Mitt Romney Issues Urgent Warning About Trump's Path To 2024 GOP Nomination

The Utah senator suggested the same dynamics that propelled Donald Trump to the 2016 GOP presidential nomination could help him do it again in 2024.

A large field of presidential contenders in 2024 could lead to a redo of the 2016 presidential race and help make Donald Trump the Republican presidential nominee once again, according to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

“The only way that [scenario] could be prevented is if it narrowed down to a two-person race eventually. That means donors and influencers say to their candidate ― if they’re weakening: ‘Hey, time to get out,’” Romney told HuffPost in an interview on Tuesday.

“Last time that was done was in 1968, so it’s been a while,” Romney added, referring to the 1968 presidential election in which his father George Romney took part.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Tuesday became the first Republican to declare a candidacy for the White House after Trump, who launched his 2024 campaign in November. Haley, who also served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during Trump’s administration, called for “a new generation of leadership” in a video announcing her candidacy.

Romney said he viewed Haley as an “underdog” in the race. Trump, the senator added, is “by far the most likely” to become the GOP presidential nominee given his popularity and name recognition with a devoted slice of the GOP electorate. (Romney is decidedly not a fan: He voted to convict Trump in two successive Senate impeachment trials).

Trump is expected to face a crowded field of contenders for the GOP presidential nomination as he did during the 2016 election. In that race, a large roster of candidates split support among GOP voters and donors alike, leading to Trump clinching the nomination.

Much has been written about Trump’s “diminished” influence within the GOP, especially after his party’s weak performance in the 2022 midterm election. Polls show he’s still way on top when it comes to the race for the 2024 presidential nomination, but potential candidates like Florida GOP Gov. Ron Desantis are nipping at his heels.

Although GOP leaders aren’t in a hurry to embrace a Trump 2024 run, he still has plenty of support on Capitol Hill, including from several newly-elected lawmakers. Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) last week became the fifth GOP senator to back Trump’s campaign, calling the man who sought to overturn democracy in the days leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol “exactly the president we need to lead this country through the tough road ahead.”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) said he believed the 2024 race will be “wide open” despite the fact that he’s backing Trump’s campaign.

“President Trump is going to have a base of 25-30%. He’s got a lot of work to grow on that. DeSantis has built a name on conservative menus,” he said, adding that it’s “good for our party” if many candidates jump run and there is healthy competition for the presidential nomination.

Trump has ramped up attacks against DeSantis, sharing wild accusations about the conservative heartthrob on his social media platform TruthSocial that suggested DeSantis was “grooming high school girls with alcohol” when he was a teacher. The former president has also been testing nicknames for DeSantis, including “Ron DeSantimonious” and “Ron Meatball.” DeSantis has chosen to ignore the attacks, saying he isn’t focused on “smearing” fellow Republicans.

“That’s how he does things,” Tuberville told HuffPost when asked about Trump’s TruthSocial posts. “He tries to get a doll out of people. That’s probably what he did as a contractor in New York. You get into arguments, you complain, you fight with each other, and then you go to dinner at night. We’re all on the same team.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who voted to convict Trump over the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, suggested that a large field of presidential candidates would narrow relatively quickly due to a lack of resources.

“Although there might be a number of people who announce, how many people will have money? If you don’t have money, you can’t buy name recognition. If you can’t buy the name recognition, you falter early,” Cassidy said.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who supported Trump in the past but who has held off on making another endorsement as he runs for governor in Indiana, predicted an eventual showdown between Trump and DeSantis. The Florida governor hasn’t yet announced whether he will launch a bid for the White House.

“No one else is registering above one [percent]” in early polls of the race, Braun said.

Democrats, meanwhile, are treating the odds of another showdown between Trump and President Joe Biden in the 2024 general election as quite serious, even though they believe it would ultimately benefit their party if last year’s midterm election results are any sign of Trump’s unpopularity with swing voters.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, said all signs were pointing again to the same dynamics that initially propelled Trump to the GOP presidential nomination.

“A name ID edge in a multi-candidate field is even more powerful than a name ID edge in a two-candidate field,” Kaine said. “[Trump] was able to be in a lane of his own and then everybody else was competing in a non-Trump lane. I think that same dynamic could well hold in 2024.”

“Each new entrant is going to make him happier and happier,” Kaine added of Trump and the 2024 GOP race.

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