This week's debate saw only one less candidate on stage (Asa Hutchinson), and reportedly big donors are ready for the field to narrow much more drastically. In their minds, the 'non Trump' candidate must be selected soon and the two most prepared to fill those shoes are reportedly Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis.
Even before the next debate in November, the campaigns are set to go head-to-head: A collective of major Republican donors, known as the American Opportunity Alliance, is summoning representatives from both the DeSantis and Haley campaigns to Dallas on Oct. 13 to make presentations about why the deep-pocketed donor group should back them as the main Trump alternative in the GOP race.
The candidates themselves will not be at the meeting, which is being coordinated by megadonors Ken Griffin, Harlan Crow and Paul Singer, according to five sources familiar with the event, some of whom are directly involved in planning.
This isn't the campaigns making this claim, mind you. This is the the very rich people who plan to gather even before the next debate and decide how to best not waste their donation dollars.
Big anti-Trump donors tried a similar strategy to slow Trump in 2016, a plan that ultimately fell flat. But once again, Republicans who are eager to move the party past Trump are acknowledging their need to consolidate the primary field should they have any hope of overtaking Trump as the party’s front-runner.
“I think without question it’s down to Haley and DeSantis,” said a longtime Republican operative, one of a half-dozen GOP insiders who weighed in on the brewing face-off. “For sure it’s between the two of them right now for the non-Trump vote. It’d be great to see a limited debate stage that features the two of them.”
The next Republican Presidential Debate will be in Miami in n November 8.— Gene Church (@GeneChurch1776) September 28, 2023
It will have a slightly more strict standard: 70,000 donors, registering at 4% in 2 national, or one national and 2 state polls in early states.
As it currently stands, only DeSantis, Pence, Haley and… pic.twitter.com/MEsoGHbfWx
Those who follow politics know this plan did not work at all in 2016 and there is little indication any candidate is ready to wrap up their campaign.
Better than nothing, but you need Vivek too.— Chris (@chriswithans) September 29, 2023
The case for DeSantis over Haley has already long been made. DeSantis used to poll close to Trump, takes or loses support from Trump. Haley's polling ⬆️ has helped Trump. Haley worked for Trump, is a quitter, and is less conservative. https://t.co/OQlIzk1HWu
Not sure how Nikki wins this battle when she’s in third in her home state.— Theocratic Dictator (@theodictator) September 29, 2023
If she doesn’t get the donors she owes it to everyone to drop out. https://t.co/jkRCnBYIV6
Some tweeps thought counting Vivek out this early was unfair particularly when he and Haley seem to often switch places for the third spot behind Trump and DeSantis.
Of course, Trump holds a big lead right now and he has made his thoughts clear about DeSantis and just today, Haley.
This is essentially a compilation of all the media hype and donor wishcasting about Nikki Haley, with the data disproving the idea that she's anywhere close to DeSantis glossed over or buried at the end. https://t.co/IJRwUfTmVf— Varad Mehta (@varadmehta) September 29, 2023
A Trump challenger, whether it's DeSantis, Nikki Haley or Youngkin, needs to have money. But it is probably unhelpful for them to be perceived as donor creations.— Jim Antle (@jimantle) September 29, 2023
Therein lays the problem. A candidate has to have a hefty war chest to fight Trump, but Republican voters want to know a campaign is not bought and paid for. A tricky tightrope to walk, indeed.