GOP rivals begin plotting post-Trump future


Five days after disappointing midterm election results and two days before former President Donald Trump is expected to announce his 2024 presidential bid, Republicans are grappling with a near-existing dilemma: who can lead the party to Trump After the future?

In private conversations among donors, agents and other 2024 presidential candidates, a growing number of Republicans are trying to seize on what they believe may be a way to sideline Trump and usher in a new generation of party leaders. best chance.

Many blamed Tuesday’s midterm results — Republicans made lower-than-expected gains in the House and failed to control the Senate — on the former president, who promoted extremists who had underperformed in the general election during the primary campaign candidate. The dismal election results, combined with Trump’s loss to Biden in 2020, have added to public and private discussions about considering a post-Trump world.

Many of the party’s top donors are actively trying to support other candidates and are fed up with Trump, according to GOP officials and operatives with ties to them, who, like others who spoke on the condition of anonymity, declined to be named private conversation.

Many donors and agents have already raved about the Florida governor. Ron DeSantis (right), who cast himself as a Trump-style Republican and subverted Democrat Charlie Crist by nearly 20 points on Tuesday night Miami-Dade County — a heavily Hispanic, heavily populated county Republican gubernatorial candidate won in two years.

Other potential Republican candidates — from the former New Jersey governor. Chris Christie to former Vice President Mike Pence to Virginia Governor. Glenn Youngkin – is also quietly assessing what their own presidential campaign might look like.

“The issue is clearly in our favor — about inflation, borders, crime — but we’re falling short of expectations,” said Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff. “The question is: Are there different candidates? Man, the question set is still valid, but in a different style and more beneficial to us?”

A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Uncertainty also hangs over Republicans eager to overtake Trump. After all, Trump’s poor performance on Tuesday and calls for him to retreat echoed earlier moments when Trump seemed politically doomed, just to cheer himself up: the early days of his first presidential bid, when He fired the late senator. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Vietnamese prisoner of war, was called “not a real war hero.” In the final days of his 2016 campaign, a “Into Hollywood” video emerged showing Trump grossly bragging about sexually assaulting women. After a deadly January. On June 6, 2021, Trump encouraged his supporters to march toward the U.S. Capitol after losing the presidency.

Now, with Trump saying he plans to announce his 2024 campaign on Tuesday, some Trump skeptics fear it would be almost Sisyphus to rely on a successful message to beat him in their party’s primary.

But others, like Christie, who failed to challenge Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, said that while the former president’s policies were generally popular, the reason for beating him was simple: Trump was a loser, He is dragging down the rest of the party. he.

“How about this? When Donald Trump won in 2016, he said we would get tired of winning and we would ask him to stop winning so much,” Christie said. “In 2018, we lost the House of Representatives. In 2020, we lost the Senate and the White House. In 2021, we lost two winable [Senate] Georgia state seat. By 2022, we’re definitely underperforming by historical standards, taking into account inflation, gas prices and crime, and a 40% president. I’m tired of failing. “

“The only victory since Donald Trump has been president has been Donald Trump,” Christie concluded. “That’s what you tell people.”

Republican pollster Whit Ayres said the party’s voters can be divided into three key segments. A small group, about 10 percent, are “never Trump” Republicans who have long been openly opposed to Trump. A larger group, about 40 percent, are “forever Trumpers,” who will never give up on his core base.

Ailes said the remaining 50 percent or so are “maybe Tumpers” — Republicans who voted for him twice and who generally liked his policies but are now eager to shake off the chaos that has come with him.

“So they’re willing to support other people, and they’re willing to do a lot of what they want without all the baggage,” Ayers said. “Then the question becomes: Who?”

Beyond DeSantis — the current GOP obsession — there’s a growing list of hopefuls. Pence’s new book, “God Bless Me,” will be published on Tuesday, the same day as Trump’s expected announcement, and Pence aides said the former vice president plans to make a decision sometime this spring on whether to participate. Election decisions will not be affected by what Trump does.

Outgoing Maryland Gov. Hogan has said he is interested in exploring a 2024 race, which he will host in November. The 30th gathered in Annapolis to discuss his achievements and what the future looks like.

In a state victory for Youngkin in 2021, Biden garnered the attention of donors by a 10-point margin the year before, he campaigned for Republicans across the country during the midterm elections and expanded him support base. In late September, he held a “red vest retreat” for donors at a luxury resort outside Charlottesville, widely seen as a prelude to Yankin’s announcement of his presidential bid.

In the retreat, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich told the crowd that three potential 2024 candidates had come to the fore: Trump, DeSantis and Yankin.

“There’s a lot of talented people out there, but if you look at the guys who are sending the big signals, you’d have to say it’s Trump, and then pretty far away it’s DeSantis, then a little further away, it’s Yankin ,” Gingrich said later.

