NEW YORK (AP) — As Donald Trump considers one other White House run, polls show he’s the preferred figure within the Republican Party. Nevertheless it wasn’t at all times that way.
Competing at one point against a dozen rivals for the presidential nomination in 2016, Trump won only about one-third of the vote in key early states. He even lost in Iowa, which kicks off the nomination process.
But he prevailed because those within the party who opposed his brand of divisive politics were never in a position to coalesce around a single rival. That very same dynamic could repeat itself as Trump mulls a recent bid for the presidency as soon as this summer.
With a growing list of candidates gearing as much as run, even a Trump diminished by two impeachments and mounting legal vulnerabilities could hold a commanding position in a fractured, multi-candidate primary.
“I fear it could find yourself the identical way as 2016, which principally was everyone thought everyone else should get out,” said Republican strategist Mike DuHaime, who advised former Recent Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign that 12 months. “I feel every major candidate realized that she or he would have a greater shot against Trump one-on-one. But in fact everyone thought she or he needs to be the one to get that shot and no one got out of the best way. … After which it was too late.”
The anxiety is mounting as a growing list of potential rivals take increasingly brazen steps, delivering high-profile speeches, running ads, courting donors and making repeat visits to early voting states.
That group now includes upward of a dozen could-be-candidates, including Trump’s former vp, Mike Pence; his former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo; and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Rick Scott of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina. All could run on the previous president’s policies.
Former President Donald Trump prepares to talk at a rally on the Canyon Moon Ranch festival grounds on January 15, 2022 in Florence, Arizona.
Mario Tama via Getty Images
Within the anti-Trump lane, politicians reminiscent of Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan are raising their profiles.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is increasingly seen as Trump’s heir apparent, even by Trump’s most loyal supporters, and viewed by Trump allies as his most formidable potential challenger.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and others have said they may not challenge Trump if he does go forward. But others, including Christie, appear to be gunning for the fight, even in the event that they appear to be long shots.
“I’m definitely giving it serious thought. I’m not gonna make any decision probably until the top of the 12 months,” Christie said in a recent interview. He has urged the party to maneuver on from Trump and his ongoing obsession with the 2020 election.
“For me, it’s in regards to the party needing to go in in a recent direction from a personality perspective, and to proceed to have someone who can bring strong leadership, tough leadership, that the country needs, but doesn’t have the entire other drama that goes together with it,” he said. “I’m hearing the identical things from donors that I’m hearing from voters — that they’re very concerned that we are able to’t put ourselves able to have 2024 be about anything but the great of the country.”
Pompeo, who has had a busy travel schedule and plans to return to Iowa this summer, said in a recent interview that he has been spending time reading and listening to President Ronald Reagan’s speeches as he prepares for a possible run.
“We’re on the point of stay within the fight,” he said last month as he courted evangelical Christians at a gathering in Nashville, Tennessee.
He said he and his wife would sit down after the November elections and “think our way through it, pray our way through it, and judge where’s best to serve. It may very well be presenting ourselves for elected office again. We may select a unique path. But we’re not gonna walk away from these items that I’ve been working on for 30 years now. They matter an excessive amount of.”
Pompeo sketched out a possible approach in much the identical mold as Trump.
“He was a disruptor that was most obligatory in 2016, there’s little doubt about that,” Pompeo said. “And now the duty is to take those set of understandings, those set of principles, and defend them and construct upon them. And it’s gonna take numerous work to try this, leaders of real fortitude and character to try this.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks on the bottom of the White House December 11, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong via Getty Images
Such open talk comes as Trump faces a cascade of escalating legal troubles.
The congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 revolt has revealed increasingly damaging details about Trump’s final weeks in office. The Department of Justice has its own investigation. In Georgia, the prosecutor investigating Trump’s potentially illegal meddling within the state’s 2020 election has stepped up her inquiry by subpoenaing members of Trump’s inner circle. In Recent York, Trump, his namesake son and his daughter Ivanka have agreed to reply questions under oath starting next week within the state attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices.
Mick Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman who served as Trump’s acting White House chief of staff, said the moves suggested potential candidates “might see a gap where none existed two months ago.”
“Trump fatigue is perhaps an actual thing,” he said, with voters asking themselves whether, in the event that they vote for an additional candidate, they “can get the identical policies without all the bags.”
At the identical time, Trump has seen a few of his endorsed primary candidates falter. Those that have won, including Senate hopefuls JD Vance in Ohio and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, have done so with about 30% of the vote, meaning that two-thirds of party voters went against Trump’s picks.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz greets supporters after the first race resulted in an automatic re-count attributable to close results on May 17, 2022 in Newtown, Pennsylvania.
Stephanie Keith via Getty Images
“I don’t think anybody underestimates Trump. There’s a reason he’s essentially the most sought-after endorsement in each Republican primary,” said GOP strategist Alex Conant. “That said, I feel there’s a recognition that numerous Republican voters wish to the long run and prepared for what’s next.”
To what extent stays an open query. During a visit to Iowa this week, Cotton declined to weigh in on Trump’s standing. However the senator said he hoped to be “an efficient national leader, not just for my party but for the American people in my role within the Senate and some other future role I’d serve.”
Still, Cotton argued, candidates should embrace Trump’s legacy.
“I do know that Donald Trump is highly regarded amongst our voters who appreciate the successes he delivered for 4 years in a really hostile environment. They don’t want Republicans who’re running against that legacy, because they view that legacy as a fantastic success,” he said Thursday in Cambridge, Iowa.
Trump continues to maneuver forward together with his own events.
On Friday night, he campaigned in Las Vegas alongside Adam Laxalt, his pick for Nevada Senate. And on Saturday night, he planned a rally in Anchorage, Alaska, to campaign with Kelly Tshibaka, whom he has endorsed in her race against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and others, including former Gov. Sarah Palin, now running for Congress.
Conant said it made sense for candidates to proceed testing the waters for now.
“Plenty of potential candidates are realizing that 2024 could also be their last best likelihood, no matter what Trump does,” he said. “There’s a really vulnerable Democrat within the White House, Republicans seem prone to win, and if it’s not Trump, they’re principally sidelined for the subsequent 10 years.”
Still, Conant, who served as communications director to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential bid, noted the similarities.
“It looks prefer it’s increasingly clear there’s going to be numerous people running for president. And while I feel there’s an appetite for something different, the choice to Trump must coalesce around one candidate,” he said. “That never happened in 2016. And it won’t occur in 2024.”
Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, and Steve Peoples contributed to this report.