Despite a lukewarm-at-best response to former President Donald Trump announcing another White House run last week, Republicans could find themselves in a repeat of 2016 — with a crowded field in the 2024 presidential primary enabling the 45th president to reclaim the nomination with only a plurality of support.
Trump, 76, was one of 16 candidates who sought the GOP nod in 2016, outlasting his competition despite only securing around 45% of the popular primary vote.
Around a dozen would-be candidates — including former Trump loyalists like Nikki Haley — pitched themselves over the weekend at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas.
Haley, who was the ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, has previously said she would not compete against her former boss if he ran. Now, with GOP voters and mega-donors seemingly moving away from the former president after his chosen candidates flopped in the midterm elections, she has followed suit.
“I’ve never lost an election, and I’m not going to start now,” Haley told an excited crowd.
GOP donor Eric Levine was at the conference scoping out who he thinks should lead the party — and says it can’t be Trump.
“I don’t think we have the luxury of waiting,” he said. “If [Trump] becomes the Republican brand, the party is going to be destroyed.”
After a decisive reelection victory, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to enter the field and run for President in 2024, with allies suggesting a formal announcement could come in the spring of 2023.
“In times like these, there is no substitute for victory,” DeSantis told the crowd.
“We’ve got a lot more to do, and I have only begun to fight,” the governor said.
Other potential GOP candidates — like New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — said it was too early to stress about a crowded field.
“I think more voices, more potential choices,” Hogan said. “Trump needs to be tested. People need to go out there and be willing to stand up to him.”
“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.’”
“I think all of us understand how little of a factor he’s going to be,” Sununu said of the 45th president. “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.”
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, one of the 15 failed 2016 candidates, also said it was too soon to narrow the field.
“We should all rally behind someone? Okay, who? I don’t think there’s any obvious choice,” said Christie, who added that he believes seven or eight big names will enter the race before all is said and done.
Meanwhile, many major figures in the party are still hoping Trump might just step aside.
GOP mega-donor Andy Sabin — who told the Post last week he didn’t intend to donate a “f—ing nickel” to Trump, said in a video message Monday that he thinks the former president needs to heed the advice of country legend Kenny Rogers.
“You have to know when to hold’ em, which you did. You have to know when to fold ’em, which you didn’t. And you have know when to walk away,” Sabin said. “President Trump, it’s time for you to walk away.”
With Post wires.