Trump gets the ‘main event’ treatment from 2024 rivals

WAUKEE, Iowa – Former Vice President Mike Pence says former President Donald Trump lost his way on Jan. 6 and walked away from conservative principles on everything from abortion to spending and global conflicts.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says Mr. Trump is running to his left on immigration and crime, and he says the ex-president gave Dr. Anthony Fauci an outsized influence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says Mr. Trump is a “bitter, angry man” who is to blame for the rise of President Biden. 

And Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says Mr. Trump’s views on Ukraine and Social Security are misguided.  

As the 2024 GOP presidential field starts to come into focus, so have the early indicators of how the White House hopefuls plan to chop Mr. Trump down to size.

It is a clear departure from the 2016 GOP nomination race.

“This race is upside down compared to 2016,” said Alex Conant, who worked on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in 2016. “Trump enters the race not as a sideshow, but as the main event, and I think every candidate realizes they need to go through Trump to win the nomination.”

Mr. Conant said, “We are seeing the first sustained attacks on Trump from the right that we have really ever seen.”

Indeed, Mr. Trump largely received the kid-glove treatment after he descended the golden escalator at Trump Tower roughly 8 years ago to announce his bid for the White House.

The consensus at the time was that Mr. Trump would flame out and it was only a matter of time.

Mr. Trump instead shocked the political universe, capturing the party’s nod and then defeating Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump’s rivals this go-round are keen not to make the same mistake.

The Trump team did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

On Wednesday, Mr. Pence went after Mr. Trump at his campaign launch. He warned voters the ex-president’s actions on Jan. 6 showed he cannot be trusted to defend the Constitution, and that he has been wavering on conservative issues.

“The sanctity of life has been our party’s calling for half a century – long before Donald Trump was ever a part of it. Now he treats it as an inconvenience, even blaming election losses on overturning Roe v Wade,” Mr. Pence said in his speech.

Mr. Christie, at his campaign launch in New Hampshire, said Mr. Trump is the sole person Mr. Biden defeated outside the state of Delaware in over 45 years.

“It is not amusing anymore. It is not entertaining anymore,” Mr. Christie said of the Trump show. “It is the last throes of a bitter, angry man who wants power back for himself — not for you.”

Mr. DeSantis has looked to poke holes in Mr. Trump’s record on abortion, crime, immigration, spending and the federal response to the coronavirus.

“He wanted to amnesty 2 million illegal aliens in 2018 when he was president. I opposed him on that because I’m opposed to amnesty,” Mr. DeSantis said in a recent interview on The Matt Murphy Show. “He also attacked me for opposing some of these omnibus spending bills. And I did because it was a waste of money.”

“He said he was going to eliminate the national debt when he ran in 2016. He ended up adding almost $8 trillion to the debt in four years. So he’s running to the left.”

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina has been making the case Mr. Trump’s abrasive style has hurt the party.

“I believe people are starving for a message of hope and optimism,” Mr. Scott said at a recent stop in Iowa. “But what they won’t allow is for a hopeful optimistic message that lacks conservative principles or a backbone. I got both.”

Mr. Scott said he is confident that his approach will appeal to voters outside the party’s base, increasing the odds that conservative policies become the law of the land — “as opposed to something that we are yelling about from the outside looking in.”

Marc Short, Mr. Pence’s former chief of staff and chief advisor, said the 2024 presidential field learned from 2016 that they have to be more willing to engage Mr. Trump.

“In 2016, Donald Trump came to conservatives and said I will meet you where you are to get your support, whether on issues of life or taxes or Supreme Court picks. And yet, today what you see is Donald Trump asking conservatives to fight for his grievances, and basically support him as opposed to adopting any new conservative positions,” Mr. Short said.

Source: WT