2024 Republican rivals put Trump on notice

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2024 Republican rivals put Trump on notice

At a GOP conference in Las Vegas, a parade of 2024 hopefuls made clear they’re forging ahead after Trump’s campaign announcement.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley waves after speaking.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley waves after speaking at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Las Vegas. | John Locher/AP Photo

By ALEX ISENSTADT

11/20/2022 03:21 PM EST

LAS VEGAS — If former President Donald Trump thought his early 2024 announcement would cow prospective Republican primary rivals into submission, he clearly miscalculated.

At this weekend’s Republican Jewish Coalition conference, a parade of ambitious Republicans hit all the notes that politicians eyeing future campaigns for the White House typically do. Their tones and messages varied — few called out Trump by name — but collectively they made clear they are not going to back down to the former president after a third consecutive poor election with him at the helm.

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Mike Pompeo, Trump’s hand-picked secretary of State and CIA director, warned that for Republicans to win elections, they can’t simply “go on Fox News or send tweets.” Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who ran Trump’s transition, said Republicans were losing because “Donald Trump has put himself before everybody else.”

Nikki Haley, Trump’s U.N. ambassador who said last yearshe wouldn’t run if her former boss did, has apparently changed her mind. She used her Saturday evening speech here to say she was looking at running in a “serious way,” and to call for “a younger generation to lead across the board.”

The speeches by the 2024 hopefuls at The Venetian Resort here displayed how little deference Trump is receiving in the wake of his campaign announcement last week. Increasingly, they see him as beatable. And his launch two years out from the next election — with a special counsel now hovering over him — has created a big and lasting target for the roster of alternatives.

“He’s not going to have the financial support he had anymore, he’s not going to have the internal support that he had before,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, whose state hosts the first-in-the-nation GOP primary. “And so therefore, there’s opportunity there. That political weakness is blood in the water for some folks.”

“Now, he’ll still be a player, but he’ll just be one of a dozen,” Sununu added. “He’s not clearing the field by any means.”

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Trump, of course, has been left for dead politically many times before. And despite the incoming fire he’s facing, many Republicans regard him as the early favorite to win the nomination. Some say the willingness of others to jump into the race could well bolster his chances, potentially creating a repeat of the 2016 primary, when he prevailed over a splintered field of Republican opponents.

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Speaking to the conference via video Saturday, Trump was met with rapturous applause. Many in the audience of pro-Israel attendees regard the former president as a hero for, among other moves, his decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

At the same time, Republican donors, activists and strategists said the midterms had left Trump bruised and vulnerable — an invitation for his would-be successors to tee off.

While Pompeo has spent the last few years appearing before Republican audiences in preparation for a 2024 bid, his remarks at this weekend’s conference were perhaps the furthest he’s gone. Pompeo noted that he’d been “loyal” throughout his tenure in the administration but said that his loyalty “wasn’t to a person, or a party or a faction” — a not-so-veiled reference to Trump.

He also suggested that Trump deserved some responsibility for the midterm failure, arguing, “Personality and celebrity just aren’t going to get it done. We can see that. The American people did not want to look back, they wanted to move forward. They care about what happens tomorrow, not what happened yesterday.”

Haley also got her digs in. While the former U.N ambassador and South Carolina governor said any “one person” didn’t deserve blame for the midterms, she remarked that “we don’t need more politicians who just want to go on TV and talk about our problems.”

Christie and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, meanwhile, used their closed-door Thursday evening appearances before a group of major donors to savage the former president. And during their public addresses on Saturday morning, Hogan argued that voters had “sent a clear message that they want to turn the page,” while Christie called for the party “to stop being afraid of any one person.”

Two Republicans used their speeches to tease their candidacies. Haley told the crowd to applause that she’s “never lost an election and I’m not going to start now.” And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — Trump’s most formidable potential rival right now — concluded his Saturday evening keynote speech by declaring, “I can tell you this: We’ve got a lot more to do and I have only begun to fight.”

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Trump isn’t just facing resistance from the Republicans looking to run. Several major donors who converged on the Las Vegas Strip this weekend indicated they weren’t ready to g

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