Trump considers delaying 2024 announcement after midterm failures

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Former President Donald Trump’s reign as a dominant figure in the Republican Party was challenged Tuesday night by a series of election results that even some of his advisers saw as damaging to his political future.

Trump has blamed Republicans for the disappointing performances of many of the candidates he supported, even as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won a landslide re-election, instantly boosting his profile as a serious 2024 presidential candidate.

In a sign of Trump’s weakened and newly uncertain position, some longtime allies are now encouraging Trump to delay a presidential announcement he had planned for next week as a red wave victory lap that failed to materialize.

One person familiar with the discussions, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations, said Trump was polling advisers for input but had not decided. But in an interview on Fox News on Wednesday night, he questioned the delay, saying: “We had a huge success. Why would anything change?”

“Republican incumbents across a broad spectrum of states were counting on Donald Trump to deliver a victory for them last night and he didn’t, they’re disappointed,” said David Urban, a top adviser and longtime ally of Trump’s 2016 campaign in Pennsylvania. , said Wednesday. “Obviously, the center of gravity of the Republican Party is in the state of Florida, and I don’t mean Mar-a-Lago.”

The immediate occasion for Trump’s advisers to discuss the postponement of his promised “very big announcement” scheduled for Tuesday at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach, Florida resort, was the Senate runoff in Georgia. Trump’s pick for the Senate, football legend Herschel Walker, is trailing incumbent Democrat Rafael G. on Wednesday afternoon. Warnock by about 1 point, with neither candidate getting 50%, leading to a runoff on December 6.

“It’s all about Herschel. I would advise him to delay it until the runoff,” said Jason Miller, a longtime Trump adviser and onetime spokesman. “I’m not alone in saying that President Trump’s best move is to put all his efforts into electing Herschel Walker.”

Miller said Trump would decide soon and that he was not aware of anyone in his orbit who wanted him to stick with the original plan. Five advisers in regular contact with Trump said they hoped he would wait until the runoff.

A spokeswoman for Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

For Republicans, the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff in January 2021 has created an awkward repeat of the pair’s Senate race, with Trump largely focused on his grievances about the 2020 election rather than pushing Republican candidates across the finish line. They eventually lost, one of them to Warnock.

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Top ten 2024 Republican presidential candidates, ranked

Trump wanted to jump into the 2024 race, so much so that he launched a last-ditch fight by aides and Republican leaders to prevent him from announcing his candidacy on Monday night, the eve of the election. Instead, Trump said he would make an announcement next Tuesday.

But the election results have so far failed to add to the explosion Trump had hoped to manipulate, and he made only brief, subdued remarks Tuesday night from a watch at Mar-a-Lago, in the path of the storm and the subject. with an evacuation order.

Two people who were in attendance with Trump at Mar-a-Lago Tuesday night said he was in an upbeat mood, but one said he spent time Wednesday reflecting on the loss of his favored Pennsylvania Senate candidate, Mehmed Oz, and said: Republican worship of DeSantis.

In contrast, DeSantis spent election night celebrating a landslide nearly 20-point victory that had supporters chanting his presidential bid. A person close to the governor described his team as “euphoric” and called Tuesday’s results “disastrous” for Trump.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t think any Republican in Florida has,” said Brian Ballard, a longtime powerful Florida lobbyist. “He’s realigned the voting coalitions in Florida, which I think will benefit the party for generations. After yesterday’s elections, he is even more a leader in the RPA.”

Two allies of DeSantis predicted the governor would wait until the end of Florida’s legislative session in May to announce a White House bid, while campaigning for Walker in the Georgia Senate runoff. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about DeSantis’ plans for a Georgia runoff or the 2024 race.

People who have worked with DeSantis say his moves are difficult to play as he continues to make decisions for himself, his wife and his chief of staff. A longtime legislative aide in Tallahassee said Tuesday’s results showed DeSantis is a viable alternative to Trump, but that may not matter if Trump still goes ahead.

“Nobody thinks DeSantis’ path is Trump ahead at this point,” the aide said, expecting Trump to “finish the party.”

Even before Tuesday’s election results, Trump viewed DeSantis as a threat, according to the former president’s advisers, and Trump didn’t wait until the polls closed to start attacking him. Last week he teased him as “Ron DeSanctimonius.” On Monday, he threatened to release damaging information about DeSantis if he runs, the Wall Street Journal reported.

