GOP presidential field gains candidates who are direct rebukes to Trump
Share and Follow

This week’s expansion of the Republican presidential primary field will yield two of the most direct internal challenges to date to Donald Trump’s leadership in the White House.

It also could further solidify Trump’s chances of winning yet another contested GOP presidential contest.

First up will be former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was once a close Trump ally but has since soured on the former president and plans a no-holds-barred campaign against him. On Tuesday, he’ll launch his second bid for the presidency at a New Hampshire town hall

One day later, former Vice President Mike Pence, who ran on two presidential tickets with Trump, will announce his bid, as well. (The same day, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is also set to launch his candidacy.)

The latest round of growth shows, on one hand, consternation with Trump as the front-runner and, on the other, doubts that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — consistently the No. 2 challenger behind Trump — can be the person to defeat him.

But as many Republicans see it: The more people who get in the race, the better it is for Trump.

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican and NBC News contributor who is also an adviser for No Labels, a group weighing backing a third-party ticket, said the more the merrier for Trump.

“I think there is a lane [for the others], but it now may be so divided that [it’s] single digits or slight double digits to find out who gets that,” he said. “And I think they’re all going to try to find that.”

Yet while Pence, Christie and Burgum plot their lanes in the race, another potential candidate took his name out of the running this week, explicitly saying he didn’t want to make it more difficult for Trump to be beaten. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Monday: “The stakes are too high for a crowded field to hand the nomination to a candidate who earns just 35 percent of the vote, and I will help ensure this does not happen.”

“We must not be complacent, and candidates should not get into this race to further a vanity campaign, to sell books or to audition to serve as Donald Trump’s vice president,” he added.

On the surface, Pence’s bid looks as if it could be the most significant. Not since Vice President John Nance Garner, a Democrat, challenged President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 has a vice president run against the president he served under. By running, Pence is implicitly suggesting to GOP primary voters that Trump doesn’t deserve four more years in office.

Most pointedly, Pence is a rebuke to Trump’s driving belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. On Jan. 6, 2021, he refused to go along with Trump’s effort to stop the counting of the electoral votes to certify the results, and the pro-Trump mob that sacked the U.S. Capitol could be heard chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

Pence has occasionally distanced himself from Trump on other policy matters, but he has still been relatively muted in his explicit criticisms of him.

Don’t expect Christie to hold back, however.

At an April town hall in New Hampshire, Christie, who in 2016 announced his support for Trump after having dropped out of the presidential race, devoted his entire opening remarks to slamming him.

“Tonight is the beginning of the case against Donald Trump,” Christie said. “You’re not going to beat someone by closing your eyes, clicking your heels together three times and saying, ‘There’s no place like home.’ That’s not going to work.”

Former Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said it’s Christie’s bid that is more impactful, “because he’s coming to play and speak the truth on Trump and the threat he is to democracy, the country and the party.”

“Pence can be used as evidence for Christie of Trump’s crimes — the things Pence won’t say,” said Comstock, an anti-Trump Republican, adding the candidates shouldn’t agree to the Republican National Committee’s loyalty pledge to support the eventual nominee, which the party announced Friday as one of its requirements to get onto the first primary debate stage this summer.

As for how they’d campaign, Pence, a longtime advocate for social conservatives’ priorities, is expected to court the religious right and seek to jump-start his bid in Iowa, where evangelical voters make up a large part of the primary electorate. Christie, meanwhile, is poised to target voters who may be wary of Trump’s temperament while seeking to use New Hampshire as the vehicle to launch his candidacy.

Both look as if they will need a miracle, however. The RealClearPolitics average of several presidential primary surveys shows Trump at more than 53%, trailed most closely by DeSantis, at about 22%. Pence is at just 3.8%, while Christie is further behind at 1%.

At his town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity last week, Trump welcomed more challengers into the race, saying, “That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

But, he added, “I don’t think it matters.”

A Trump campaign spokesperson suggested the soon-to-be-announced aspirants were bad news not for Trump but for DeSantis.

“This week’s additions to the presidential race are joining only because Ron DeSanctimonious has proven to be an inept campaigner and his opponents smell blood in the water,” the spokesperson said. “The race for second place is about to heat up!”

Responding to the pending announcements, Jess Szymanski, a spokesperson for the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, said the primary contest “is a two-man race between Governor DeSantis and Trump — with momentum building behind the Governor and the former President running scared.” She touted the number of door-knocks the super PAC conducted to boost his bid.

Like Trump’s and DeSantis’ allies, aides to other campaigns weren’t fretting about Pence’s and Christie’s entrances.

“No impact,” an aide to a rival campaign said when asked how their bids would affect the primary campaign.

More significant may be the charges Trump could face in Washington, D.C., where a grand jury that has been hearing evidence in the investigation of his handling of classified documents is set to meet this week.

Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, said the expanding GOP field is a sign: “More and more people are becoming convinced that President Trump cannot weather the storm coming at him.”

“If that becomes reality,” he added, “our party will have what Reagan termed ‘a time for choosing.’”

Share and Follow
You May Also Like
As mayors, governors scramble to care for more migrants, a look at what's behind the numbers

As mayors, governors scramble to care for more migrants, a look at what's behind the numbers

WASHINGTON (AP) — A small town on the Texas border declares a…
Danny Masterson's wife Bijou Phillips filed for divorce 'to protect her assets' and show her daughter 'people need to be held accountable,' can exclusively reveal

EXCLUSIVE – The REAL reason Danny Masterson’s wife Bijou Phillips filed for divorce: Socialite wants to ‘protect her assets’ and show their daughter ‘people need to be held accountable’, insider reveals – after her shock split from convicted rapist

Danny Masterson’s wife Bijou Phillips filed for divorce ‘to protect her assets’…
Former Florida schools superintendent gives banned books to kids

Former Florida schools superintendent gives banned books to kids

Months ago Diana Greene was instructing Duval teachers to remove books not…
Chicago officials sometimes alerted that new busloads of migrants are coming by bus companies transporting them

Chicago officials sometimes alerted that new busloads of migrants are coming by bus companies transporting them

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones Friday, September…
Jesus Ayala

Mother of Jesus Ayala, teen charged with murdering retired LA police chief in Vegas hit-and-run while his friend filmed it, says she ‘doesn’t know if God can forgive this’ – as he is hit with 18 fresh charges

The mothers of two teenage boys believed to be behind the sick hit-and-run homicide…
What UAW make per hour: VERIFY fact-check

What UAW make per hour: VERIFY fact-check

We VERIFY how much the Big Three car companies actually pay their…
The charter bus carrying school students to band camp toppled off an embankment in New York state

‘There was blood everywhere’: High school band member in New York bus crash that killed two teachers and left 10 kids hurt says he awoke as it flipped down the hill – as officials warn a blown tire may have caused horror smash

‘There was blood everywhere’: High school band member in New York bus…
Olympics: Anthony Nesty makes history as US head swim coach

Olympics: Anthony Nesty makes history as US head swim coach

As a swimmer, Anthony Nesty produced one of the greatest upsets in…