Potential GOP presidential contenders are spreading out around the nation and increasing their engagement in the midterm elections, supporting Republican politicians as they market themselves.
At the Iowa State Fair, Mike Pence campaigned for a conventional conservative senator who will be on the ballot this fall while also hinting at a possible presidential candidacy in a state that has historically served as the starting point for the Republican presidential nomination process. The former vice president added, “My family and I will do what we’ve always done, and that is to contemplate and pray about where we can next serve.”
Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, spent the same day supporting a far-right candidate for governor in Pennsylvania. DeSantis discussed his conflicts with “establishment Republicans” and “the corporate media,” as well as how avidly they both engaged in cultural wars.
The campaign committee for Donald Trump launched his own Labor Day weekend rally for the “Pennsylvania Trump Ticket” when DeSantis’ event was just getting started. The contenders he intends to support are among a plethora of divisive candidates, which include includes election skeptics and outsiders the former president assisted in getting through primaries. Some Republicans are concerned that their nominees would lose them important seats.
Potential GOP presidential contenders are spreading out around the nation and increasing their engagement in the midterm elections, supporting Republican politicians as they market themselves. By supporting like-minded candidates—who are also possible future endorsers—and traveling to early primary states, where advisors know their remarks will attract more attention, they are attempting to hone their political brand and reach new audiences.
Their presence on the campaign trail, together with appeals to fundraisers, growing staffs, and plans to publish memoirs, highlight the level of support the party has received for a presidential run, or at least for keeping the possibility open. Even at a time when many Republicans claim that Trump has cemented his hold on the GOP and would start as a strong favorite for the nomination if he ran, the uncertainty surrounding his legal and political obstacles, combined with the full slate of ambitious Republicans, have inadvertently launched a 2024 campaign.
Republican strategist and former presidential candidate Bob Heckman said, “It’s remarkably business as usual.” He noted that Republicans are not “timid” or “frozen” in the face of Trump’s frequent statements that he would run for re-election. Making friends now is wise, according to Heckman, because people could change their minds later on, but “if you haven’t done the preliminary work, you can’t recover that.”
Prior to 2024, candidates’ potential strengths and problems have been emphasized by their active travel schedule. Pence received applause at the state fair, but he also saw some antagonism. Pence has been under heavy fire from the 45th president and his backers for his failure to reverse Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. As Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Pence spoke to reporters here in Iowa, one lady cried, “Go home!” Some Iowans felt Pence could have kept Trump in office during interviews.
Trump has dominated the Republican primary season, using it to attempt to unseat people he has animosities against and elevate numerous novice candidates who have embraced his bogus assertions that the 2020 election would be stolen from him. Which candidate more closely adheres to the contentious stances of the outgoing president has been a key factor in many elections.
Mixed outcomes have been obtained. Trump’s attempt to overthrow Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) for recognizing Biden’s victory in the 2020 election was unsuccessful, but he was successful in keeping House Republicans who supported his impeachment last year from being re-elected to Congress. Only two of the 10 people who voted in that election are candidates for the general election.
The autumn will be a fresh test for Trump’s impact since his support helped candidates who some Republicans fear would make it more difficult for them to regain control of Congress. Mehmet Oz, the well-known physician who is lagging in the Pennsylvania Senate race, is one of those contenders. On September 3, Trump will campaign for Doug Mastriano and Oz, the GOP candidates for governor. Trump supporter Taylor Budowich praised the candidates he had endorsed for the midterm elections and said that the president “continues to transform the Republican Party with fighters and supporters of his America First agenda.”
The midterm campaign goes much beyond Trump, DeSantis, and Pence. This summer, several prospective 2024 candidates were busy on the campaign trail and were making preparations for the autumn. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has appeared in campaign advertisements for GOP candidates that have been broadcast by his political action committee in Iowa and numerous other swing states. Through her PAC, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley has backed a wide range of politicians. The day before Grassley’s fundraiser and visit to the state fair with Vice President Pence, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took part in a fundraiser for Grassley.
While attending the fair, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R), a moderate Trump opponent, called Del. Dan Cox, the GOP contender to replace him, a “crazy person.” Hogan’s visit followed a journey to the nearby state of Nebraska where he supported Rep. Don Bacon (R), a Trump foe.
According to aides to both of them, Hogan intends to support Christine Drazan, the Republican running for governor in the left-leaning state of Oregon in an exceptionally close contest. Additionally, Hogan has been supporting other Republicans whom Trump has attacked, such as Kemp and the centrist Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Another Republican governor, Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin, who became a rising star in the party with an unexpected win last year, has been inundated with invitations to travel. Despite not having “even began to begin” making a choice about running for president, Youngkin has said that he is “humbled” by the public’s interest in him.
According to one Youngkin advisor who, like the others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations, “our first invitations began flowing in the week after he won last year.” “We received invitations to at least 20 states.”
The advisor said that despite hearing from Senate aspirants, his team is now concentrating on governorships because to his restricted travel time. According to the advisor, he will go to Michigan this month at Tudor Dixon’s request and is planning to visit other Virginia-like purple and blue-leaning states in September and October.
According to an aide, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has been getting in touch with freshly selected GOP congressional candidates “immediately” to offer his assistance and offer to campaign, especially in Iowa. Strong performances in the early nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire may be more indicative of success than early name recognition, according to Cotton’s pitch to contributors.
Cotton and others who are considering a run in 2024 have been campaigning for candidates in both locations, even joining the sheriff and state senate campaigns. In addition to acknowledging the “additional advantage” of laying the framework for 2024, Cotton’s assistant said that the primary objective is “party building” at all levels.
Strategists concurred that for the many lower-polling competitors considering a run, establishing a reputation in Iowa and New Hampshire is very crucial. According to national polls, Trump would easily win the hypothetical GOP primary, with DeSantis coming in second and the other candidates well behind.
