it wasn’t long ago that many Republicans believed the party might finally be ready to move past former President Donald Trump. Nikki Haley was running for president. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was embarking on a book tour, and a raft of other prominent GOPers were visiting early primary states.
But in the span of a week, the script for the earliest stages of the 2024 primary was written; and once again Trump was the axis around which it all turned.
“It’s Groundhog Day,” said Mike Madrid, the Republican strategist who was a co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project.
While Trump’s approval ratings may be slipping and Republican voters tell pollsters they are willing to look elsewhere, a series of recent developments has kept the party fixated on him and the scandals that defined his time and office. Washington D.C. and the largest conservative news outlet have spent days reliving the Jan. 6 riot. And the specter of a Trump indictment in New York portends an early primary season spent relitigating his record.
“There’s no question he’s the giant in the middle of the room, and other people will define themselves in comparison to him,” said Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster.
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