- The Washington Times
Monday, November 14, 2022

Former President Donald Trump is gearing up for a big announcement Tuesday night about a 2024 White House run despite disappointing midterm election results that have sowed turmoil among Republicans and tested his grip on the party.

Underscoring the second-guessing about the direction of the party, Mr. Trump’s potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination have signaled that they won’t be getting out of the way. 

Mr. Trump, 76, appears to have rejected calls from within the party, and even from close aides, to delay an official jump into the 2024 race. Instead, he is trying to clear the Republican primary field, or at least get a head start as the strongest candidate among the party’s contenders.

“It’s not doing any favor to Republicans, as many former Trump officials and campaign staff have publicly acknowledged,” Matt Wolking, a Republican Party strategist and Trump 2020 campaign veteran, told The Washington Times. 

Mr. Wolking said the announcement should wait until after a critical Dec. 6 Senate runoff election in Georgia.

If the former president launches his bid from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as is expected, he will do so politically weakened from the disappointing midterm election results.

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Allies of the former president said Mr. Trump hoped to propel himself into the 2024 race from a red tsunami on Election Day helped by his high-profile endorsements in the nation’s toughest races.

The big wins never materialized. 

Senate Republicans failed to regain the majority in the Senate, and House Republicans fell far short of a red wave. They are more likely to hold a narrow majority when all of their district elections are finalized.

Some Republicans and conservative media say Mr. Trump endorsed flawed candidates who lost races in swing states that cost the party the Senate majority and much bigger Republican gains in the House.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s potential primary rivals are not stepping aside or pledging allegiance to him as the next Republican presidential nominee. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is considered a top Republican presidential contender, has begun to criticize Mr. Trump publicly and is releasing his new book, “So Help Me God,” on Tuesday. Mr. Pence will participate in a “town hall” event Wednesday on CNN.

Mr. Pence told ABC News’ David Muir in an interview that Mr. Trump behaved recklessly during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by criticizing Mr. Pence for refusing to block Congress from certifying the election for Democrat Joseph Biden. 

“I turned to my daughter, who was standing nearby, and I said, ‘It doesn’t take courage to break the law. It takes courage to uphold the law,’” Mr. Pence said.

Another potential rival, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has started running digital ads in early-voting states, including Iowa, promoting his political action committee and his record in the Trump administration. He also is promoting a book, “Never Give an Inch.”

Mr. Trump has been harshly criticized by even his staunchest allies in conservative media for unprovoked attacks on two of the nation’s most popular Republican governors: Ron DeSantis of Florida and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.

Mr. Trump’s biggest threat among all Republican candidates is Mr. DeSantis, who won his reelection bid last week by a historic 20-percentage-point margin over Democrat Charlie Crist. Mr. Trump has labeled the governor “Ron DeSanctimonious.” In a statement issued after the election, Mr. Trump took credit for Mr. DeSantis’ political rise. 

A new poll shows that Mr. DeSantis’ popularity extends beyond Florida. 

In a survey of likely Republican and independent primary voters conducted for the Republican Party of Texas, 43% said they would pick Mr. DeSantis out of a primary field. Mr. Trump trailed with 32% of the support. 

Mr. Trump will hold his big event at Mar-a-Lago as House and Senate Republicans, stinging from election losses, fight over the party leadership on Capitol Hill.

Some Republicans in both chambers of Congress are asking for a delay in party elections that would be expected to keep Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as the Republican leaders. 

Mr. Trump is supported by some Republican leaders in Congress, including Mr. McCarthy, who is on track to become House speaker in January, and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York.

Ms. Stefanik issued a statement last week endorsing Mr. Trump for president. 

“It is time for Republicans to unite around the most popular Republican in America, who has a proven track record of conservative governance,” she said. “Poll after poll shows that President Trump would defeat any Republican challenger by massive margins, and would beat Joe Biden if the election were held today.”

Republican J.D. Vance, a key Trump endorsement who won the Senate race in Ohio, came to Mr. Trump’s defense in a lengthy essay published Monday in The American Conservative.

Mr. Vance said it wasn’t Mr. Trump’s fault that Republicans fell short in the midterm elections. The party, he said, should focus on closing a fundraising gap with Democrats and pushing disengaged Republicans to vote in non-presidential election years.

“Our party has one major asset, contra conventional wisdom, to rally these voters: President Trump,” Mr. Vance wrote. “Now, more than ever, our party needs President Trump’s leadership to turn these voters out and suffers for his absence from the stage.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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