But despite their efforts this year, several Republicans have expressed doubt that anybody can effectively oppose Trump. Plans to organize a political action committee to back a potential DeSantis candidacy, according to GOP strategist John Thomas, have been put on hold as it seems more probable that the former president would run.
Republican pollster Whit Ayres said that he divides Republican supporters into three groups: those who are repulsed by Trump, those who would “walk through a wall of flame” for him, and those who are supportive of Trump but open to alternative choices.
This dynamic has drawn attention to one contender, DeSantis, who some in the party claim might become the future leader of the movement Trump has created. DeSantis is in great demand on the campaign trail this year, according to strategists and donors. The governor rose to national attention by opposing vaccination requirements and coronavirus limitations as well as by engaging in social battles that appeal to the Republican base, such as how children are taught about gender and sexual orientation in schools.
DeSantis has been campaigning for Republican candidates who are strongly associated with Trump; this practice underlines his competing case to the former president’s supporters. DeSantis has recently held rallies in support of Trump-backed candidates in New Mexico, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, including some of the GOP’s most extreme right-wing hopefuls who have irrationally urged to annul or deny Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election.
Despite avoiding Trump’s baseless accusations that the election was rigged, DeSantis has embraced the GOP’s subsequent call for tighter voting restrictions and this month announced the first arrests by a new election police team in his state.
DeSantis did not mention Trump when endorsing Mastriano last Friday in Pennsylvania. Mastriano, who would have tremendous influence over the 2024 election if he wins, played a big part in attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the swing state. DeSantis spoke about his almost four years of conservative victories in Florida, from a spike in GOP voter registration to legislation that forbade vaccine mandates, as hundreds crammed into a hotel ballroom in Pittsburgh.
DeSantis recounted his conflicts with “prosecutors who refuse to follow the law” and “woke” businesses like Disney for 43 minutes. He made fun of inaccurate media reports and “false surveys.” He used a Winston Churchill-inspired riff to get a standing ovation and the greatest applause of his performance.
“We need to combat the woke in our classrooms. We have to defend our companies from the awakened. DeSantis said, “We must combat the woke in government institutions. It is impossible for us to give in to awakened ideology.
The governor’s campaign spokesperson refused to comment on DeSantis’ attempts to support other candidates in the midterm elections or the likelihood that he will run for president. In advance of this week’s Florida primary, DeSantis, who is expected to be reelected this autumn, has sponsored a large number of candidates for school board posts in the state.
Other possible 2024 contenders, whose support bases would significantly resemble that of Trump, have drawn some distinctions with their midterm endorsements. Cruz’s early support of Eric Schmitt, who won the Republican primary for senate in Missouri, and his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks (R), whom Trump first championed and later abandoned in Alabama’s Senate campaign when Brooks’ popularity dwindled, were both observed by a strategist close to the senator. In the Missouri primary, Trump made a last-minute support for “ERIC,” a name that was used by two candidates, one of whom was an ex-governor who was embroiled in controversy and was seen negatively by other Republican leaders.
The strategist clearly said that one reason for Cruz’s support has been “loyalty” to friends, calling Cruz “hungry” to run for president again but doubtful that he would oppose Trump. To be more open, the strategist talked on the condition of anonymity. According to a statement from Cruz spokesman Steve Guest, the senator is committed to “crisscrossing the country to campaign for as many House and Senate candidates as possible to ensure that Republicans retake majorities in 2022.” Cruz said that in the primaries, he “looks to endorse the strongest conservative candidate who can win.”
Pence, in contrast, drew only oblique comparisons to Trump when he entered the presidential primary process in Iowa after visiting New Hampshire. He autographed a girl’s “Trump Pence Make America Great Again” placard as he was making his way through a neighborhood GOP “grill and chill” event hosted inside a middle school.
The former vice president addressed the primarily elderly gathering, criticizing inflation and the Biden administration’s border policy, saying, “I barely have to tell you that now our nation is virtually unrecognizable compared to the days of security and prosperity of the Trump-Pence government.”
At the state fair on Friday, Pence backed Grassley and promised that the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee will “continue to seek answers” on the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. However, he also reaffirmed his opposition to far-right demands to “Defund the FBI,” declaring that he will “continue to be a voice” against assaults on law enforcement officers in uniform. Trump recently published an article titled “The Fascist Bureau of Investigation” on social media. Trump has criticized the FBI search and propagated unsupported claims that it was political in nature.
There were warning indications that Pence would have a tough fight on his hands since Trump has alienated many supporters. One guy, Pat Gutting, seemed delighted to have touched Pence and said, “I’m never going to wash this hand again,” as he passed the GOP booth at the fair. However, when he returned to the food stand where he works, he expressed worries.
The statements Pence made that week that efforts to “defund the FBI” were as wrong as those to “defund the cops” didn’t sit well with Gutting, 57. On January 6, 2021, Pence “could have certified the election,” he said, referring to the certification of a Trump triumph.
Even so, there was a lot of cheering as Pence made his way through a downpour and a crowded, red-carpeted exhibition hall. He pumped his fist, shook hands, and posed for photos.
Regarding Pence’s choice to certify the 2020 election, 71-year-old Harold Barnes, a former chairman of the Linn County GOP, said, “I believe he did the right thing when the heat was on.” “Going ahead and not being combative about things that have occurred in the past,” he added of Pence’s current strategy.
The two states where the former president had endorsed candidates who were devoted to his fabricated election claims were Georgia and Arizona, where Pence and Trump engaged in their most public disagreements. While Trump’s choice won in Arizona, Kemp, Pence’s recommended candidate in Georgia, won with support from a sizable portion of the Republican establishment.