Friday December 9th, 2022 1:36PM

Trump's growing GOP challengers revive fears of 2016 repeat

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Memories of the tumultuous 2016 Republican primary hung over the Las Vegas ballroom this weekend during the first major gathering of the party's potential contenders for the 2024 nomination.

No fewer than 10 White House prospects stepped onto the stage to pitch their plans to fix the nation — and their party. The details varied, but within most speeches was an extraordinary sense of defiance rarely seen since former President Donald Trump seized control of the Republican Party six years ago.

Their central message: Trump can and should be beaten.

Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, pledged in April that she wouldn't challenge the former president if he ran again. But Saturday night, facing hundreds of cheering Republicans, she vowed to give “1,000%” to a White House bid if she decided to get in.

“I’ve never lost an election, and I’m not going to start now,” she said as the crowd roared.

But as the donors and activists who gathered for the Republican Jewish Coalition's two-day leadership conference applauded, perhaps no one was cheering louder than Trump himself from his Florida estate.

Trump's team believes, as do a growing number of anxious donors and Republican operatives, that the GOP's emboldened 2024 class may already be unintentionally re-creating the conditions that enabled Trump's success in 2016. That year, a crowded Republican field splintered the primary electorate and allowed Trump to become the party's presidential nominee despite winning just 35% or less of the vote in each of the three opening primary contests.

In the earliest days of the 2024 season, the 2016 parallels are eerie.

As then, Trump is viewed with suspicion within his party, his standing weakened considerably after several loyalists lost winnable races in this month's midterm elections. And most of all, a parade of ambitious Republicans is lining up to take him on.

A small, but growing group of Republican operatives is warning Trump's critics that the only way to defeat him is to rally behind a much smaller group of alternatives.

Eric Levine, a New York-based donor who attended the weekend gathering, called on his party to embrace no more than two or three candidates — and to move with real urgency.

“I don’t think we have the luxury of waiting,” said Levine, who has raised millions of dollars for Republicans in recent years and began speaking out against Trump only after the midterms. “If he becomes the Republican brand, the party is going to be destroyed.”

For now, at least, Trump's rivals don't appear to be heeding his warning.

The most popular alternative to Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, isn't likely to enter the race until the late spring, his allies say. But in his keynote address Saturday night, he left little doubt that 2024 was on his mind.

“In times like these, there is no substitute for victory,” DeSantis said, citing over and over his overwhelming midterm success in Florida. “We’ve got a lot more to do, and I have only begun to fight.”

And in a series of interviews, several other would-be Republican candidates and their aides indicated they would likely wait until next spring or summer to enter the race should they decide to run. That's even after Trump formally launched his 2024 campaign this past week.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who isn’t ruling out a 2024 run, said Trump’s early announcement has created no sense of urgency; it simply highlighted his weakened political standing.

“I think all of us understand how little of a factor he’s going to be,” Sununu said in an interview. “He’s not scaring anybody out. Anyone who wants to run is going to run. It’ll be fun. It’ll be a wide-open race.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said it’s much too early to worry about winnowing the field.

“I think more voices, more potential choices,” said Hogan, who is openly weighing a 2024 bid after his term ends in January. “Trump needs to be tested. People need to go out there and be willing to stand up to him.”

Hogan continued: “I don’t think anyone’s going to listen to narrowing the field. Everybody’s going to say, ‘I should be the guy, I should be the guy, we should all be the guy.”

Christie, a failed 2016 presidential contender who then went on to lead Trump's White House transition that year, said he ultimately expects seven or eight major candidates to enter the race, “which is manageable" compared with the 16 who ran against Trump in 2016.

“A lot of those people are fishing out of the Trump pond,” Christie said, suggesting that prospects such as DeSantis and Mike Pompeo are “MAGA guys” who would steal support from Trump's base in a way that creates opportunities for others — like him.

Christie dismissed any talk of winnowing the field so soon.

“We should all rally behind someone? Okay, who? I don’t think there’s any obvious choice,” Christie said.

Trump advisers initially hoped that he might clear the field with his early announcement. They now believe a crowded field will help him by splitting the anti-Trump vote — just as was the case in 2016. Trump won the New Hampshire and South Carolina primary elections that year with just 35% and 32% of the vote, respectively. Seven others divided the overwhelming majority of the vote.

