Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie compared politicians’ fear of the 2020 presidential election loser to their fear of being branded a communist in the 1960s at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas, where potential challengers lined up to seek funding to take on former President Donald Trump for the 2024 nomination.
Just a week after the midterm elections, before either party had even secured a House majority, the 2020 election loser announced his 2024 presidential candidacy but many GOP leaders fear the zany, erratic narcissist’s comeback.
Trump, who addressed the group’s conference via video from his Florida home, invoking a number of tropes that have drawn criticism from Jewish groups in the past.
Trump conflated the American Jewish audience with Israelis, saying that Biden administration officials “don’t even listen to your leaders” and saying that critics of Israel in Congress are “more powerful than the Israeli coalition.”
He also repeated falsehoods that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged” and said that if he remained in power he would have expanded the Abraham Accords, the deal he brokered normalizing relations between Israel and four Arab countries, to “10, 12, 14 [Arab countries], we would have had maybe all of them … we could have truly had peace in the Middle East.”
The Biden administration has pledged to expand the Abraham Accords, one of its rare foreign policy agreements with the Trump administration.
Christie said that appointing a special federal counsel to oversee multiple criminal inquiries that will possibly prosecute Trump is both necessary and fraught with political peril.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley hinted she might seek the presidency in 2024, while New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu implored Republicans to stop nominating “crazy, unelectable candidates” at the showcase of possible presidential contenders.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called the 2022 midterm the third election that Republicans lost under Donald Trump— “three strikes and you’re out” —but said he’s not sure if Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to take on Trump to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024..
“I think Ron DeSantis had a big win in Florida last week and the state’s becoming very red,” Hogan told reporters at the even. “He’s certainly one of the voices. I’m not sure he’s going to be a candidate.”
While Trump is the only candidate to formally announce his 2024 ambitions, recent polling has shown DeSantis surging ahead of Trump but term-limited Hogan is considered a likely contender as he is finishing his second and final term as Maryland governor.
Attacking Trump and Trumpist politics Hogan made of point of highlighting his own record of earning popularity in a blue state by governing with common sense and decency.
Hogan said the GOP was “desperately in need of a course correction” and that Trump earned the credit he deserved – and particularly on Israel – but “three strikes and you’re out. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again.”
Former Trump aide Sarah Matthews, who resigned on the day of the Capitol riot and later testified before the House January 6 committee, said of the election loser’s announcement: “This is one of the most low-energy, uninspiring speeches I’ve ever heard from Trump. Even the crowd seems bored. Not exactly what you want when announcing a presidential run.”
Trump appointed Haley as United States ambassador to the United Nations, but after serving in the job for two years, from January 2017 through December 2018, she became an outspoken critic of Trump.
The pitches at the RJC event — an unofficial kickoff of the presidential primary season — made clear that Republicans are not running scared of Trump and are even eager for the contest, as disappointing midterm results have set off a cascade of hand-wringing and finger-pointing in the party.
They also showed a range of theories on how to run against Trump in 2024, underscoring an increasingly public debate in the GOP about how Trump can be beat.
Republicans are divided about the wisdom of attacking Trump directly, even as they take up similar messages about electability.
Potential candidates and donors are already discussing the importance of coalescing around one person to prevent a repeat of 2016, when Trump prevailed in a crowded field.
Sununu said that as governor of a first-in-the-nation primary state, he plans to take responsibility for urging stragglers to drop out.
“People want to move on, there’s no doubt about that,” said Sununu, who is not ruling out a White House bid and said of Trump: “He’ll have to fight for it like everybody else.”
Joe Biden, already the nation’s oldest president, became the first octogenarian-in-chief on Sunday when he turned 80, a historical record that the White House has not been eager to publicize as he plans on running for a second term.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed war crimes prosecutor Jack Smith to manage the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s possession of classified government documents after leaving the White House, as well as the inquiry concerning the former president’s conduct after he was rejected by voters in 2020.
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks predicted that one of the rising GOP stars that addressed the group would win the White House, instead of Trump, in 2024.
Other potential presidential candidates who was speakers included former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeoy, Sen. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott.
Pompeo addressed the fact that they all might be challenging Trump in the presidential primary, joking with Pence “the next time we might be together on a stage with multiple podiums…who knows what nicknames we might have?”
The former secretary of state and CIA director, who was an ardent Trump supporter but has been indirectly attacking the election loser on social media following the midterms, called for “leaders who put aside self-promotion.” Pompeo added, “it is simply not enough to ‘own the libs’ and complain. It is not enough to tweet.”
All of them stressed the challenges the GOP faces, with some addressing Trump’s outsized role in the party’s past, present and future more explicitly than others.
Israeli Prime Minister-in-waiting Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the confab via satellite.