With Trump increasingly signaling that he is positioning himself for another presidential campaign, this reflects the political limbo in which leading Republicans find themselves trapped. Always aware that they are operating under Trump’s watchful eye, they tread cautiously for fear of alienating the easily provoked old. President.
“Trump’s leadership over the race isn’t going to affect what these potential candidates are going to do at this point. Now at some point he will. All the things you need to do right now – test a post, fundraise, if you’ve got an early state strategy, go to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina – these candidates can do it because we have a big midterm election coming up with a lot at stake, ”said veteran Iowa-based Republican presidential campaign strategist David Kochel. “All of this can continue without Trump. “
It’s a delicate balancing act, one that requires campaigning in a post-Trump landscape where, even after defeat, Trump continues to outshine everything and everyone else in the party.
On Thursday, a GOP presidential candidate, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, took a potentially perilous stance in a major speech where he almost called out Trump for bogging Republicans in “the quicksand of endless grievances.”
“We need to turn our attention to the future and stop wallowing in the past,” he told an audience at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Republicans “must face the realities of the 2020 election and learn – not hide – from them. We need to discredit the extremists among us as we have done before – we’ll discuss that more in a moment. We must give up conspiracy theorists and truth deniers, those who know best and those who are just plain crazy. “
Yet Christie never mentioned Trump at all, although the former president continues to wallow in false allegations of electoral fraud and remains the party’s main denial of truth about the 2020 election result.
Almost every leading GOP presidential prospect has already said they will not challenge Trump in a Republican primary. One reason: Trump still has an iron grip on the party, according to Republican attitudes polls. A poll of a republican-oriented company Outlook Echelon last month showed that 68% of primary voters in 2024 would choose Trump and only 25% would favor another candidate. Half of the respondents said they were Trump’s first voters, while 43% said they were the Republican Party’s first voters.
With much of the party still revolving around Trump, Republicans hoping to participate in a primary recognize the need to pay tribute to the state of the economy before Covid. But on Sunday, they hesitated to embrace Trump’s claims of widespread electoral fraud, and there was little talk of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Instead, the focus has been on the threat to “cancel the culture” of the left and on President Joe Biden, who has been described as weak-minded.
“In 2023, we’re going to tell Joe Biden it’s 2024 and he can go home to Delaware,” Cruz told 1,200 Republicans attending the 5th annual Nebraska Steak Fry.
For Cruz, Pence, and DeSantis, the rejection of the presidential speech is difficult to reconcile with their appearance at Steak Fry – an event that took place within the Omaha media market, which is broadcast in 10 counties in western England. ‘Iowa.
“Nebraska is as close to Iowa as it gets. We can see Nebraska from our house, ”Kochel said.
Of the three prominent Republicans who traveled to Nebraska for the event, Pence is perhaps the most precariously placed when it comes to Trump.
The former vice president fell out of favor with staunch Trump supporters when he refused to try to block Congressional certification on Jan.6 of the 2020 presidential election results.
Anti-Pence sentiment is so strong in some Republican neighborhoods that organizers of Sunday’s event, hosted by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, feared Pence might be booed. But the Midwestern crowd was friendly with Pence, who spoke several times about faith, abortion, and prayer.
The former vice president verified the name of the ‘Trump-Pence record’, announced their pre-pandemic economic record and bragged about Operation Warp Speed, which led to the rapid development of three Covid vaccines.
Once known for his loyalty to Trump, Pence has been held back in his talks about his former boss, but he has portrayed Trump as an ideal versus Biden over Afghanistan, where the abrupt withdrawal under the Democratic president has led to chaos and on the death of 13 American soldiers. Pence said he was in the room when Trump negotiated a February 2020 deal with the Taliban threatening his leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Cruz and DeSantis also focused on Afghanistan and said that the chaotic withdrawal of American troops made the United States weak in the eyes of its adversaries.
If Trump does not run in 2024, DeSantis consistently ranks among the top picks of Republican voters, as his combative nature and outspoken style captures the sense of combat that many conservatives seek.
“DeSantis has built a big lead with Trump Republicans,” said Patrick Ruffini, a pollster at Echelon Insights. “What you see is DeSantis dominating in Trump’s first lane and making forays into party lane one. He’s a candidate to Trump’s liking, but he’s not limited to that. way.
Much of DeSantis’ appeal is his knack for aggressively criticizing the “awakening” and dragging Biden into bitter political battles with him over handling Covid. Where Biden has called for masking and mandatory vaccinations of many employees to protect people’s health, DeSantis has presented itself as anti-warrant and anti-lockdown, claiming it is costing people their jobs and their freedom.
“When Biden violates the Constitution,” DeSantis said Sunday, “we’re going to be on the front line with a full spectrum response. It’s the least we can do.”