The race for the 2024 elections is on. But who will stand up to Trump?

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The starting gun has been fired and the race for the White House has begun. But in Iowa, where the biggest Republican primaries aren’t for another year, the landscape is icy and snowy and eerily quiet.

There’s no great mystery why: the Donald Trump effect.

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“These people have to look at Trump’s polls and that’s why there’s a delay,” said Art Cullen, editor of Iowa’s Storm Lake Times. “Trump and [Florida governor Ron] DeSantis do this sparring around the ring. Others watch to see if someone takes a punch and gives them an opening.

At the same stage in 2019, at least a dozen Democratic contenders for president had either gone to Iowa or announced plans to visit soon. “We got one every other week,” Cullen recalls, noting that the first major candidates forum took place in March.

But among potential Republican 2024 hopefuls, only former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson has visited this year, while Tim Scott, a senator for South Carolina, and Kari Lake, a former candidate for governor of Arizona, are seen as a possible running mate of Trump. have lined up gigs later this month.

Trump, the only declared candidate so far, has not yet been to Iowa, but his campaign is finally moving up a gear. Last weekend, the former US president addressed Republicans at small-scale events in two other early voting states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, pledging to “finish the unfinished business of making America great again.” He issues policy statements, builds infrastructure, and unveils recommendations that say catch me if you can.

Kari Lake is seen as a possible Trump running mate for Donald Trump.

Kari Lake is seen as a possible Trump running mate for Donald Trump. Photo: Rex/Shutterstock

It’s a surprisingly orthodox approach to the most unconventional candidates. The 76-year-old was deposed twice, blamed for thousands of deaths during the coronavirus pandemic and encouraged a violent coup on January 6, 2021. name and guessing at the short memory of the voters.

He also throws down the gauntlet to potential challengers, challenging them to make the first move. While there are signs that some are preparing to take him on, no one has yet launched a full-frontal attack on Trump or Trumpism, apparently wary of earning his wrath and alienating his base.

Bill Whalen, a former media consultant to California politicians including former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, said: “I don’t think anyone wants to run and be a villain wrestler, be seen as the heel whose only goal is to attack Donald Trump. It’s not a ticket to success and it’s gritty because Trump will fire back. What’s the old saying about wrestling with the pig in the mud: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it more than you.”

It emerged this week that Nikki Haley, 51, who was governor of South Carolina before being Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, plans to announce her candidacy in Charleston on February 15. In 2021, Haley told the Associated Press that she “wouldn’t run if President Trump ran,” but she’s since had a change of heart, telling Fox News she could be part of “new generational change.”

Last Saturday in South Carolina, Trump told WIS-TV that Haley had called him several days earlier to ask for his opinion. “She said she would never run against me because I was the best president, but people change their minds and they change what’s in their hearts,” he said. “So I said, if your heart wants to do it, go do it.”

Trump comes down with a hammer, anvil and a safe from the sky

John Zogby

Trump seems more threatened by — and less courteous to — DeSantis, who won reelection in a Florida landslide and is beating him in some polls. Trump, who has helped elevate DeSantis in the past, has called him “Ron DeSanctimonious” and said challenging DeSantis for the 2024 nomination would be “a great act of disloyalty.”

But even DeSantis — who is not expected to make a statement until the Florida legislature adjourns in the spring — has done his best so far. He responded to Trump’s attack with only a coded rebuke, contrasting his own success with Trump’s failure at the 2020 ballot box: “Not only did we win re-election, we won by the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican. gubernatorial candidate in Florida history.”

Other potential candidates, such as former Trump vice president Mike Pence and his ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have been equally cautious in criticizing their former boss. Taking on Trump directly entails great political risks, rivals such as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio discovered in 2016 through name-calling, insults and humiliation.

Former Vice President Mike Pence is also widely considered a candidate in the 2024 presidential race.

Former Vice President Mike Pence is also widely considered a candidate in the 2024 presidential race. Photo: Michael M Santiago/Getty Images

John Zogby, an author and pollster, said: “There is a sense that alienating Donald Trump is a very thankless task. Trump comes down with a hammer, anvil and a safe from the sky. While it’s clear that much of Trump’s magic is gone, he can wreak havoc in the same way. He still has his own forum and he still has his own loyal following and he can suck up all the negative oxygen. Whether Trump wins or loses, he blocks.”

Still, Trump could soon have company on the campaign trail, not least because primaries often draw long-running candidates who would welcome the consolation prize of a book deal, radio show, TV pundit appearance, or slot as the winner’s running mate.

State governors who could build their brand nationally include Greg Abbott of Texas, Brian Kemp of Georgia, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.

It remains to be seen whether sincere Trump critics like Liz Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman, and Larry Hogan, ex-Governor of Maryland, will throw their hats in the ring. Few observers would expect such a candidate to win a primary and offer voters more diverse flavors of “Make America great again” (Maga), with culture warrior DeSantis aiming to prove he is a younger, more dynamic version of the brand is then Trump’s original.

Drexel Heard, a Democratic strategist, said, “It will be very interesting to see Maga Nikki Haley run in the primary. I think Nikki Haley is intelligent, but she’s going to have to fully commit Maga to get through this primary because she’ll have to go up against someone like Ron DeSantis, who’s already coming out of the gate with red meat.

Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also a possible candidate in the 2024 race.

Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also a possible candidate in the 2024 race. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

With an ultra-loyal base, Trump can take advantage of a divided field, as he did in 2016. In South Carolina, he has already won the endorsement of Governor Henry McMaster and Senator Lindsey Graham, calling for a march on Haley and Scott within the state steal. . But as Trump so far tries to normalize himself with a traditional campaign, there are also important differences from seven years ago.

Whalen, the former California consultant who is now a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Palo Alto, said, “First, there are legal issues. Some are more serious than others, but if you want to run for president and you pass the Fifth Amendment 400 times, a candidate doesn’t look good.

“Second, he has a criminal record that he didn’t have. Donald Trump was a hypothetical in 2015 and 2016, a tabula rasa when it came to holding office. Now he has four years in office that he must explain. He’s not a hypothetical, he’s someone who’s had the job before, so voters have to do the math: Do they want him back in office?

“Third, there was no Ron DeSantis-like figure in 2016. There was no one who was in the same position as DeSantis in terms of ability to do three things at once: make money, point to a highly successful record in his state, and play it game that Trump is playing. That makes DeSantis an option that was not there for the Republicans in 2016. In 2024 there is potentially someone who can fight fire with fire.”

DeSantis is an option that was not there for the Republicans in 2016. In 2024 there will be someone who can fight fire with fire

Bill Wallen

Other commentators agree that despite Iowa’s slow start, the Republican primary appears to be much more competitive than anyone imagined a year ago. The party was willing to overlook some of Trump’s lies and misbehavior, but not the miserable performance of his hand-picked candidates in last November’s midterm elections. The self-proclaimed winner has become a serial loser: His fundraising numbers have been relatively disappointing so far.

Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said: “I don’t see much fear for Trump. It seems to me that there is broad agreement in Republican circles that Trump is weak and beatable. Plus, with the upcoming indictments, he may be even weaker. What’s going on now is just confirmation to me that Trump’s grip on the Republican party is loosening.

“I would say it is quite open. Trump is a favorite, but he has some very serious long-term viability issues in the field that are clearly no longer intimidated by him. Republicans are tired of losing.”

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