Republican presidential hopefuls won’t tell the difference between them and Trump

WASHINGTON — Early Republican presidential hopefuls are brushing aside questions about how they differ from Donald Trump, showing reluctance to draw contrast with the former president and early 2024 primary frontrunner.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, the first Republican to launch her campaign after Trump this cycle, has repeatedly balked when asked how she and the former president differ on policy. .

“What I’m saying is I kick on the other end. I’m kicking on,” she said on Fox News’ “Hannity” after her first campaign speech. “Joe Biden is the president. That’s the one I’m running against.”

Haley, who was also the US ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, has repeated the line about kicking “on” and not “to the side” in other interviews.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-C., who recently visited Iowa to test field campaign themes but has not officially launched a bid, did not specifically respond last week to “Hannity” when asked twice what were his policy differences. Trump has.

“Probably not much at all. I’m so grateful we had President Trump in office,” Scott said.

Asked again on “Fox News Sunday” about how he differs from Trump on policy, Scott made a point of highlighting issues on which they agree, starting with the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 2017, and faced a previous Trump-era record low unemployment. COVID-19.

Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, who has made his own move toward running for president, is showing similar reluctance. When asked in a recent NBC News interview to name one policy difference he has with Trump, Pence reflected on his style.

“Well, I think the times call for different leadership. And I’m sure we’ll have better options,” said Pence, who said he plans to announce his 2024 decision by spring.

The reluctance reflects a dynamic that emerged from the 2016 primary campaign, when a crowded field of candidates refrained from making a case against Trump until he consolidated enough support to win.

“It’s not helpful to pick a public fight with President Trump,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who has not supported the 2024 primaries. “So I understand why they want to talk about what they’re on and what what they have to do and not get into a messy game with the former president.”

Cornyn noted that those who engaged in public fights with Trump in his first campaign did not benefit. “We saw some of that in 2016,” he said. “He didn’t really cover anyone going into that tournament.”

Although Haley has avoided a direct attack against Trump, she has gone further than her other opponents in calling for generational change: “You don’t have to be 80 years old to be president. We don’t have to be the same people going back again. We need something new.”

Trump will be 78 on Election Day in 2024. Biden will be 81.

‘Trying to walk a narrow path’

A new Fox News poll found Trump leading the hypothetical 2024 GOP field with 43% of the vote among primary voters, ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with 28%. Haley and Pence were tied for a distant third, at 7%, with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tied for fourth, at 2%. No one else exceeded 1%.

“There is little daylight between Trump and the contenders for the GOP nomination on policy, so it is the leadership style they are trying to U-turn. The question candidates have to grapple with is whether voters want to make that shift, too,” said Republican donor Dan Eberhart, an oil and gas executive.

Eberhart said Trump’s policies have been “mostly popular with Republicans,” and as a result the front-runners are “trying to walk a narrow path that signals to voters that it’s safe to vote for the Republicans again without turning off the coin. GOP voters.”

Some GOP elites say they have heard concerns from Trump skeptics that a crowded field would ease the way for his renomination.

“We’ll see how many people get in the race. The concern that people have expressed to me is that they are worried that if there are thousands, people will split the vote and he will be the nominee again,” Cornyn said. “But I think people also recognize that we have to win the election and win it, and that’s the most important thing. And that’s what I’m focused on.”

The Democratic National Committee has slammed the break with Trump, saying it shows the 2024 field has so far “embraced his MAGA agenda” and is trying to “favour favor with the MAGA base”.

Trump has not said much about most of the potential challengers, except for DeSantis, whom he has publicly despised and mocked. DeSantis, who has not announced his plans for 2024, has yet to back off, deflecting questions about the attacks.

Eberhart said: “Everybody wants to play nice right now, but politics are not beanbags, and eventually the gloves will come off. The question is whether anyone can get the better of Trump brawling bare-knuckled when he does that.”

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