CIRCUS CIRCUS: First GOP Cattle Call Turns into Clown Show

Republicans brought their own show to Vegas and it did not disappoint. It had everything, from petty subtweets to drama that made every story.

Some Republicans tried to distance themselves from Donald Trump and his MAGA politics that were rejected by millions of Americans and led to a dramatic underperformance by MAGA candidates across the country. But let’s not forget: New Hampshire GOP Governor Chris Sununu, who styles himself a “moderate,” literally campaigned alongside known election denier Don Bolduc (and even bearhugged him after Bolduc won his primary).

Washington Post: “New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu implored Republicans to stop nominating ‘crazy, unelectable candidates’ at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting here…” 

USA Today: “‘We keep losing and losing and losing,’ said former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie… ‘And the fact of the matter is the reason we’re losing is because Donald Trump has put himself before everybody else.’”

The RJC meeting made clear that Donald Trump’s low-energy 2024 announcement speech last week did absolutely nothing to clear the hopeful GOP primary field. In fact, Nikki Haley seemed to reverse her stance and hinted that she would challenge him.

POLITICO: “Nikki Haley, Trump’s U.N. ambassador who said last year she wouldn’t run if her former boss did, has apparently changed her mind. She used her Saturday evening speech here to say she was looking at running in a ‘serious way,’ and to call for ‘a younger generation to lead across the board.’”

Washington Post: “‘I don’t think he will be uncontested,’ [Texas GOP Senator and 2016 presidential contender Ted] Cruz said this weekend.”

POLITICO: “‘It’s not a runaway, and he’s the former friggin’ president. How could that be?’ Sununu said of Trump. “If you’re a former president and you’re not clearing the field, what the hell are you doing?’”

And Mike Pence helpfully reminded Americans of the extreme record from the Trump-Pence administration, and repeatedly tied himself to Trump, despite the fact Trump’s rhetoric, by Pence’s own words, “endangered” him and his family on January 6.

New York Times“‘I think Mike Pence delivered one of the greatest pro-Trump speeches I’ve ever heard,’ raved Morton A. Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, a pro-Israel group. ‘I thought he would be more inclined to differentiate himself.’”

POLITICO: “Former Vice President Mike Pence said then-President Donald Trump ‘endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building’ with his words and actions during the Jan. 6 riot in 2021.”

As for Trump himself, the twice-impeached former president wasn’t even planning on going — but changed his mind and decided to deliver remarks via video.

Despite it all, several polls from over the past week indicate that while some Republicans are desperate to push the MAGA agenda along without Trump, his stranglehold on the party remains strong.

POLITICO/Morning Consult Poll:

Harvard-Harris Poll:

The extreme clown show gathered at RJC this weekend makes clear that the GOP is in for one giant mess of a MAGA primary — and it’s only just beginning.