Republican presidential hopefuls tiptoed around Trump at private event in Texas
A private rally at an Austin, Texas hotel last week was touted as a thank you to Republican donors for a state registration campaign, but it gave a handful of 2024 presidential candidates a chance to test their pitch – if former President Donald Trump doesn’t work out.
Trump was not invited and was not at the center of the event either. Speakers did not dwell on his false claims that the election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden was stolen from him, attendees and people briefed on the event told Reuters.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an at times Trump ally exploring a race for 2024, helped set the tone by telling the crowd of around 200 that “the election is over, Biden has won . We just have to beat it in 2024, “the sources said.
Christie and other 2024 hopefuls were interviewed on stage by members of the Texas Congressional delegation.
The list included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Vice President Mike Pence and US Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
Pence received a standing ovation when he took the stage and spoke about the accomplishments of the Trump-Pence administration, offering what one attendee called “a lot of platitudes.”
DeSantis, described by another approving participant as “Trump without the sharp edges,” spoke of his military background and his response to the coronavirus pandemic in Florida. About 36,000 people in the state have died from the disease; nearly 45% are vaccinated.
Pompeo gave an in-depth review of world affairs, with a focus on China and Iran; Cotton also spoke about foreign policy. Rubio said the party needs to update its program; and Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, has been described as a crowd favorite.
Many of the group are already traveling the country individually and reaching out to Republican groups for support for their race. It was the first gathering of several at the same event.
“People wanted to see what the future would look like,” said one participant.
It remains to be seen whether the national future of the Republican Party includes any of these candidates. Trump, 74, remains incredibly popular among Republican voters right now, defeating Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and George HW Bush in a recent poll asking who should be the role model for the next generation of party leaders. https://tmsnrt.rs/2Qd4XcV
About 60% of Republicans believe his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, according to a Reuters / Ipsos poll.
Trump won a straw poll at the CPAC Conservatives’ convention earlier this year, in which 55% of attendees said they would vote for him in the 2024 nominations race. DeSantis finished second with 21%.
Trump’s advisers say he is aware that a variety of Republicans are planning to run in 2024, but believe he would easily win a nomination. They are divided over whether he will actually show up, as are a host of influential Republicans.
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