Trump 2024 opponents struggling to attract attention after indictment

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From left to right: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), former President Donald Trump, and former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. (AP Photos)

Trump 2024 opponents struggling to attract attention after indictment

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Former President Donald Trump’s indictment on hush-money charges in New York appears to have sucked the oxygen out of the 2024 Republican presidential primary.

As the historic first-ever indictment of a former U.S. president dominates national media coverage, other 2024 GOP hopefuls are struggling to attract any press attention or break through with primary voters. Prospective and declared candidates clamoring for ways to gain any traction in a race that has become centered on taking sides in Trump’s legal battles have thus far found it impossible to get their messages out in this post-indictment political landscape.

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“What’s frustrating to me is we didn’t learn a damn thing from 2015 and 2016 when it comes to just giving him absolute, roadblock media coverage,” David Kochel, a veteran of six GOP presidential campaigns, said. “I get it, it’s a big story. But this was getting covered like … the opening of the war in Iraq or the O.J. chase. You couldn’t escape it.”

Kochel said he expects future debates and other campaign events will “give everybody an equal footing, an opportunity” to boost their media exposure and become a part of the national conversation. For now, however, the Republican says Trump’s rivals are largely helpless.

“I don’t know that there’s a strategy anybody could employ. Maybe try shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue,” he said, making reference to Trump’s 2016 election claim about the loyalty of his supporters.

“It feels like f***ing 2016,” another Republican strategist who supports Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) said. “Is there anything that can suck up as much political oxygen in the American political landscape as Trump? I don’t think so.”

“This is deja vu all over again. Trump dominates media coverage, making it impossible for his competitors to get any coverage or forward traction,” Terry Sullivan, who ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) 2016 presidential campaign, said.

In addition to the surge in media coverage, Trump has also seen a boost in support from Republican primary voters since the indictment, something many political observers predicted after the former president revealed the looming charges. DeSantis, Trump’s top competitor, has been beset by plummeting poll numbers in the indictment’s aftermath.

An adviser to former Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R-SC) campaign acknowledged that there was “no question this week Trump was getting the bulk of the coverage.” Haley complained during her trip to the southern border last Monday that “no one is talking about” immigration because of the focus on the former president’s “political drama.” The visit, which was planned before Trump’s indictment took over as the dominant media conversation, received some conservative press attention but little coverage from legacy media outlets.

The Haley adviser said the campaign was “conscious of timing” when it came to post-indictment political decision-making, noting that the team held off announcing her $11 million first-quarter fundraising haul as Trump’s arraignment received wall-to-wall coverage last Tuesday.

Jason Roe, a Michigan-based GOP strategist who also worked for Rubio and has not decided which candidate to support in the 2024 primary, thinks time is on DeSantis’s side to oust Trump as the front-runner.

“I’m not worried at all. I think there’s a bunch of hand-wringing from some nervous nellies prematurely,” Roe said, noting that “right now, no one occupies the stage except Trump. The dust has to settle.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump late last month on charges related to the hush-money matter.

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Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, testified before Congress in 2019 that he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 during the 2016 campaign to prevent her from going public about an affair she claimed to have with Trump in 2005. Cohen, who pleaded guilty and served time over the alleged payment, told lawmakers Trump reimbursed him in monthly installments.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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