Potential 2024 Rivals Don’t Look Scared of Trump

From a story on politico.com by Calder McHugh headlined “Potential 2024 rivals don’t look scared of Trump—for now”:

Former President Trump’s 2024 rivals are putting him on notice: he’s not going to just breeze to the nomination. At the Republican Jewish Coalition conference this weekend in Las Vegas — typically a top event for GOP presidential hopefuls — multiple Republicans who are eyeing a 2024 presidential run gathered to speak, including former Trump loyalists Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo and Ron DeSantis. Trump also spoke at the conference via video feed.

Trump’s announcement of his candidacy last week did not appear to cow some of his potential opponents. While Haley, Pompeo and DeSantis stopped short of calling Trump out by name, they began floating the idea that Trump might not be the right standard bearer for the party. Other Republicans at the annual meeting, including former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, went after Trump even more directly. To get an inside look into the RJC event and how the 2024 race is shaping up, Nightly spoke with POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt, a political reporter who attended the RJC and has closely followed the movements of the 2024 Republican primary field. This conversation has been edited.

What did we learn from this weekend’s RJC about the state of the Republican Party?

I think the number one thing we learned was that Trump’s potential rivals are giving him no deference, which is striking given that he’s the former president.

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s former Secretary of State and CIA director, delivered his most aggressive remarks yet, talking about the need for “competence” and saying the party couldn’t simply “complain” or “tweet.”

Then you had Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN Ambassador, who used her speech to hint at a forthcoming run — thereby backtracking from her pledge last year to defer to Trump.

Ron DeSantis, Trump’s chief potential primary rival, also hinted at a presidential bid, saying that he’d “only begun to fight.”

So given those statements, how large is the Republican 2024 primary field shaping up to be? Or is it too early to tell?

It’s definitely shaping up to be large. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, whose state hosts the first-in-the-nation primary, estimated that around a dozen people could run. It’s a reflection of how these would-be candidates see Trump as weak following the midterms.

Can you speak a little more to how the midterms may have affected the race?

A lot of the people who spoke laid at least some measure of blame on Trump’s feet. To them, it’s an indication that Trump is politically weakened and doesn’t have the same political sway he once had. It’s as if they see blood in the water.

But — and this is a big but — people have prematurely written Trump’s political obituary many times before.

Sununu is someone who has never been a big Trump fan. But Pompeo, Haley and even DeSantis are all former Trump loyalists. Do you expect them to continue to go after Trump? And what was one recent comment from a Republican on Trump that surprised you the most?

That’s a good question. To some extent, these people are going to feel they need to set contrasts with him because, despite his current vulnerability, Trump is considered the front runner.

One recent comment that surprised me was from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a longtime Trump ally who declined to endorse him for another term, arguing that he doesn’t offer “the best chance” for the GOP to regain the White House.

We’re seeing many prominent Republicans draw contrasts with Trump, who’s already announced. From what you know, how long will some of his primary rivals wait to announce themselves? What’s the timeline on all of this?

From everything I’m hearing, you’re not likely to see any announcements until spring of next year. For one, the holiday season isn’t seen as a great time to launch a White House bid. For another, most potential 2024 candidates don’t yet have their political machines yet in place and are still building them out.

If high-profile Republicans are ditching Trump, what’s the argument for him as the continued clear frontrunner?

He still has a lot of support from a loyal base — not to mention a small dollar fundraising apparatus. And the fact that others could jump in is something that could play to his benefit, creating a dynamic where non-Trump rivals divide support amongst themselves.

What do you think Trump’s camp is hoping for? Does he want more people to jump in, even if it means more defections?

That’s definitely something they think that could help him. But they’re also keeping an eye on DeSantis, betting that once he gets in he’ll get more scrutiny then he has in the past, not to mention incoming attacks from fellow Republicans.

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