Trump's team notes that his loyalists in key 2022 primary elections from Arizona to New Hampshire to Pennsylvania won their GOP nominations with between 30% and 40% of the vote — a base of support it believes continues to be his floor in the 2024 primary.

Former New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn, who led the state party in 2016, said the growing number of likely 2024 candidates “should know better" this time around.

“They are feeding exactly the kind of environment that Trump needs to win,” Horn warned. “If past is prologue, we’ve all got reason to be concerned.”

And while there was evidence of Trump fatigue at the weekend conference, Trump received a warm reception when he appeared via teleconference on Saturday. The crowd cheered loudly when he noted his success in moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

But there was notable silence when he repeated his baseless claims about his 2020 election loss.

“The election was rigged. And it’s too bad it was, and Israel lost a lot," Trump told the packed ballroom. “You better hope that a certain person wins the election in 2024."

And with Trump already a declared candidate, some operatives worry it's much later than his challengers think.

The first presidential primary debate could be just nine months away, using the 2016 presidential primary as a guide. By the summer of 2015, there were already 17 candidates in the race.

One of them was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is considering another run in 2024.

Speaking to reporters in Las Vegas, Cruz said Trump and his loyalists deserved some of the blame for the weaker-than-expected results in the midterms. “I'm frustrated when my party fields candidates with no realistic chance of success,” Cruz said.

But when asked about the 2024 presidential contest, Cruz said only there were several candidates “clearly positioning to run” against Trump. “I believe that voters can and should sort that out."

Pompeo, Trump's former secretary of state, who is among those positioning themselves to run, slapped at the former president repeatedly on stage this weekend without mentioning his name directly. Instead, Pompeo said conservatives deserve leaders “who fight for them, not ourselves or our own egos.”

And he acknowledged the looming 2024 primary.

"Who knows, the next time we’re together we could be on stage, multiple podiums," Pompeo said. “Who knows who else might be there and what nicknames we’ll have?”


