LAS VEGAS – Former President Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring of 2024 this week, but that’s unlikely to clear the field in the battle for the Republican nomination.
This weekend, some of Trump’s most prominent potential GOP rivals will gather in Las Vegas for what is seen as the first major Republican cattle call in the burgeoning race for the White House.
As Fox News first reported last month, some of the biggest names in the GOP who are considered likely or possible contenders for the White House will speak at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) leadership meeting.
The confab began Thursday night at the Venetian Hotel Resort and Casino with speeches by incoming Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and former New Jersey Governor and 2016 presidential nominee Chris Christie.
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Among speakers on Friday and Saturday are Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations – and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rick Scott of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, whom experts also see as a possible White House hope, was originally scheduled to speak at the conference but canceled his visit after Sunday’s deadly shooting at the University of Virginia.
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“This weekend’s annual Republican-Jewish Coalition Leadership Meeting, affectionately dubbed ‘Kosher Cattle Call,’ will be the biggest and best political event of the year as we once again welcome key GOP leaders to Las Vegas,” said the RJC Nationals political director Sam Markstein told Fox News.
Markstein noted that “the RJC will celebrate the Republicans overturning the US House of Representatives and firing Nancy Pelosi, expanding the number of Jewish Republican members in Congress, as well as the GOP receiving the largest share of the national Jewish vote in a generation Midterm elections – including record-breaking support in key states like Florida.
The RJC’s annual leadership meeting draws senior Republican leaders, officials, donors and activists from across the country. Also speaking at this year’s event are Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who recently announced he would not seek the presidency in 2024, and GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who is working to nominate Democrat Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House to succeed the House of Representatives.
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But one leader who will not attend in person is Trump, who addressed the RJC crowd through a recorded speech last year. But RJC officials tell Fox News the former president will address the audience live via satellite on Saturday morning.
Sources in Trump’s political circle told Fox News earlier in the week that some of the former president’s top advisers viewed the early 2024 announcement as a move to potentially clear the field of some likely nomination rivals.
Taylor Budowich, head of Trump-allied supercorporation PAC MAGA Inc., insisted in a statement to Fox News Thursday that “President Trump is the most dominant force in American politics. The GOP cannot unite or save America with the prospect of an untested field of challengers, all recruited by global power brokers and billionaires. President Trump stands alone as the only Republican leader who will confront corruption, deliver on his promises, and restore American glory.”
Trump, two years after his 2020 presidential election defeat at the hands of President Biden, remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP, the wildest grassroots fundraiser, and remains the leader in the GOP nomination poll in early 2024.
But inside the Republican Party, voices of dissatisfaction are growing as insiders grow to blame Trump for setbacks in the midterms of 2018 (when the GOP lost the House majority), the 2020 election (when the Republicans lost the White House and Senate majority), and blame the Midterms 2022 (if an expected red wave didn’t occur). Moreover, Trump’s standing among party leaders appears to be at its weakest point since the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
While Trump has weathered rocky times before and proved those who downvoted him wrong, some leading Republicans scoff at the idea that a Trump announcement would sideline other potential competitors.
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GOP Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire — in an interview at the Republican Governors Association winter meeting in Orlando, Fla., just before Trump’s 2024 kickoff event — claimed the former president is “really making an announcement at one of his weakest politician points.” We were simply crushed in this election. One could argue that he was never weaker politically.”
“It’s really an announcement from a defensive position,” the governor added. “There will still be a lot of people competing in this race, probably not until they are late 23. And by then, a lot of things will change politically. We still have a long way to go before anything really serious begins moving towards 2024.”
Asked about a potential run of his own in 2024, Sununu said, “I’m not ruling anything out at any point,” but stressed that “my priority is New Hampshire to get stuff for the state.”
Another Republican leader and vocal critic of Trump is Hogan, who told Fox News at the RGA conference that Trump’s announcement “hasn’t really impacted me,” but added, “I think it may affect a lot of other people’s decisions.” .”
Longtime Republican advisers with years of experience in Iowa and New Hampshire — the two states that kick off the Republican nomination calendar for the presidency — are forecasting a fierce nomination battle.
New Hampshire’s Jim Merrill, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns, predicted with Trump in the running, “Instead of 12-16 candidates, you could end up with 6-10.”
But he added: “You will have a robust field. I don’t think he is [Trump] clear someone out The losses the Republican Party has suffered over the past three cycles make it clear that people will be crying out for different voices. I think we need a competitive primary, and I think you’re going to get one… I expect New Hampshire will be in play for the foreseeable future and several people will be fighting vigorously here.
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Longtime GOP adviser David Kochel noted that Trump “is clearly the heavyweight,” but said the former president “is not going to leave the field.”
Kochel, a veteran of numerous Iowa and national GOP presidential campaigns, said, “I think you’re going to have some people saying they’re not going to run because Trump’s in it. But he’ll have one or more serious challengers who will make a run on him… I think by the end of Q1 2023 we’ll probably know who’s really going to get in.”