July 27, 2021

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As Trump Looms, DeSantis, Haley, Pence And Pompeo Make Rounds – NPR

6 min read
Trump-themed hats and flags are displayed for sale at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Orange County Fairgrounds on June 5 in Costa Mesa, Calif. The former president has left the door wide open to running again. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Trump-themed hats and flags are displayed for sale at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Orange County Fairgrounds on June 5 in Costa Mesa, Calif. The former president has left the door wide open to running again.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump is steadily ramping up public events, with his first rally since leaving office set to take place Saturday night in Ohio.

The event will be for an opponent of Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican congressman who voted for Trump’s impeachment following his role in inspiring the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Trump is expected to hold many score-settling rallies and make lots of grievance-based endorsements ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, as Republicans seek to wrest control of one or both chambers of Congress from Democrats.

Saturday’s rally will be a test of whether Trump’s still got it. Can he bring out the devoted crowds that filled stadiums for him when he was president and as a candidate? Trump has left the door wide open to running again.

Because of Trump’s popularity with the GOP base, that’s put somewhat of a freeze on the 2024 field, but some are running versions of shadow campaigns. Just this week, other top potential GOP presidential candidates were making public appearances and made the news, as they jockey for position — if Trump doesn’t run.

Here’s a look at some:

Ron DeSantis, Florida governor

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference on June 14. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference on June 14.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • He’s on the tips of many tongues in GOP circles, and he’s become a lightning rod on the left for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and more. Just this week — in addition to dealing with a building collapse — he signed controversial bills targeting so-called “indoctrination” in colleges and universities, and expanding K-12 “civics education,” which is to include “portraits in patriotism” with “first-person accounts of victims of other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States.”
  • That comes after the state banned teaching “critical race theory” in its public schools, something that’s become a cultural catch-all on the right for teaching about the depths of Black history and the Black experience.

  • All of that has only served to vault DeSantis to prominence with Republicans. In a straw poll of attendees at the Western Conservative Summit in Colorado last weekend, DeSantis edged Trump with a slightly higher approval rating, 74% to 71%.
  • Key quote: “It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you’d be exposed to a lot of different ideas. Unfortunately now, the norm is really these are more intellectually repressive environments,” DeSantis said during a bill signing at a middle school. “You have orthodoxies that are promoted and other viewpoints are shunned, or even suppressed. We don’t want that in Florida.”

Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

Former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speaks during the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner on Thursday. Charlie Neibergall/AP hide caption

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Charlie Neibergall/AP

Former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speaks during the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner on Thursday.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

  • She landed on Trump’s bad side when she criticized his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 
  • She’s trying to walk a delicate line and hoping to get back in Trump’s — and rank-and-file Republicans’ — good graces. She recently hosted Jared and Ivanka Trump at her Kiawah Island, S.C., home, and on Thursday, in the early presidential nominating state of Iowa, Haley was testing the waters — and praising Trump. 

  • Key quote: “Joe Biden has been a gift to every country that hates America and wants to hurt us. He’s the polar opposite of Donald Trump. I saw firsthand as ambassador to the United Nations how Donald Trump put America first — sometimes in the most interesting of ways,” Haley said, delivering the keynote address at the Iowa Republican Party Lincoln Dinner, one of the party’s big fundraisers for the year. 
  • She also had this line that sounded like one she’s testing out to use more often in a campaign: “Republicans are too nice. I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement. I use them for kicking, but I always kick with a smile.”

Mike Pence, former vice president

Former Vice President Mike Pence addresses the GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner on June 3 in Manchester, N.H. Scott Eisen/Getty Images hide caption

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Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Former Vice President Mike Pence addresses the GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner on June 3 in Manchester, N.H.

Scott Eisen/Getty Images

  • Pence was targeted in the Jan. 6 insurrection because of his ceremonial role in certifying the 2020 election results. He’s split with Trump on his handling of that day. Earlier this month — in the early presidential state of New Hampshire — Pence praised his former boss, but also said he doesn’t think he and Trump will ever see “eye to eye” about Jan. 6.
  • This week, speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Pence went further, responding to those, he said, who believe he could have overturned the results — while also trying to walk a fine line and appeal to Trump supporters.
  • Key quote: “[T]here’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.” And then: “President Donald Trump is also one of a kind. He, too, disrupted the status quo. He challenged the establishment. He invigorated our movement. And he set a bold new course for America in the 21st century,” Pence said at the Reagan Library. “And now, as then, there is no going back.”

Mike Pompeo, former secretary of state

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the West Side Conservative Club on March 26 in Urbandale, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/AP hide caption

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Charlie Neibergall/AP

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the West Side Conservative Club on March 26 in Urbandale, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

  • Pompeo has been making the rounds, speaking out against the Biden administration’s foreign policy, helping fundraise and stump for candidates — including GOP Rep. Michael Burgess in Texas Thursday — and trying to get in good with GOP donors. 
  • “He’s basically already running for the presidency,” one person familiar with Pompeo’s meetings with donors in New York told CNBC.
  • Key quote: “One of the things that I’m most proud of that we did is that we addressed the world that we saw, not the one we wished existed,” Pompeo said Wednesday in Texas at the National Religious Broadcasters convention. “We were very realistic about the things we could have an impact on.” On working with Trump: “It was easy for me; I knew my place. I knew I worked for him. My mission was unambiguously clear: Go out and make the world safer for the United States of America.”

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