Donald Trump is raising the nightmare scenario for Republicans in the 2024 presidential election – that he might refuse to endorse the party’s nominee if he loses his primary race.
The former president’s warning comes as he escalates efforts to try to scare off or damage potential party rivals who are maneuvering ahead of their own possible campaign launches as a so-far-sleepy GOP contest bursts into life.
Specifically, Trump is turning on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and his former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. These veiled threats foretell his likely attempts to stigmatize their brands in the eyes of Republican primary voters and mirror his successful 2016 caricaturing of rivals. So far, however, his scare tactics aren’t working.
In an appearance Thursday on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show, Trump initiated his most concentrated effort yet to intimidate the potential GOP primary field. When asked by Hewitt whether he would commit to backing the GOP nominee if it wasn’t him, he hedged.
“It would depend. I would give you the same answer I gave in 2016 during the debate. … It would have to depend on who the nominee was,” Trump said. The ex-president’s comment plays into fears that he could dampen turnout among his own loyal voters in the GOP were he to oppose the party’s 2024 presidential nominee or claim that the primary race was rigged against him.
It also highlights a needle his potential challengers must thread – how to build their own coalitions without alienating Trump supporters with full-on attacks on the former president. But given rising debate about Trump’s own standing in the GOP after his election loss in 2020 and a disastrous midterm intervention last year, it also raises the question of whether the twice-impeached former commander in chief is overestimating his own level of support.
Trump also used the interview to land new blows on potential rivals for the nomination – especially Haley, who had previously said she wouldn’t run against him.
“She’s a very ambitious person. She just couldn’t stay in a seat. I said, ‘You know what, Nikki, if you want to run, you go ahead and run,’” Trump told Hewitt. And he also took a jab at Pompeo and his new autobiography.
“I haven’t seen the book yet. I haven’t read it, though I heard he was generally nice. … He took a little bit more credit than he should, but that’s OK with me,” Trump said, before adding: “We did a great job. I got along very well with Mike.”
Haley is expected to launch a campaign on February 15 in Charleston, a source familiar with her plans told CNN Tuesday. Pompeo, promoting his score-settling new book on the conservative media circuit, is making the kind of political throat-clearing noises typical of would-be candidates. And South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is setting off on a listening tour focusing on faith. The first two stops just happen to include Iowa and his own…
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