(The Hill) — A growing number of prominent Republicans are warning that former President Donald Trump should not run again in 2024 or that he will lose if he does, previewing rifts in the GOP that are likely to come into full view after the midterms.
Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and former Vice President Mike Pence in recent days each indicated they’d rather see someone else on the ballot in the next presidential election.
Some of the most outspoken figures — like Ryan, Bush and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — are no longer standard-bearers in the party, which has been taken over by Trump. But they still carry large megaphones, and their concerns about another Trump candidacy, combined with polls showing many voters are ready to move on, illustrate how Trump’s viability as a candidate could shape how the 2024 primary field comes into focus.
“Some people like Trump and some people don’t like Trump,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). “He’s the most dominant single figure in the party. That’s a fact.”
Pence, the once staunchly loyal sidekick to Trump who has since broken with his former boss over the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, was asked last week at Georgetown University if he’d vote for Trump if he’s on the ballot in 2024.
“Well, there might be somebody else I’d prefer more,” Pence said with a smile. Pence is widely seen as laying the foundation for a 2024 campaign of his own with frequent visits to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Ryan, who retired from the House in 2019 after numerous public squabbles with Trump, argued earlier this month that the former president could cost Republicans the White House if he’s on the ballot in two years.
“I think Trump’s unelectability will be palpable by then,” Ryan said. “We all know he will lose. Or let me put it this way: We all know he’s much more likely to lose the White House than anybody else running for president on our side of the aisle. So why would we want to go with that?”
Bush, who ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against Trump in 2016, told CNN last week that he believes there will be “a yearning for, A, a new generation of leadership in our country in 2024 and, B, candidates that are focused on the future, not necessarily the grievances of the past.”
Joe O’Dea, the GOP Senate candidate in Colorado, has found traction with voters in what has been an increasingly blue state in part by distancing himself from Trump. He, too, argued earlier this month that Trump should not be on the ballot in 2024.
“I don’t think Donald Trump should run again,” O’Dea said on CNN. “I’m going to actively campaign against Donald Trump and make sure that we have got four or five really great Republicans right now. Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, they could run and serve for eight years.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not outright said Trump should not run again. But when asked this summer about the prospect of the former president seeking another term in 2024, he predicted “a crowded field” of Republican candidates.
Trump remains very popular in the Republican Party, drawing thousands of supporters to rallies in recent weeks for battleground candidates. The former president has not said whether he plans to run again in 2024, though he routinely hints that he has made a decision and regularly teases in speeches that he may have to “do it again.”
There are still numerous Trump allies in Congress and elsewhere who would welcome another Trump campaign with open arms, too.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in September that he believes Trump has a “pretty good chance” of winning in 2024. Since Trump left office, Graham has on multiple occasions said the former president should consider running again.
Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.), two influential members of the House Republican Conference, told Politico over the summer that they would support Trump in 2024 if he ran.
Polling has shown a majority of Republicans still support Trump and would back him as the party’s nominee, but there are signs some GOP voters are ready to move on.
A USA Today-Ipsos survey in late August found 59 percent of Republican respondents favor Trump as the party’s 2024 nominee, while 41 percent believe that another candidate should represent the GOP.
A Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey conducted earlier this month found 55 percent of Republican voters said they would back the former president for renomination in a hypothetical 2024 primary.
But in an ABC-Ipsos poll released Sunday, more GOP voters said they supported DeSantis over Trump when it comes to charting the future path of the party, with 72 percent favoring the Florida governor compared to Trump’s 64 percent.
The commentary from prominent Republican officials, even though many are critics of his, reflects how Trump could continue to drive a wedge in the conservative movement as the focus shifts from capturing control of Congress to retaking control of the White House.
Cheney, who lost her primary race to a Trump-backed challenger, has vowed to do what she can to keep Trump out of the White House in 2024, even refusing to rule out an independent bid of her own.
On Sunday, Cheney warned that making Trump the nominee in 2024 could have catastrophic consequences for the GOP, foreshadowing the debate that will play out in the months to come.
“The party has either to come back from where we are right now, which is a very dangerous and toxic place, or the party will splinter and there will be a new conservative party that rises,” Cheney said on “Meet the Press.”