Other Republicans sparking 2024 speculation include Christie; Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and Trump’s UN ambassador; Mike Pompeo, a former CIA director and Trump’s secretary of state; and a senator. South Carolina’s Tim Scott hinted at his higher ambitions in his victory speech Tuesday night.

Scott, who is black, talks about how his grandfather voted for the re-election of former President Barack Obama. “I hope he lives long enough to see another person of color get elected president of the United States,” Scott said. “But this time make it a Republican.”

One Republican with ties to many potential 2024 candidates said Pence and Pompeo, in particular, have been meeting nonstop with Trump donors.

Several Trump advisers say the former president has seen DeSantis and Jankin — two he has publicly attacked in recent days — as one of his strongest political opponents, and for more than a year Has been distressed by the media that he thinks Youngkin is too aggressive. coverage. A person close to Trump said Trump believed his support for both of them helped them win, but they didn’t appreciate it enough.

Virginia’s largest Republican donor, Bobby Kilberg, has said she will support some non-Trump candidates — Christie and Hogan are her favorites.

“Donald Trump needs to leave, period,” Kielberg said. “He showed again that he basically only cares about himself, not the future of the Republican Party. If it doesn’t change, we’re going to have a very sad state.”

She added that after the midterm elections, she received a flood of emails from fellow Republicans saying it was DeSantis’ time. And, she said, “I’ve heard people say they no longer believe Trump can lead the Republican Party because he can’t and shouldn’t win.”

Christie, Senator, later this week. Tex Cruz (R-Tex.), DeSantis, Haley, Hogan, Pence, Pompeo, Scott and Youngkin are all set to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting in Las Vegas — after the midterm elections The first major opportunity to present himself as an alternative is to Trump.

“There is no doubt that Trump has a group of die-hard supporters who will be with him no matter what, but there is a group of people who may end up supporting Trump but are looking for other options,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the coalition Refers to the party’s major donors. “There are a lot of people browsing in the store right now.”

Some frustration over Tuesday’s underperforming Republicans erupted after RNC Chairwoman Rhona McDaniel held a conference call with committee members Wednesday afternoon. McDaniel, who spoke for about 10 minutes, claimed the election was a success as the party was on track to retake the House, and did not answer any questions because she had scheduled an appearance on Fox News, according to attendees.

In an email to McDaniel after the call, Republican National Committee member Bill Palatucci of New Jersey called her remarks “disappointing” and warned “Reluctance to face reality doesn’t do anyone any good.”

“You’ve been working hard for the past two years and we all appreciate the time you took away from your family yesterday to work for the win,” Palatucci wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post. “But we have to face it. The fact that most of our candidates and the party as a whole are underperforming by any objective measure.”

In an interview, Palatucci, a longtime Trump critic, was equally critical.

“I think we do have to be honest about who we’ve been selected and our interactions with former presidents and how a lot of our resources are being spent or misallocated,” he said. “We didn’t have a good night…week. The outcome of II has implications for 2024, and it has been very clear to me for a long time that we have to be a party that transcends Donald Trump’s personality. I think Tuesday night proved that.”

In response to Palatucci’s email, McDaniel told him she was always available to answer questions and planned to do a “better analysis” of the results after the votes were counted.

“I think winning the house back is a huge victory. The Senate is still in play,” she wrote to Palatucci. “I keep saying don’t use the term red wave because we won so many House seats in 2020, and redistricting makes the map of the competitive House even smaller.”

A clear strategy for bypassing Trump into 2024 remains vague at best. A prominent Republican with ties to both Trump’s and DeSantis’ teams said some allies were working to facilitate a de-escalation between the two men.

Trump advisers said they were surprised by the ex-president’s backlash over the attack on DeSantis. While DeSantis was the top choice for many donors looking for an alternative to Trump, some Republicans encouraged him to hold off, not convinced he would actually run, a top Republican said.

“If you shoot at the king and you miss, you are injured,” the source said.

Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump GOP strategist who has been conducting regular focus groups with GOP voters, said the challenge for DeSantis and others is to send in a former president who remains wildly popular in the party. . Earlier this year, when she chaired a Republican focus group at a House hearing on Jan. 1. The 6th attack dominated the news, and she said most potential voters still did not intend to abandon Trump, but did show a new willingness to consider other candidates.

“The difficulty for DeSantis is that voters talk about how much DeSantis resembles Trump,” Longwell said. “What they like is that he’s a fighter and he’s yelling at people and it’s clear that the whole brand of Ron DeSantis is a parody of Trump… The problem is: when he’s with him What happens when the imitators go head-to-head?”

Meanwhile, many Republicans are still grappling with an expected red tide that has turned into a low tide that barely hits Democrats’ ankles. Gingrich said he was stunned by Tuesday’s results, which he was still sorting through.

“I feel like a guy with a compass confused, I don’t know which way is north,” Gingrich said.

Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.

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