At least for now, the 2024 Republican nomination looks as if it’s former President Donald Trump’s if he wants it.
A Reuters-Ipsos poll released in late December found Trump leads a hypothetical 2024 primary with 54% Republican support, while his nearest competitor, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, languished in second at a distant 11%. Trump’s political committees have raised more than $100 million as of last summer, an unprecedented sum for an ex-president that he’s continued to add to, and he doesn’t even have to worry about paying for legal bills, because the Republican Party has them covered.
The anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol highlighted how many top Republican leaders who were once vocally critical of his role in the attack have since moved on or muted the criticism, and last week, Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., became the third of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment to announce retirement.
“They’re falling fast and furious,” Trump said at his rally Saturday in Florence, Arizona. “The ones that voted to impeach, we’re getting rid of them fast.”
If there is to be a Republican split in this year’s primaries, the anti-Trump faction is crumbling and seems headed for a landslide loss.
Still, the fault lines of 2022’s Republican Party are not the same as 2021’s, and Trump’s endorsements are growing the ranks of Republicans who now find themselves pitted against him. The small number of impeachment Republicans might not be the ceiling for those who are open to new leadership atop the party after all.
Republicans once friendly with the former president, like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Idaho Gov. Brad Little, now have to run against Trump-endorsed Republican challengers to keep their jobs. Some of Trump’s endorsements also set him up for potential showdowns with fellow conservatives, like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Vice President Mike Pence, who’ve endorsed competing candidates in some races.
Trump is also wielding his endorsements preemptively, like in South Dakota, where he said he won’t endorse Sen. Mike Rounds, who isn’t up for reelection until 2026. Rounds, a Republican who voted against impeachment last year, said the 2020 election was legitimate in an ABC News interview, and now finds himself out of Trump’s favor, with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, coming to his defense. In Alaska, Trump also said he would only endorse Gov. Mike Dunleavy if Dunleavy would agree to not endorse Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who voted to impeach the former president.
“I did think that the conditional endorsement was actually very bizarre,” Murkowski told The Alaska Landmine. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
Trump also faces a number of growing challenges himself.
Also, in court documents filed Tuesday, the Democratic New York attorney general accused Trump’s company of “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of its properties to lenders, insurers and the IRS, and of inflating Trump’s net worth “higher than it otherwise would have appeared.” Additionally, John Bolton, a former national security adviser to Trump, who has since been critical of the former president, released a poll through his Super PAC suggesting a “14-point drop in Republican primary voters identifying themselves as ‘Trump Republicans,’” falling from 29.4% in September to 14.6%. And Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided against Trump’s attempt to block the release of White House records to the bipartisan House select committee investigating Jan. 6. The committee received the documents Friday.