Trump 2024 rivals court his donors at a grand gathering in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Republicans considering running for the White House are courting worried donors in Las Vegas this weekend as the GOP class warns in early 2024 that former President Donald Trump is “a loser” and encourages the party to accept a new leadership.

Trump will be one of the few Republican prospects not to attend the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting, which organizers say will mark the unofficial start of the 2024 presidential campaign. Trump will speak, but only via video conference, while leading rivals including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence will deliver keynote speeches in person.

The gathering, which began Friday, comes just days after Trump became the first candidate to officially launch a 2024 campaign. His allies initially hoped his early announcement could stave off serious primary challenges, but that’s unlikely after his loyalists lost midterm competitions in battleground states from Arizona to Pennsylvania last week.

“Maybe there’s a little blood in the water and the sharks are circling,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, himself a Republican presidential candidate who has long been a Trump critic.

Last week’s interim results, Hogan said, have given more Republican leaders the confidence to voice similar concerns. “I don’t think we’ve ever gotten to this point before.”

Trump also faces a new legal threat. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday appointed a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into the presence of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate, as well as key aspects of a separate investigation related to the Jan. 6, 2021 riot and efforts to reverse the 2020 riot Choice. Nonetheless, there is much praise for the former president.

“There is no question that what President Trump has achieved in his four years in strengthening US-Israel relations has been unprecedented. He was the most pro-Israel president ever,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. However, this may not be enough to convince the coalition’s top funders this time, Brooks said.

“For a lot of people attending this conference, it’s about the future,” he said. “And for some of them, President Trump could be their answer. Others are interested in what others have to say.”

With a fundraiser of small donations, Trump doesn’t need big donors to reach for the GOP nomination a third time. But the unwillingness of big-money Republicans to commit to him could signal a much broader shift in a party that has defined itself almost entirely by its allegiance to Trump for the past six years.

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s two-day speaking program includes DeSantis, a leading Trump rival, and Pence, whom Trump has accused of failing to annul the 2020 election. Other speakers include Hogan, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Florida Senator Rick Scott.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, another potential 2024 contender, canceled his appearance after a shooting Sunday at the University of Virginia that killed three people.

Republican leader of the House Kevin McCarthy, who could become Speaker of the House if Republicans take the helm in January, is also slated.

Before his Friday night address, Pompeo poked fun at one of Trump’s slogans: “We were told we’d get tired of winning. But I’m tired of losing.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also took a cue from Trump’s policy failures.

“From my point of view, he’s a loser now. He’s an election loser,” said Christie, another 2024 prospect who attended the Las Vegas gathering. “You’re looking at a general constituency. I don’t think there’s a Democrat he can beat because he’s now toxic on a personal level to suburban voters, and he deserves it.”

Held at the Venetian Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, the annual event pays homage to longtime Republican Jewish Coalition benefactor Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate who died last year. His wife Miriam remains a fundraising force within the GOP.

76-year-old Israeli-born Miriam Adelson “remains neutral” in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, according to the family’s longtime political gatekeeper Andy Abboud.

But that hasn’t stopped ambitious Republicans from courting her.

The Adelsons donated $172.7 million during the 2020 presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which set a new giving record in a single election and was the second-largest donor in both parties more than three times. Over the past decade, they’ve donated nearly half a billion dollars to Republican candidates and causes.

And while the Adelsons have been prominent Trump supporters in the past, Miriam Adelson isn’t ready to commit to him when the next presidential primary season begins.

In an interview this week, Pence lashed out at Trump and his cronies by noting that midterm Republican candidates who “focused on the past, particularly those who tried to reinterpret the last election, didn’t do as well.” .

Trump has been consumed with lies about his loss in 2020 since leaving office. He endorsed dozens of candidates in 2022 based primarily on whether they accepted his unsubstantiated claims.

“I think we’re going to make better decisions in 2024,” Pence told The Associated Press. “And I’m very confident that Republican primary voters will vote wisely.”