As Trump’s star wanes, rivals signal presidential nomination campaigns

Republicans vying for the party’s nomination have taken the ex-president’s midterm losses as a sign for them to step up

Potential rivals to Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination will this week be reading the runes of political fortune with their families ahead of the New Year – typically the time that nomination contenders begin to make themselves formally apparent.

Amid a lackluster start to Trump’s own campaign and a string of scandals and setbacks to hit the former US president due to his links to far-right extremists and his own legal problems, a field of potential rivals is starting to emerge for a contest that only a few months ago many thought was Trump’s alone for the taking.

They include multiple ex-members of Trump’s own cabinet, including his own former vice-president, his former UN ambassador and his former spy chief. Adding to that are a raft of rivals with their own political power bases, such as Florida’s increasingly formidable rightwing governor, Ron DeSantis.

Now the hints of ambitions to taking on Trump are coming thick and fast, especially in the wake of the defeat of a host of Trump-backed candidates in November’s midterm elections which have triggered a reckoning with Trump’s grip on the Republican party.

“I can tell you that my wife and I will take some time when our kids are home this Christmas – we’re going to give prayerful consideration about what role we might play,” former vice-president Mike Pence, 63, told CBS’s Face the Nation last month.

Maryland’s term-limited Republican governor, Larry Hogan, and Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s former governor and US ambassador to the UN, have said the holidays would also be a time for deliberation.

“We are taking the holidays to kind of look at what the situation is,” Haley said in November. Hogan, a fierce critic of Trump, told CBS last week “it won’t be shocking if I were to bring the subject up” with his family during the break. Come January, he said, he would begin taking advice to “try to figure out what the future is”.

“I don’t feel any pressure or any rush to make a decision ... things are gonna look completely different three months from now or six months from now than they did today,” Hogan, 66, added.

Others in the running are also readily apparent. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s team has reached out to potential campaign staff in early primary states, the Washington Post reported over the weekend. “We figured by the first quarter next year, we need to be hard at it if we’re going to do it,” Pompeo, 58, said in an interview with Fox News.

The Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, is reportedly talking to donors to determine his ability to fund the 18-month “endurance race” of a nomination process. Hutchinson has said that Trump’s early declaration, on 15 November, had “accelerated everyone’s time frame”.

“So the first quarter of next year, you either need to be in or out,” the outgoing, 72-year-old governor told NBC News earlier this month.

New Hampshire’s governor, Chris Sununu, 48, said this week he did not believe Trump could win in 2024. He has voiced concerns that the Republican party could repeat the nomination experience of 2016, when he was a contender, when a large, divided field allowed Trump’s “ drain the swamp” insurgent candidacy to triumph.

“We just have to find another candidate at this point,” Sununu told CBS News. While Trump could be the Republican nominee, he added, he was “not going to be able to close the deal”.

The Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin, 56, has said he is “humbled” to be part of the 2024 discussions but in the convention of most candidates, he says he is focused on his day job.

Youngkin telegraphed his fiscal conservative credentials to wider Republican big-money interests by pushing $4bn in tax cuts through the Virginia legislature and meeting with party mega-donors in Manhattan in June.

“2024 is a long way away,” he recently told Fox News. “We’ll see what happens.”

Helping to break the gender-lock on potential candidates is also the South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem. Her name has emerged as a potential Trump running mate, but she recently said he did not present “the best chance” for Republicans in 2024.

“Our job is not just to talk to people who love Trump or hate Trump,” Noem, 51, told the New York Times in November. “Our job is to talk to every single American.”

The biggest dog in the potential race – aside from Trump himself – is by far Florida’s DeSantis, who recently won re-election in his state by a landslide. Some of the Republican party’s biggest donors have already transferred their favors from Trump, 78, toward the 44-year-old governor.

The Republican mega-donor and billionaire Ken Griffin, who moved his hedge fund Citadel from Chicago to Miami last year, described Trump as a “three-time loser” to Bloomberg a day after the former president’s declaration.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do. It’s a huge personal decision,” Griffin said of DeSantis. “He has a tremendous record as governor of Florida, and our country would be well-served by him as president.”

