Offering “free advice” to his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, the former Texas congressman Will Hurd said: “If Donald Trump is leading in the polls, and he’s your opponent, then kissing his butt is not going to help you win.”
Trump is indeed leading national and key state polls by wide margins, despite facing 91 criminal charges under four separate indictments for election subversion, retention of classified documents and hush-money payments to a porn star.
A poll by CBS News on Sunday showed Trump with a whopping 62% support among Republicans. Ron DeSantis was next with 16%. The Florida governor’s campaign is seen to be tanking but, ahead of a first debate this week in which Trump will not take part, no rival has staked a firm claim to replace DeSantis in second place.
Hurd has not qualified to debate in Milwaukee but he is one of the few candidates prepared to attack Trump in strong terms, not least over scheduled trials that include civil cases over defamation and a rape allegation and investigations of his business affairs.
On Sunday, Hurd told the MSNBC host Jenn Psaki: “Things are improving and changing.
“Had a great time in Des Moines [Iowa] yesterday or this week at the Iowa state fair. And what people want is someone who’s willing to be honest. What people want is folks that are not afraid of Donald Trump and who are going to articulate a vision for a future and talk about the issues of the day that are impacting them, and not just focusing on Donald Trump’s legal baggage.”
Hurd was recently booed in Iowa but he said people in the first state to vote also told him “thank you for being honest”.
He said: “Here’s what we’re learning. There’s a good chunk of people that are never going to vote for Donald Trump, and there’s folks that like Donald Trump, voted for him twice, still like him as a person, and don’t think he has a chance in a rematch against Joe Biden.”
In polling between Biden and Trump, Biden is generally ahead.
“If the GOP puts up Donald Trump as a nominee, Joe Biden will win four more years of office, and I think people are recognising that. And what I’d also remind folks is that the voting doesn’t start for about 24 more weeks. A lot can change between now and then.”
Instead of debating on Wednesday, Trump has chosen to prerecord an interview with the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Hurd said that showed Trump was “afraid to go on the debate stage and answer for being a proven loser. The last time he won was in 2016. He doesn’t want to have to defend his poor record, he doesn’t want to have to defend all of these issues he’s dealing with. These legal issues are self-inflicted wounds.
“And that’s what I’m looking forward to talking about: not only his problems but articulating what the GOP needs to be doing, so we prevent a trend that has been happening for the last 20 years. And that’s losing the general election popular vote.”
Republican candidates for president have not won the popular vote since 2004. Presidents, however, are elected via the electoral college.