David M. Drucker,
Donald Trump Jr. accused Republicans eyeing a 2024 White House bid of abandoning his father, throwing down a political marker with the GOP base that might be impossible for any contender to meet in the primary should President Trump run again.
Trump’s race with Democratic nominee Joe Biden was not called Friday, with the president pursuing legal action to contest results in key states where he lost or was losing. But a savvy tweet from Trump Jr. declaring “a total lack of action from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’” put aspiring Republican presidential contenders on notice: Failing to support the president steadfastly in this effort would prove costly in the primary.
Trump has not ruled out running for president in four years if Biden defeats him.
But even if the president is not a candidate because he is exiting after two terms or decides not to run, the issue of loyalty amid his postelection court battles could define the 2024 primary. That complicates any desires possible 2024 contenders might have to act the statesman and avoid echoing Trump’s claims of voter fraud and Democratic malfeasance — possibly because they would have a better shot at the presidency if he loses.
“It’s been a long time since the Republican base was this molten,” a Republican operative close to Trump said. “It kind of reminds me of liberals after Trump won.”
In his tweet, posted Thursday afternoon, Trump Jr. challenged potential 2024 Republicans to lend material support to the president’s legal effort and use the stature of their office to bolster his claim that Biden and the Democrats are stealing the election. Trump’s eldest son did not mince words.
“The total lack of action from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls’ is pretty amazing. They have a perfect platform to show that they’re willing & able to fight but they will cower to the media mob instead. Don’t worry [Trump] will fight & they can watch as usual,” Trump Jr. said, tweeting in a follow-up post that the “notable exception” to his complaint was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The tweet appeared to push some Republicans off the sidelines — or at least to vocalize their active support for the president on Twitter to make sure there were not any doubts about their engagement.
Trump Jr.’s tweet hit at 3:48 p.m. ET on Thursday. Eighteen minutes later, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican considering a 2024 run, tweeted a link to donate to Trump’s legal defense fund, with the message: “All votes that are *legally* cast should be counted. There is NO excuse not to allow poll watchers to observe counting.”
Biden appeared on the cusp of becoming the apparent winner on Friday afternoon.
The former vice president led in the race for 270 Electoral College votes and was ahead in four crucial battlegrounds where vote counting was underway: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Trump maintained a narrow lead in North Carolina, the other uncalled battleground. Claiming victory and alleging that Biden’s advantage was built on illegal ballots, Trump labored to hang onto the White House with aggressive action in court in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, a state Biden won.
“I easily WIN the Presidency of the United States with LEGAL VOTES CAST,” Trump tweeted Friday. “The OBSERVERS were not allowed, in any way, shape, or form, to do their job and therefore, votes accepted during this period must be determined to be ILLEGAL VOTES. U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”
Brad Parscale, a close, longtime aide who the president fired as his campaign manager over the summer, followed Trump Jr.’s tweet with a similar message. On Twitter, Parscale admonished Republicans who want to run for president to stand with Trump in this fight if they hope to capture the nomination four years from now. “If you want to win in 2024 as a Republican. I would probably start saying something. Just saying,” he said.
Elected Republicans in Washington and around the country are typically hesitant to break openly with Trump, fearing a grassroots backlash. But some have urged the president to calm his rhetoric absent more concrete evidence. To the extent some Republicans are quiet, it is because they see no indications of foul play and do not believe suggestions to the contrary undermine the electoral process.
“Most Republicans with experience in numerous elections know that the votes coming from these heavily Democratic counties are in line with higher turnout everywhere and consistent with previous elections,” said Mike Duhaime, a Republican strategist close to Chris Christie, a Trump ally and possible 2024 presidential contender who has urged the president to lower the temperature. “No one else believes the numbers are so out of line [as] to suggest something nefarious has happened.”