DeSantis hasn’t fired back, other than holding his own campaign event on Saturday to compete with Trump’s rally in Miami. DeSantis’ crowd and positive news coverage further angered Trump, who called him ungrateful for his support in 2018, according to people close to him.

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At his indoor ocean club on Wednesday, as the storm made landfall in Palm Beach and his advisers scrambled to get home, Trump resumed the skids, posting on his Truth Social website that he had won more votes in Florida in 2020 than DeSantis on Tuesday. . In percentage terms, DeSantis won by nearly 20 points, while Trump carried the state by less than 4 points and entered the presidential year with higher turnout.

DeSantis wasn’t the only Republican who wasn’t afraid to challenge Trump for the 2024 nomination. Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.) said in his victory speech that he wished his grandfather had “lived long enough to see maybe another colored man elected president of the United States.” Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin appeared on Fox News to discuss his own White House aspirations, saying: “I appreciate it. I am always humbled by this discussion.”

Trump’s ousted Vice President Mike Pence is also planning a 2024 run, and the book will be launched next week. “This was a year where we had all the wind at our backs, and it should have been a better night,” Pence general counsel Mark Short said of Tuesday’s results. “But at the end of the day, we’re going to win the House and possibly the Senate. Elections are about the future, and many Republicans are talking about the past. I think we can win the issues. We just need to get better candidates.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who won re-election by 15 points while Trump-backed Senate candidate Don Bolduc lost, urged Trump not to announce his candidacy before the Georgia runoff. “It’s a terrible idea,” he said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday. “I don’t know who advises the former president to make a statement next week. They should be fired.”

A close adviser said Trump believed he was being blamed for underperforming Republicans by never taking credit for promoting candidates. In an interview with NewsNation before the results on Tuesday, Trump said: “Well, I guess if they win, I should get all the credit. If they lose, there is no need to blame me at all.”

Many Republicans are particularly sensitive to Trump in Georgia, where they blame his fraud allegations for suppressing turnout in the 2021 Senate runoff. Trump then mounted unsuccessful primary challenges against incumbent Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who refused to cooperate with his efforts to overturn the election results. Both were up for re-election Tuesday, with Trump-endorsed Walker trailing Camp by about 5 points.

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“The evidence of the past is that we’ve been losing elections recently where Trump is involved in our state,” said a Georgia Republican strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the runoff. In four elections in the state since November 2020 — the presidential race, the 2021 Senate runoff, the 2022 Republican primary and Tuesday’s election — Trump-backed candidates have lost.

“We had answers,” the strategist said of the impact Trump could have in the state if he campaigns heavily for Walker in a runoff. “It would be a disaster.”

Republican Party officials were preparing to mount a massive operation in Georgia and were talking to high-level donors on Wednesday about funding the effort, according to people familiar with the matter.

Races in Arizona and Nevada, which have yet to be contested, will determine whether Georgia’s runoff decides to control the Senate, or whether either party wins a majority. Even if Republicans win those races, Tuesday’s split between Trump and DeSantis has many Republicans blaming Trump and his endorsed candidates for undermining Republican prospects with their loyalty to his election rejection.

Even where Trump’s electorates won, they often lost to other Republicans. For example, in Ohio, Trump-endorsed J.D. Vance defeated Democrat Tim Ryan for the Senate seat, but he underperformed Gov. Mike DeWine by 9.5 points and relied on about $40 million in aid from outside groups that was not available at the time to help Republicans. In the other close Senate race. Vance did not thank Trump in his speech on Tuesday.

“In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere across the country, the biggest takeaway has to be the toxic effect that Donald Trump has had on winnable races,” said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, who is retiring and whose seat Oz ceded to Democrat John Fetterman. On Tuesday. “His support for candidates whose main characteristic appeared to be loyalty to Donald Trump became a huge problem. And it seems that the more ultra MAGA the candidate was, the more that candidate underperformed.”

Toomey, who voted to impeach Trump in the impeachment trial after the Jan. 6 uprising, said Ozzy did not rank as an “ultra MAGA” but that his chances were limited by gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and other extreme candidates he supports. so is Trump. .

“I think more and more that his influence is waning,” he said. “I suspect last night’s election will hasten that process because it is inevitable that his influence is so unhelpful to the party and its prospects, and that should certainly weigh on people’s considerations for 2024.”

Hannah Knowles, Liz Goodwin and Michael Scherer contributed reporting.

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