve lost and should have won,” Hogan said. in his speech. “I say three strikes and you’re out.”
And New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said in his speech to applause that “I have great policy for the Republican Party. Let’s stop supporting crazy, unelected candidates in our primaries and start supporting winners who can close the deal in November.”
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Former Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s right-hand man during their four years together in the White House, refrained from criticizing his former boss during his Friday night speech at the conference.
But Pence, who is likely to launch a presidential race next year, said in a Fox News interview that the common denominator midterm was that “future-focused candidates have done well. Candidates who are focused on the past or who questioned the past don’t have fare too.”
When asked if Trump deserved the blame, the former vice president replied, “I would say my old running mate was one of the people who talked about the past and that wasn’t helpful.”
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Another Trump administration veteran who is seriously considering a presidential run – former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – told Fox News that Trump’s announcement would not be a factor in his own decision-making process.
“If you’re running to run for President of the United States, you better believe you have the spine of steel, the intellectual ability, and the temerity to be the nation’s most important commander-in-chief. the history of civilization. And if you think it doesn’t matter who’s in the race, whether you’re the only one or whether you’re 15,” Pompeo said.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas – Trump’s runner-up in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination race – appeared to pull out of the 2024 White House race, telling reporters “I’m running for re-election to the Senate.” .
But Cruz, who hasn’t ruled out a presidential run, appeared to indirectly take a shot at Trump.
There are a lot of people who want to point the finger at Donald Trump and point the finger at the quality of the candidates,” Cruz said.
“The quality of the candidates is important. I will say that some of the candidates, especially some of the gubernatorial candidates who have raised virtually no money, run no television commercials, and have not really campaigned, damn, this is serious business,” stressed Cruz. “If you can’t raise money and run a campaign, step aside and let the adults do the work that needs to be done. So I get frustrated when my party fields candidates who have no realistic chance of success.”
RJC chief executive Matt Brooks said he was not surprised at all the arrows thrown at the former president.
“Once you become a candidate, you put a big target on your back and say ‘I’m in, this is the game.’ The fact that this is happening now is a manifestation of the early start to this election season,” said he told Fox News.
Trump was arguably overshadowed at the conference by the politician who political forecasters see as potentially the former president’s biggest threat to the 2024 nomination – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
As Trump spoke early Saturday afternoon, DeSantis closed the conference by delivering the Saturday evening keynote.
DeSantis highlighted his landslide re-election victory and his conservative toughness against what he calls “woke ideology” in a forceful speech that repeatedly got a crowd of top Republican activists and donors to their feet.
“We have accomplished more in a four-year period than anyone thought possible,” boasted the governor.
Before DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who served as an ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration, spoke.
Haley repeatedly teased a possible 2024 Republican presidential race, telling the crowd that “between us, I’m just getting started.”
“A lot of people asked me if I was going to run for president,” Haley said to cheers. “Now that the midterm reviews are over, I’ll give it some serious thought.”
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Ari Fleischer, who served as White House spokesman for President George W. Bush and sits on the RJC board of directors, noted that “there are going to be a lot of people shopping. And you can feel it in this room. “
“People are open-minded. People can change their minds many times. People want to shop,” the longtime Republican broadcaster and Fox News contributor added.