Trump Support Is Eroding in an Republican National Committee He Remade

As Donald J. Trump prepares for his first public events since announcing his presidential campaign, dozens of members of the Republican Party’s governing body are expressing doubts about his ability to win back the White House and are calling for a competitive primary to produce a stronger nominee in 2024.

The 168 members of the Republican National Committee are gathering in Southern California to select their own leader on Friday, and interviews this week with 59 of them — more than one-third of the committee’s membership — found few eager to crown Mr. Trump their nominee for a third time. While they praised his policies and accomplishments as president, many expressed deep concerns about his age (he’s 76), temperament and ability to win a general election, often in unusually blunt terms.

“This isn’t 2016,” said Mac Brown, the chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky. “People have moved on.”

Jonathan Barnett, an R.N.C. member from Arkansas who claims to have been the first member of the committee to endorse Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, said the party would benefit from its nominee being forced to navigate a crowded primary field.

“I’ve been a supporter of Donald Trump in the past,” Mr. Barnett said. “I just think that we need choices this time. We’ve got to look at all of our options.”

The motivation to leave Mr. Trump behind is not ideological but political, the party leaders said: They worry he can’t win.

“Everybody is very appreciative of Trump, and he did a lot of great things,” said Art Wittich, an R.N.C. member from Montana who said Mr. Trump was not best positioned to win the general election. “There’s this burning desire to win in 2024, and that’s what’s going to drive a lot of the action.”

One year before the first presidential nominating contests are set to begin, Republicans eager for Trump alternatives are seeking candidates who could capture the populism animating his base without replicating the chaos that characterized his administration. First mentioned is almost always Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, though members cited other would-be rivals, including Nikki Haley and Mike Pence, both alumni of the Trump administration.

On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis waded into the contentious race to lead the committee, praising Harmeet Dhillon, who is challenging the current chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel. The comments could be viewed as an implicit critique of Mr. Trump, who handpicked Ms. McDaniel after his 2016 election.

“We need to get some new blood in the R.N.C.,” Mr. DeSantis said in an interview with the news outlet Florida’s Voice. “I like what Harmeet has said.”

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