GOP 2024 hopefuls try to position themselves both for and against Trump

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GOP 2024 hopefuls try to position themselves both for and against Trump

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The field of candidates in the Republican presidential primary is set to grow even larger this week as each contender seeks to separate from the rest and position themselves as the best option to take on President Joe Biden in 2024.

Former President Donald Trump has emerged as the early front-runner in the race, eclipsing his challengers in the polls and stirring rumors about whether 2024 will amount to a rematch between him and Biden. His early dominance has prompted the other GOP contenders to consider their positions in the field carefully and determine just how far to push against the former president while preserving his legacy.

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Eight candidates are running for the GOP nomination so far, with at least two others set to join the mix later this week — setting the stage for a crowded primary.

Here’s a breakdown of how some of Trump’s top challengers are balancing the line of challenging the former president while keeping him in good graces:

Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has spent much of the run-up to his candidacy avoiding the topic of Trump. But now, he’s finding it’s a hard conversation to avoid.

Much of DeSantis’s appeal to voters is that he can provide much of the policies as Trump without the brash personality that has deterred voters closer to the center. The Florida governor is considered to be Trump’s greatest challenger as he has come closest to the former president in the polls, but DeSantis still falls at least 20 points below him in a head-to-head contest.

Still, DeSantis has come out against Trump in recent days, opting to criticize the former president directly — something many of his competitors have avoided doing.

Nikki Haley

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has largely avoided criticizing her former boss, but she has indirectly turned up the heat against her competitors as she seeks to make a name for herself on the campaign trail.

Haley has repeatedly expressed her desire to support Ukraine in its war against Russia, attacking her challengers, such as Trump and DeSantis, for suggesting the conflict should be settled without U.S. support.

“For them to sit there and say that this is a territorial dispute — that’s just not the case, or to say that we should stay neutral,” Haley said during a televised CNN town hall event last week. “It’s in the best interest of our national security for Ukraine to win.”

Mike Pence

Former Vice President Mike Pence is expected to announce his presidential campaign on Wednesday, positioning himself to challenge Trump less than four years after the two worked side by side in the White House.

Pence has largely avoided criticizing Trump in the public eye, although he has come out against the former president for his account of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

“President Trump was wrong,” Pence said during an event in March. “I had no right to overturn the election. And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is set to announce his candidacy on Tuesday, positioning himself as the candidate most likely to criticize Trump in the public eye.

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Christie is a long-shot candidate in a crowded field of primary challengers. But the one-time ally of Trump is set to give many of his competitors a reprieve as he voluntarily goes after the former president on his own.

“He failed us as president based on what he himself told us in 2015, in 2016, what he would do when he became president,” Christie said earlier this year. “He failed us as a president on the promises he made to us.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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