Trump’s 2024 opponents woo his donors as primary season gets underway

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Republicans considering a run for the White House in 2024 will gather in Las Vegas this weekend, with anxious donors and activists openly weighing whether or not to back Donald Trump for a third straight term.

The former president will be among the only major Republican prospects not to attend the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting, which organizers say marks the unofficial start of the 2024 presidential primary campaign.

Trump will speak, but only via video conference, while leading rivals, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSandis and former Vice President Mike Pence, will deliver keynote addresses in person.

The rally comes days after Trump became the first candidate to formally launch a campaign in 2024. His allies initially hoped his early announcement could fend off serious primary challenges, but that is unlikely after his loyalists lost the midterms. contests last week in battleground states from Arizona to Pennsylvania. His political standing within the GOP, already on the wane, fell further.

“In my view, he is now lost. He’s an electoral loser,” said former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another 2024 candidate who will attend the Las Vegas meeting. “Look at a general electorate, I don’t think there’s a Democrat who can win because he’s now toxic to suburban voters on a personal level and he’s earned it.”

There is still plenty of praise for the former president.

“There is no doubt that what President Trump has accomplished in his four years in strengthening the US-Israel relationship has been unparalleled. He was the most pro-Israel president ever,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

But that may not be enough to win over the coalition’s top donors this time, Brooks continued.

“For many people attending this conference, this is about the future,” he said. “And for some of them, President Trump may be their answer. For others, they are interested in what others have to say.”

With a sprawling fundraising operation that includes small-dollar contributions, Trump doesn’t need big donors to claim the GOP nomination for a third term. But the reluctance of big-money Republicans to commit to him — at least, for now — could signal a much broader shift in a party that has been defined almost entirely by its loyalty to Trump for the past six years.

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s two-day speaking schedule, which begins Friday, includes De Sandis, a top Trump opponent, and Pence, whom Trump blames for failing to swing the 2020 election. Other speakers include former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Florida Sen. Rick Scott.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, another potential 2024 candidate, canceled his appearance after Sunday’s shooting at the University of Virginia that left three dead.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who could become House speaker when Republicans take over in January, is also scheduled.

Before his speech Friday night, Mike Pompeo mocked one of Trump’s catchphrases: “They told us we’d get tired of winning. But I’m tired of losing.”

The annual event is being held at the Venetian Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip in a nod to longtime Republican Jewish Coalition benefactor Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino mogul who died last year. His wife Miriam Adelson remains a fundraising force in the GOP, although her level of giving in the recent midterms, which topped $20 million, has declined somewhat.

Israeli-born Miriam Adelson, 76, is “staying neutral” in the 2024 GOP primary, according to the family’s longtime political watchdog Andy Abboud.

But that hasn’t stopped ambitious Republicans from courting her.

The Adelsons donated $172.7 million during the 2020 presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which set a new record for donations in a single election and were more than three times the next biggest donor to each party. Over the past decade, they have donated nearly half a billion dollars to Republican candidates and causes.

And while the Adelsons have been prominent supporters of Trump in the past, Miriam Adelson is unwilling to commit to him as the next presidential primary season begins.

She is not alone among major donors and party leaders.

Longtime Trump supporter Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman and chief executive of the investment firm Blackstone Group, told Axios this week that he would support someone from a “new generation” of Republicans. Kenneth C. Griffin, the hedge fund billionaire, already openly supports DeSantis.

In an interview this week, Pence slammed Trump and his supporters, noting that midterm Republican candidates who “focused on the past, particularly those trying to redo the last election, didn’t do as well.”

More than any other position or policy, Trump has been consumed by perpetuating lies about losing in 2020 since leaving office. He endorsed dozens of candidates in 2022, based largely on whether they bought into his baseless claims. Many of them lost last week.

“I think we’re going to have better options in 2024,” Pence told The Associated Press. “And I’m very confident that Republican primary voters will choose wisely.”

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