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Who takes on Trump? Republican challengers line up

(AFP)

Several senior figures in the Republican Party could challenge Donald Trump for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, including popular governors, senators, and even his former vice president.

While Trump won the White House in 2016 and still has a solid base of loyal support, he is seen as weakened after many candidates that he backed in last week’s midterms elections performed poorly.

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Here are some of his potential rivals, none of whom has officially yet entered the race:

– Ron DeSantis –

Only 44 years old, the governor of Florida is a rising star of the right. In 2018, the little known DeSantis won Trump’s endorsement and went on to capture the governorship of Florida.

While sharing Trump’s political ideas, DeSantis has since cut a more calculated path and is less prone to Trump’s outbursts.

He kept Florida open during the pandemic and orchestrated a series of headline-grabbing conservative actions, such as restricting discussion of gender identity in public schools and flying migrants to an island in Massachusetts.

In the midterms, he was re-elected by a massive 20-point margin — turning up the heat on a relationship with Trump that has turned openly hostile.

“I have only begun to fight,” he said in his victory speech.

DeSantis, who is Catholic, played varsity baseball at Yale, later joining the Navy as a lawyer. He is married with three children, and espouses traditional family values held dear by many Republicans.

Trump has gone on the attack, giving him the nickname “Ron De Sanctimonious” and describing him as an “average” governor.

Polls still give a comfortable edge to Trump, but the gap is narrowing.

– Mike Pence –

After years of unswerving loyalty to Donald Trump, his former vice president changed his tune after the mob assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Pence called the president’s actions that day “reckless” and said they “endangered me and my family.” 

Trump had demanded that Pence, a former governor of Indiana, derail certification in the Senate of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Pence refused, gaining the enmity of Trump’s diehard followers, and he is currently winning only about seven percent of voter intentions, according to polls.

But the 63-year-old evangelical Christian, fiercely opposed to abortion, seems determined to take the plunge: he has just published a book, “So Help Me God,” and is touring the country making speeches.

– Glenn Youngkin –

A 55-year-old businessman, Youngkin wrested the Virginia governorship from Democrats in 2021 and has employed classic right-wing policies (lower taxes, additional funds for police) with headline-grabbing measures against transgender people and anti-racism programs in schools.

Youngkin was closely involved in the midterm campaign, and several Republican Party donors are reportedly ready to support him if he seeks the party’s nomination.

– Haley, Scott and others –

Nikki Haley, 50, is a former governor of South Carolina and was tapped by Trump to be US ambassador to the United Nations. She may be one of the few women to enter the primaries.

While she hasn’t broken with Trump, Haley has spoken out against her former boss’s refusal to accept his 2020 election loss. 

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, 57, openly dreams of being the first black Republican president. After his re-election on Tuesday — with a 26-point lead over his rival — he spoke of his grandfather who voted for Barack Obama.

“I wish he had lived long enough to see perhaps another man of color elected president… But this time let it be a Republican!”

The names of current or former governors of Maryland, Larry Hogan; of New Jersey, Chris Christie; and of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, also circulate. As moderates, popular with independents, they are outspoken critics of Trump.

But, in a party that has drifted to the right and is dominated by white men, their chances seem low.

Several Trumpists also hover nearby, including Republican senator from Texas Ted Cruz, 51, and the former secretary of state and CIA chief Mike Pompeo, 58.

Charlotte PLANTIVE

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