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The 2024 Republican presidential primary comes to Trump’s doorstep this weekend in Florida

  • April 10, 2021

an early presidential campaign party this weekend in South Florida, though the featured guest remains the same: Donald Trump.

At least a half-dozen Republicans said to be considering 2024 presidential bids, including Trump, are among the “special guests” at a Republican National Committee “spring retreat” on the Palm Beach shore.

The GOP aspirants will be mingling with some of the party’s biggest financial donors as they plan for elections in 2022 and 2024. “Only current Republican National Committee investors will be eligible to attend,” said an invitation to the Friday-through-Sunday event.

“This is a conclave of Republican finance influencers,” said GOP political strategist Doug Heye. “If you’re looking at running for president, you’re going to be there.”

President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a campaign rally on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, at the Knapp Center in Des Moines.

Trump remains the center of attention

So much of the Republican Party’s future revolves around Trump and whether he will run again in 2024 – and whether his campaigning for conservative allies in 2022 congressional and state elections will split the party.

The former president is even hosting one of the events at this weekend’s retreat, a Saturday night dinner at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Other retreat activities will take place at the Four Seasons resort hotel, about four miles south of Mar-a-Lago.

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More:Exclusive: Defeated and impeached, Trump still commands the loyalty of the GOP’s voters

Trump, who remains popular with Republican voters despite his election loss to President Joe Biden and the chaos that surrounded it, has repeatedly said it is too early to decide whether he will run again in 2024.

But Trump plans to get involved in the the 2022 races, targeting Republicans who supported impeaching him over the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol or otherwise opposed his efforts to overturn the election.

Trump’s endorsements of favored candidates in Republican primaries threaten to split the Republican Party. His 2022 activity also means it could be years before he announces what he will do in 2024, effectively freezing the Republican presidential race.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other election officials are attending the retreat. Scott, a Florida senator and potential presidential candidate, heads up the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The weekend series of meetings includes panels and speeches on such topics as improving Republican voter turnout, expanding GOP coalitions, and building a campaign case against Biden, his administration and the Democratic-led Congress.

To Democrats, this weekend’s activities in Palm Beach look a lot like sucking up to Trump. Democratic National Committee spokesman Ammar Moussa likened the would-be presidential candidates to contestants on Trump’s old television show, “The Apprentice.”

“While Republicans are hobnobbing with their special interest donors, President Biden and Democrats are delivering for everyday Americans, putting vaccines in arms, money in pockets, and bringing normalcy back,” he said.

Early presidential primaries aren’t unusual – Trump races are

It’s not unique to have a presidential race start this early. The difference this time is that so many of the candidates are waiting on an an ex-president who lost his reelection bid.

“It’s not unusual for people to start running for president right after the presidential election,” said John J. Pitney, Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California.

“The unusual part is Trump,” Pitney said. “The defeated former president possibly going for another try, and still having such a grip on the party.”

More:Donald Trump wants to run the Republican party even if he leaves office. Can he?

More:OnPolitics: It’s official. Trump can run for office in 2024.

Back in 1996, Republicans wanting to run for president did not worry about whether ex-President George H.W. Bush, defeated in 1992, would come out of retirement. Nor were Democrats in 1984 concerned about a comeback from ex-President Jimmy Carter, who had lost his reelection bid four years before.

Trump, however, remains popular with Republicans, despite his election protests that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and were designed to overturn his loss to Biden. The events of Jan. 6 are likely to be an oft-referenced election issue by Democrats in 2022 and 2024.

The Democratic-led U.S. House impeached Trump for inciting a riot, with the support of 10 House Republicans. Senate Democrats were unable to muster the two-thirds vote necessary to convict Trump, though seven Republican senators did vote against the outgoing president.

Gearing up for next year’s election activity, Trump is backing primary challenges to Republicans who voted for impeachment or opposed his election protests.

Pro-Trump efforts also meeting in Florida this weekend

While Republican work to manage the Trump factor, a variety of conservatives will be running around South Florida this weekend.

In addition to the RNC retreat in Palm Beach, a group of Trump supporters are holding a “Save America Summit” just down the Interstate in Miami at the former president’s Trump National Doral Golf Club.

The group organizing the meeting, Women for America First, sponsored the Jan. 6 protest in Washington, D.C., that Trump addressed just before the insurrection at the Capitol.

On the eve of the RNC retreat, Trump met with members of the Conservative Partnership Institute, a political committee that includes former administration officials.

While Trump has pledged support for the Republican Party, his independent operations have prompted worries about a split between Trump backers and others who want the GOP to move past the ex-president.

It’s hard to say how much the RNC retreat might help Trump, or other Republicans who might seek the presidency, especially at this point.

Republican political strategist Liz Mair said “the Trump years kind of upended everyone’s assessments of what was truly useful and what wasn’t.”

“Ultimately,” she said, “my suspicion is that institutional support from the likes of RNC members is a lot less important than it was in, say, 2000,” when George W. Bush won the presidency.

Trump really didn’t have any Republican institutional support when he ran in 2016, “and it didn’t matter one bit,” Mair said. “Now, the RNC has bent a lot to his interests, but it may not matter again.”

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