Similarly, Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the private-equity giant Blackstone, told Axios he was withdrawing his support from Trump for 2024 but stopped short of backing DeSantis. “America does better when its leaders are rooted in today and tomorrow, not today and yesterday,” he said. “It is time for the Republican party to turn to a new generation of leaders.”

DeSantis has yet to rule a run in or out, but has signaled his interest by beginning to plant ads on Google and Facebook that target an audience beyond Florida.

But in the post-midterm political environment, with Trump-backed candidates performing poorly in most contests, and the former president besieged by investigations and questions about his associations, the running is open.

Maryland’s Hogan has described Trump as vulnerable, and “he seems to be dropping every day”. Hutchinson has said “you never know when that early frontrunner is going to stumble”. Polls suggest Trump trails DeSantis in a nomination head-to-head, but leads over Pence and Haley.

Other potential names in the pot include the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, 65; Florida senator Rick Scott, also 65; former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, 60; and Texas senator Ted Cruz, 52, who ran for the Republican nomination in 2016.

In a provocatively titled “OK Boomers, Let Go of the Presidency” column last week, former George W Bush adviser Karl Rove warned that 2024 may resemble 1960 when voters were ready for a generational shift. In that year, they went for the youngest in the field, John F Kennedy, aged 43.

“Americans want leaders who focus on the future,” Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “The country would be better off if each party’s standard bearer came from a new generation … It’s time for the baby boomers and their elders to depart the presidential stage. The party that grasps this has the advantage come 2024”.

Contributor

Edward Helmore

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The race for the 2024 election is on. But who will take on Trump?
The ex-president is daring Republican challengers to make the first move – and some are preparing to attack

David Smith in Washington

04, Feb, 2023 @7:00 AM

Article image
DeSantis and Pence lead Republican wave – of presidential campaign books
The GOP flopped in the midterms but its White House hopefuls still hope to find readers – and conservative group bulk-buyers

Martin Pengelly

04, Dec, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Never Give an Inch review: Mike Pompeo as ‘heat-seeking missile for Trump’s ass’
The former secretary of state wants to be president. His vicious memoir will sell, but he may not find buyers at the polls

Lloyd Green

29, Jan, 2023 @7:00 AM

Article image
Nikki Haley accuses Pompeo of ‘lies and gossip to sell book’ after vice-president plot claim
Former UN ambassador hits back at former secretary of state as jockeying for Republican presidential primary hots up

Martin Pengelly in New York

20, Jan, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
Nikki Haley plotted with Kushner and Ivanka to be Trump vice-president, Pompeo book says
In book aimed at 2024 run, ex-secretary of state also says Trump asked him to be secretary of defense at same time, a ‘nutty idea’

Martin Pengelly in New York

19, Jan, 2023 @7:00 AM

Article image
Who’s next? Republicans who might go up against Trump in 2024
The former president is running again but the GOP midterm meltdown has changed the primary landscape

Martin Pengelly in New York

16, Nov, 2022 @2:33 AM

Article image
What to expect from this year’s CPAC: Biden bashing, 2024 Republican primary chatter and lawsuit gossip
The gathering of conservatives returns to Washington and could prove to be a crystal ball into the GOP’s 2024 outlook

David Smith in Washington

26, Feb, 2023 @10:00 AM

Article image
Nikki Haley presidential run would sink DeSantis and hand Trump victory – poll
Yahoo News/YouGov survey finds that an additional Republican candidate would split the vote in former president’s favor

Martin Pengelly in New York

09, Feb, 2023 @7:00 AM

Article image
Biden narrowly avoided a political rebuke. The next two years could be a governing gridlock
A Republican House could still upend the trajectory of the presidency, with a decision on seeking re-election looming

Lauren Gambino in Washington

09, Nov, 2022 @11:33 PM

Article image
‘It’s time to move on’: have the US midterms finally loosened Trump’s grip on the Republican party?
After the party came up short in another election, Ron DeSantis may be poised to become its new leader

Chris McGreal in Columbus, Ohio and David Smith in Washington

13, Nov, 2022 @7:30 AM