AP writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP Elections - Political Conventions
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Police: Gunman kills 5 at gay nightclub, subdued by patrons
Police say a 22-year-old gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing at least five people and leaving 18 injured before he was subdued by “heroic” patrons
12:12PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Trump's growing GOP challengers revive fears of 2016 repeat
No fewer than 10 major Republican White House prospects stepped onto the ballroom stage this weekend for the unofficial opening of the next presidential primary season
12:00PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Tenn. inmate's mutilation highlights prison mental care woes
Three years before Tennessee death row inmate Henry Hodges cut off his own penis during what his lawyer called a “psychiatric disturbance,” a fellow prisoner told a federal judge that Hodges was being mistreated
11:58AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Qatar's World Cup opener shows its reemergence after boycott
Qatar has opened the Middle East’s first World Cup with its ruler sitting next to the leaders of two countries that only a year and a half earlier were part of a boycott trying to bring the energy-rich nation to its knees
11:00AM ( 1 hour ago )
UN climate deal: Calamity cash, but no new emissions cuts
Negotiators have approved an historic deal to create a fund for compensating poor nations that are victims of extreme weather worsened by rich countries’ carbon pollution
10:53AM ( 1 hour ago )
As British voters cool on Brexit, UK softens tone towards EU
The British government is denying a report that it is seeking a “Swiss-style” relationship with the European Union that would remove many of the economic barriers erected by Brexit
10:28AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Justices asked to hear dog toy dispute. Will they bite?
The company that makes Jack Daniel’s is howling mad over a squeaking dog toy that parodies the whiskey’s signature bottle
7:49AM ( 4 hours ago )
2 volcanoes rumble into action in Russia's far east
Towering clouds of ash and glowing lava are spewing from two volcanoes on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula and scientists say major eruptions could be on the way
7:21AM ( 5 hours ago )
Pope honors family roots in northern Italy with rare outing
Pope Francis is honoring his northern Italian roots by celebrating a special Mass in his father’s hometown
7:19AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Qatar to open Mideast's first World Cup before leaders, fans
Qatar is preparing to open the Middle East’s first FIFA World Cup before global leaders and fans now pouring into this energy-rich nation after being battered by a regional boycott and international criticism
8:46AM ( 3 hours ago )
Success or COP-out: How do this year's climate talks rate?
After two weeks of U.N. climate talks, negotiators agreed to one big decision, to create a fund to help developing countries suffering the impacts of climate change
1:37AM ( 10 hours ago )
China announces 1st COVID-19 death in almost 6 months
China has announced its first new death from COVID-19 in nearly half a year
1:36AM ( 10 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Sporadic violence, low turnout mar Nepal's elections
Sporadic violence and lower-than-expected turnout have marred Nepal’s parliamentary elections, which many hoped would bring political stability in the Himalayan nation that has changed 13 governments in the last 16 years
10:13AM ( 2 hours ago )
Malaysia's nationalist block closer to forming government
Malaysia’s next government appears to be leaning to the religious right as a coalition of Malay nationalists won support of an influential bloc after tightly fought general elections failed to produce a clear winner
9:10AM ( 3 hours ago )
Malaysia's nationalists seen on track to form new government
Malaysia’s next government appeared to be leaning to the religious right after a coalition of Malay nationalists won support of an influential bloc after tightly fought general elections failed to produce a clear winner
6:32AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Incumbent expected to win Kazakh presidential election
Kazakhstan’s incumbent president is widely expected to secure an easy victory in Sunday’s snap election that comes after bloody unrest shook the country this year and he moved to stifle the influence of his authoritarian predecessor
4:06AM ( 8 hours ago )
Malaysia faces new crisis as poll delivers hung Parliament
Malaysia has tumbled into fresh political turmoil after Saturday's tightly-contested general election delivered a hung Parliament with no clear winner and a surprising surge of support for an Islamist party
3:59PM ( 20 hours ago )
NC Democrats' parity in Congress delegation may be fleeting
Democrats celebrated winning North Carolina's lone toss-up race for the U.S. House this month as Wiley Nickel won the 13th District seat
2:40PM ( 21 hours ago )
AP Elections
Election conspiracists claim some races for local offices
Republicans who supported former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election lost bids for statewide offices that play key roles in overseeing voting in the six states that decided the last presidential election
7:52AM ( 1 day ago )
Trump 2024 rivals court his donors at big Las Vegas meeting
Republican presidential prospects are courting anxious donors and activists in Las Vegas , as the GOP's early 2024 class warns that former President Donald Trump is “a loser” and the party needs to turn elsewhere
12:57AM ( 1 day ago )
Garland names special counsel to lead Trump-related probes
Attorney General Merrick Garland has named a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate and aspects of a separate probe involving the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and efforts to undo the 2020 election
9:55PM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
Trump loyalist Boebert's reelection bid could go to recount
Republican Lauren Boebert’s race against Democrat Adam Frisch remained extremely tight on Thursday and could be headed for a recount
6:15PM ( 1 week ago )
Sharp attacks on Trump from Rupert Murdoch's news outlets
Former President Donald Trump has taken some hits in the aftermath of the midterm elections, perhaps none as hard as those from outlets controlled by news magnate Rupert Murdoch
4:32PM ( 1 week ago )
Candidates who backed overturning Trump loss are rebuffed
Election deniers who backed Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election failed in some of their highest-profile races
11:14PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Elections - Political Conventions
Police: Gunman kills 5 at gay nightclub, subdued by patrons
Police say a 22-year-old gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing at least five people and leaving 18 injured before he was subdued by “heroic” patrons
12:12PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Tenn. inmate's mutilation highlights prison mental care woes
Three years before Tennessee death row inmate Henry Hodges cut off his own penis during what his lawyer called a “psychiatric disturbance,” a fellow prisoner told a federal judge that Hodges was being mistreated
11:58AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Qatar opens the World Cup with a message of inclusion
The World Cup began in Qatar 12 years after the tiny gulf nation secured the rights
11:46AM ( 38 minutes ago )
Turkey strikes in Syria, Iraq a week after Istanbul bombing
The Turkish Defense Ministry says it has launched airstrikes over northern regions of Syria and Iraq, targeting Kurdish groups Ankara holds responsible for last week’s bomb attack in Istanbul
11:43AM ( 41 minutes ago )
Irving rejoins Nets, apologizes for hurt his actions caused
Kyrie Irving has returned to the Brooklyn Nets and apologized to anyone who felt threatened or hurt when he posted a link to a documentary with antisemitic material
11:30AM ( 54 minutes ago )