2024 GOP rivals court donors at big Las Vegas meeting, and some warn Trump

The Republican Party’s nascent 2024 class, as ever, openly cast Donald Trump as a “loser” on Friday, as they sided with donors and activists fretting about the future of the GOP under the former president’s leadership. Gave.

Outspoken critics of Trump included current and former Republican governors, members of his own cabinet and major donors, who gathered along the Las Vegas Strip for what organizers described as the unofficial start of the next presidential primary season. It was a remarkable display of defiance for a party defined almost entirely by its allegiance to Trump for the past six years.

“Maybe there’s a little blood in the water and the sharks are circling,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican presidential candidate and frequent Trump critic, said in an interview. “I don’t think we’ve ever reached this point before.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting, which began Friday, comes just days after Trump became the first candidate to formally launch his 2024 campaign. His aides hoped his early announcement could ward off serious primary challenges, but many potential candidates said it was unlikely after Trump loyalists lost midterm contests last week in battleground states from Arizona to Pennsylvania. His political standing within the GOP, already weak, fell further.

Ahead of his Friday night address, Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state under Trump, mocked one of his former boss’ slogans: “We were told we’d get tired of winning. But I’m tired of losing.” “

Later from the ballroom stage, he said, “Personalities, celebrities just aren’t going to make it.”

Trump is scheduled to address the gathering over the weekend via video conference on Saturday. The vast majority of high-profile Republican officials considering a 2024 White House bid appeared in person at the two-day conference, which included meetings with private donors and a series of public speeches.

The event featured DeSantis and Pence, a prominent rival of Trump, whom Trump blamed for not being able to overturn the 2020 election. Other speakers included Hogan, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.

Glenn Youngkin, another potential 2024 contender, canceled his appearance after Sunday’s shooting at the University of Virginia that left three people dead.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who could become House speaker if Republicans take power in January, is also scheduled.

It seemed to have little sympathy for Trump’s latest legal challenges.

Hours before Friday’s opening dinner, Attorney General Merrick Garland is overseeing the Justice Department’s probe into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate, as well as key aspects of a separate investigation involving the January 6, 2021, insurrection and attempts Appointed a special counsel for To undo the 2020 election.

Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire who easily won re-election last week, said there was no indication that his party would rally to Trump’s defense this time.

Sununu said, “These are their issues that have to be resolved.” The Republican governor said, “Everybody’s going to sit back and watch the show. And it’s not just his supporters – it’s his money, it’s the donors, it’s the fundraiser.” “We’re just moving forward.”

With a loyal base of support among rank-and-file voters and a massive fundraising operation involving small-dollar contributions, Trump doesn’t need major donors or party leaders to reach the GOP nomination for a third term. But a reluctance by big-money Republicans to commit to him — at least, for now — could make his path to the White House more difficult.

There was no sign of enthusiasm for Trump’s 2024 presidential aspirations in the hallways and conference rooms of the weekend’s gathering. At Friday’s dinner, organizers offered yarmulkes bearing Trump’s name to attendees, but there were few takers.

That too when Jewish Republicans continued to praise Trump’s commitment to Israel while in the White House.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said, “There is no doubt that what President Trump accomplished in his four years in office was unique in terms of strengthening the US-Israeli relationship. He is the most pro-Israel president ever.” Were.”

But this may not be enough to win over the major donors of the alliance this time.

“For many of the people attending this conference, this is about the future,” Brooks said. “And for some of them, President Trump may be their answer. For others, they are interested in what others have to say.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie leaned into Trump’s political failures on Thursday during a private dinner with the group’s major donors. In a later interview, he did not hold back.

“In my view, he is a loser now. He is an election loser,” said Christie, another 2024 prospect. “You look at a typical voter, I don’t think there’s any Democrat he can beat because he’s toxic to suburban voters on a personal level now, and he’s earned it.”

The annual event is being held at the Las Vegas Strip’s Venetian Hotel for a longtime benefactor of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate who died last year. His wife, Miriam Adelson, remains a fundraising force within the GOP, although her giving levels, which exceeded $20 million in the recent midterm elections, were somewhat reduced.

Israeli-born Miriam Adelson, 76, is “staying neutral” in the GOP’s 2024 presidential primary, according to Andy Abode, the family’s longtime political gatekeeper.

She is not alone.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress and heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune, supported Trump’s past campaigns, but has no plans to endorse him in 2024, according to a Lauder spokesman.

The chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group investment firm, longtime Trump supporter Stephen A. Schwarzman told Axios this week that he would back someone from a “new generation” of Republicans. Kenneth C. Griffin, the hedge-fund billionaire, is already openly endorsing DeSantis.

On Friday, Aerospace CEO Philip Friedman described himself as a “Big Trump supporter” but said he’s open to listening to others put forward.

Friedman said of Trump, “There are other people who have their policies but don’t have stuff.”

In his keynote speech, Pence focused primarily on the achievements of the Trump administration, but also included some indirect jabs at the former president.

“To win the future,” Pence said, “we Republicans and elected leaders must do more than criticize and complain.”

He was more direct in an interview this week.

“I think we’ll have better options in 2024,” Pence told The Associated Press. “And I have every confidence that Republican primary voters will choose wisely.”

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