2024 Watch: Trump takes a hit after Georgia defeats, but still the ‘800-pound gorilla’
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Former President Donald Trump, at his rally this weekend in Wyoming, pushing back against those suggesting his political demise.
“‘We’re sweeping everything. And we actually did great in Georgia,” the former president argued Saturday night at a rally in Wyoming where he targeted Rep. Liz Cheney.
While plenty of Trump endorsed candidates won big in last week’s primaries, there’s no denying the former president suffered a stinging setback in Georgia’s GOP contests.
KEMP’S LANDSLIDE PRIMARY VICTORY IN GEORGIA A SETBACK FOR TRUMP
Trump spent the past year and a half crucifying Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger for resisting the then-president’s requests to overturn his narrow defeat in Georgia to now President Biden in the 2020 election.
But Kemp and Raffensperger ended up defeating the primary challengers Trump had endorsed and supported – the governor crushing former Sen. David Perdue and the Secretary of State topping Rep. Jody Hice by nearly 20 points. And Trump backed GOP attorney general challenger John Gordon was demolished by incumbent Chris Carr.
While Perdue became the third Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate to lose in this year’s primaries, Republican politicians and strategists say it’s way too early to start writing the former president’s political obituary.
“The mainstream media will over interpret this as being the end of Donald Trump in the Republican Party, and it is far from it,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie emphasized in an interview on Fox News Radio’s “Guy Benson Show.”
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Sixteen months removed from the White House, Trump remains the most popular and influential politician in the Republican Party as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in the GOP, endorsing scores of candidates up and down the ballot. And Trump repeatedly flirts with making another presidential run in 2024.
Christie, a rival during the 2016 Republican primaries who became a top Trump supporter and adviser and who’s mulling another run in 2024, argued that the obliteration of the former president’s endorsed candidates in Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial, Secretary of State, and attorney general primaries “shows you is if he continues to look backwards…he is not going to be a political force in this party for much longer.“
Trump stands head and shoulders ahead of the other potential 2024 GOP White House hopefuls in early public opinion polling. But that’s not stopping potential presidential nomination rivals from starting to make the early moves needed ahead of launching a national campaign.
“It’s a chink in the armor. You get enough of them and pretty soon something can come through the armor,” veteran Iowa Republican political consultant David Kochel told Fox News when asked about Trump’s setbacks in Georgia. “Trump still makes decisions based on his gut and how he feels about a particular person or how aggrieved he is the election. It doesn’t have a lot of political savvy behind it.”
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And Kochel pointed to former Vice President Mike Pence, who supported Kemp and headlined a primary eve rally for the governor. “It highlights the strength of the Pence political judgement of his team to get into that one,” Kochel said.
But regardless of the setback for the former president, Kochel – a veteran of numerous Republican White House campaigns – emphasized that in the next GOP nomination race, “Trump is still the 800-pound gorilla, and he will be until he’s not.”
Michael Dennehy, a longtime New Hampshire based consultant who’s also a veteran of numerous GOP nomination battles, told Fox News “if you’re looking at 2024, I wouldn’t say Trump’s weakened at this point. I think it’s too early to say he’s weakened. We have to get through the rest of the 2022 to fully determine the potential impact on 2024.”
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But Erick Erickson, a Georgia-based conservative radio host and nationally known blogger who was supporting Kemp, noted that the Georgia GOP gubernatorial primary was a race where Trump “staked his name” and “he couldn’t get him [Perdue] over the finish line. So yes, this one’s going to sting the most.”
Looking ahead to 2024 and a potential Trump White House run, Erickson said the former president’s serious setbacks in Georgia mean “that if he doesn’t have the clout now to do something like this, he’s not going to have the clout come 2024.”
Team Trump doesn’t appear to be ringing any alarm bells at this point.
“Georgia was a unique situation, and I don’t think actually says much about the potency of a potential Trump campaign in 2024,” a strategist in Trump’s political circle who asked for anonymity to speak more freely said.
“All it really proved is that a Trump endorsement alone isn’t going to save weak candidates who run poor campaigns. Poll after poll shows Trump being on the ballot himself is a totally different story, as there’s yet to be a shred of polling data showing any other candidate even coming close to him,” the strategist argued.
Pence’s jam-packed day in New Hampshire
The former vice president made the most of his latest one-day trip to New Hampshire, the state that for a century has held the first primary in the White House race.
Pence headlined the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women’s annual Lilac Luncheon and fundraiser, keynoted the Rockingham County GOP’s annual fundraising gala, held a roundtable discussion with members of New Hampshire law enforcement, and huddled in separate meetings with Young Republicans and a group of social conservative leaders.
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The former vice president also made appearances on two statewide news-talk radio programs and on the state’s only commercial TV station.
The trip to New Hampshire was Pence’s third since the end of the Trump administration. He’s also made multiple stops in Iowa, whose caucuses kick off the nominating calendar, and South Carolina, which votes third in the GOP calendar.
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New Hampshire Institute of Politics executive director Neil Levesque noted that “this is the perfect time in New Hampshire to line up for those 2022 midterms as an excuse to be here, meet friends, get a theme going and start a campaign.”
And he said that Pence is “doing everything right that winning campaigns do in order to be successful. You start early, you start laying the groundwork, you meet the voters. And he’s doing it right.