The future of the Republican Party is on the line. Leading GOPers are taking aim at both former president Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the two likely top contenders to take the Republican nomination for the 2024 election.
The Stop Trump campaign among Republican elites is off to a quick start.
Almost every weekend since the beginning of 2023, there’s been some type of gathering of donors, strategists, and lawmakers in a warm weather state.
And while location and attendees may change, the overarching goal is consistent: how not to be saddled with perhaps the one candidate who may lose to Biden.
DeSantis is seen as a Trump Lite.
As DeSantis heads to Iowa Friday for what’s effectively the start of his presidential bid, his initial strength with Republican contributors and voters alike is prompting the other would-be candidates to divide or at least pair their attacks.
No other Republican is remotely as close to Trump in the polls as the Florida governor, nor do any other candidates have the nearly $100 million he’s sitting on from his state races. And they’re not drawing the sort of crowds to party dinners, or protesters, DeSantis is commanding.
At a recent Republican donor conference, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took the stage to denounce Trump. He demanded his party “stop whispering” about their unease with Trump.
Christie also excoriated Trump for falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen, propelling a series of lackluster candidates last year and generally presiding over the decline of the GOP over the last half decade.
“If we continue down this road it’s a road that will lead us to another four years of Joe Biden,” Christie warned, repurposing Trump’s memorable vow that Republicans would become tired of winning on his watch to lament their “losing and losing and losing and losing.”
But experts say what was most revealing was the less direct, but unmistakable, level of criticism he lobbied at DeSantis as well.
Christie called DeSantis’s warnings about sliding into a proxy war with China “one of the most naïve things I’ve ever heard in my life” — arguing America is already locked in such a conflict; he told the donors “don’t be fooled by false choices” being pushed by “a fellow governor,” a reference to DeSantis’s argument that Biden was too focused on Ukraine’s border at the expense of America’s border; and, most pointedly, Christie wondered how exactly “they teach foreign policy in Tallahassee.”
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