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Friday, May 27, 2022

Anti-Trump Republicans Line Up For 2024 Shadow Primary

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Election 2024 Trump Alternatives (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is planning trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, is considering a rough timeline for a possible presidential announcement. And allies of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, are speaking openly about her prospects for the White House.

With the next presidential election more than two years away, a shadow primary is already taking shape between at least three fierce Republican critics of former President Donald Trump to determine who is best positioned to fill the anti-Trump lane in 2024.

His apparent willingness to run, even if Trump does, as is widely expected, represents a change from previous years when “Never Trump” operatives failed to recruit any Republican officials to challenge the incumbent president. But with the 2024 race almost in the offing, the question is no longer whether one of Trump’s top Republican critics will run, but how many will mount a campaign and how soon they will announce it.

Those close to Cheney, Hogan and Kinzinger hope that one of them, if not more, will launch a presidential bid after the 2022 midterm elections. While all three are nationally known to some extent, their goal would not necessarily be to win the presidency. Above all, they want to prevent Trump’s return to the White House, at least compared to 2020, when his allies cleared the field of any Republican opponents and persuaded some states to cancel primaries entirely.

“It’s there as an option, but it’s not necessarily because this is all a big plan to be able to be in the White House,” Kinzinger told The Associated Press when asked about his timeline for deciding on a presidential bid. “He’s looking and saying, ‘Is there going to be a voice that can represent from that megaphone the importance of defending this country and democracy and what America is?’ Certainly, I am sure that within the next year there will be a point where you will have to make a decision.

“If I’m not the one doing anything, we’re certainly going to be all for whoever can represent us,” Kinzinger said.

Republican primary voters are expected to have other options.

Several former Trump loyalists who have emerged as on-and-off critics of Trump are also interested in the GOP’s upcoming presidential nomination. Among them: the former governor of New Jersey. Chris Christie, Former Vice President Mike Pence, Governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. But most in this group have offered Trump far more praise than criticism, leaving the likes of Cheney, Hogan and Kinzinger as Trump’s only consistent antagonists in the 2024 conversation.

The range of prospects suggests an openness within the GOP to outdo Trump and his divisive politics, even as many GOP voters suggest they’d like to see him run for a third time.

About 7 in 10 Republicans said the former president should run for president again in 2024, according to a CBS poll last month. Among the most common reasons they cited: He is the best Republican candidate and has the best chance of winning.

If anyone questions his intentions, Trump told thousands of supporters Saturday night in South Carolina: “We may have to run again.” He remains the most popular figure among Republican voters, and he plans to use the upcoming midterms to continue to tip the party in his direction. He was in South Carolina, for example, to support the Republican rivals of two sitting members of Congress who have crossed paths with him.

But those close to Cheney, Hogan and Kinzinger insist that a significant number of less vocal Republican voters are eager to outdo Trump, especially after he inspired the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol after All in all, 10 Republican representatives voted to impeach Trump, and subsequently seven Republican senators voted to convict him.

“There is a large and growing line of Republicans and Americans across the political spectrum who are fed up with toxic politics and want to move in a new direction,” Hogan told the AP. “While I am focused on finishing my term as governor strong, I will continue to stand up and be a voice to get our party and our country back on the right track.”

For now, Cheney, Hogan and Kinzinger remain friendly and in semi-regular contact.

Hogan, 65, with a limited term, will step down at the end of the year. He has already decided against a 2022 Senate campaign, fending off an aggressive lobbying effort by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He said that he saw himself as an executive rather than a legislator.

Kinzinger, one of 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump, decided not to seek re-election after his district was redrawn in favor of Democrats. Only Cheney, who also voted for impeachment, is running to retain his seat in this fall’s midterm elections, though it is not certain that he will win his primary in August.

Trump is pushing hard for Cheney’s defeat. And while his allies indicate that he is focused on his re-election, it is an open secret that he is seriously considering a presidential run once the 2022 race is decided.

By some measures, the 55-year-old daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney has the strongest national profile. Cheney is building a national fundraising network, as evidenced by fundraising of $7.1 million in 2021, one of the highest in the country for any House member.

Wyoming state representative Landon Brown, a Cheney ally, said this network will allow him to compete on a national scale. Of a Cheney presidential bid, he said, “I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t happen.”

“She opened the door across the country by standing up on a national platform that bridges the middle gap of people who were frustrated on both the left and the right,” Brown said. “I don’t think it will be easy, but I’m sure she would be a formidable candidate.”

Cheney has fueled speculation of 2024 by making high-profile speeches about the future of the GOP in recent months, including a November speech in New Hampshire, which often hosts early presidential primaries.

Meanwhile, both Hogan and Kinzinger are building political organizations that could serve as vehicles to further their presidential ambitions after they leave office early next year.

Hogan’s advocacy group, America United, has millions in the bank, according to an adviser. To strengthen his network, Hogan plans to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first and second states on the traditional presidential primary schedule, to scout local candidates in the coming months.

Hogan is also working to help Trump’s loudest Republican critics in other states.

Hogan had lunch last week with the governor of Arizona. Doug Ducey, who has refused to accept Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. Hogan also plans to host events for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif. He voted to impeach Trump for inspiring the January 6 insurrection, while Murkowski voted to convict Trump.

Kinzinger’s outside group, Country First, now claims chapters in 38 states and a growing fundraising base.

The 44-year-old Illinois congressman, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, plans to spend much of the year working to defeat Republicans in the midterms who promote Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. Last month, he announced a plan to encourage Democrats and independents to vote in Republican primaries when possible to oust pro-Trump candidates.

Kinzinger said he would even consider a 2024 run as an independent if that’s the best way to stop Trump, though he prefers to remain a Republican.

“This country is really built for two parties, whether you like it or love it or hate it,” he told the AP. “Never rule anything out. But my hope would be that I could find salvation from the Republican Party.”


Associated Press writers Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Meg Kinnard in Florence, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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