Donald Trump received a standing ovation at a Republican Party meeting on Saturday, despite several possible White House rivals lashing out at his election denial and insisting it was time to break away from the former US president.
In his first major appearance since announcing his intention to run again in 2024, Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas that the party had grown under his leadership.
The 76-year-old again falsely insisted the 2020 presidential election – which he lost – was rigged and denied responsibility for the GOP’s poor performance in November’s midterm elections.
In 2020 “we had a really disgraceful election, many millions more votes than in 2016… and the result was, I think, an absolute farce,” he shared with the audience via video link.
“The election was rigged and that’s a shame.”
Asked how he could improve the party’s appeal to suburban voters, among whom it fared poorly in this month’s midterm elections, Trump insisted he had a record for picking winners.
“In the midterms, as you probably heard, I had 222 wins and 16 losses, the press doesn’t want to mention that, and the Republican Party got five million more votes than the Democrats,” he said, despite the final vote count not yet being completed .
“The Republican Party is a much larger and more powerful party than it was before I arrived,” he said.
With the Midterms in the rearview mirror, the Las Vegas event ahead of the Republican Party primary served as a catwalk for potential Trump rivals to decide who will run for the presidency in 2024.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is emerging as one of Trump’s main rivals, closed the meeting with a speech praising his halftime performance.
“We’ve dominated with independent voters, we’ve achieved record margins with Hispanic voters. We’ve swept the suburbs across the state of Florida,” said the 44-year-old, to loud applause from those in attendance, some of whom came out on stage to shake his hand.
The crowd also heard from former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who said she would “seriously” consider making a bid for the White House.
“I’ve been the underdog every time people underestimate me, it’s always fun,” she said. “But I’ve never lost an election. And I won’t start now.”
“Joy and a Smile”
Many rivals attacked Trump’s complaint-laden political style, which Republican officials say was responsible for her lukewarm performance on November 8.
Former New Jersey governor and former Trump aide Chris Christie said the quality of the candidates was the problem.
“Donald Trump selected candidates with one criterion. Not eligibility, not experience, not wisdom, not charisma, not the ability to govern, but “Do you think the 2020 election was stolen or not?” If so, I support you. If not, I reject you,” he said.
“The fact is, we’re losing because Donald Trump put himself ahead of everyone else.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu agreed.
“I have great politics for the Republican Party. Let’s stop supporting insane, non-eligible candidates in our primaries,” he said.
On Friday night, Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also reportedly considering a White House run, urged other Republicans to be more forward-thinking and positive.
While he didn’t mention his old boss by name, Pompeo made not-too-subtle comments about the need to be doers, not complainers.
“When we present the conservative case, when we argue … let’s do it with joy and a smile,” he said.
“We don’t just rail against the machine … we don’t just go on Fox News or tweet, we actually do the hard work.”
Trump didn’t address the potential rivals during his performance on Saturday, but has already begun his usual bomb-bombing of potential presidential rivals, calling DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious” and saying Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s name “sounds Chinese.” .
The gathering, which also included a speech by Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, lasts until Sunday.