GOP Establishment Donors Take 'None of the Above' Approach, Quietly Woo Governors to Challenge Trump

AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File

As former President Donald Trump takes a commanding lead in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, not everyone is happy about it. The problem is the people who are not happy about Trump's runaway poll numbers are the people who hold many of the purse strings, Republican megadonors. Many of the big-money GOP donors are in a dilemma of sorts. Scaring them away from Trump this time around are not only Trump's legal troubles but the fact that he has made it known that there will be payback for the Deep State. And their possible Plan B, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is not making the showing that most Republicans initially thought he would.  


As a result, the GOP big money guys are candidate shopping, and they think they may have come up with some answers by hoping to entice some last-minute entries into the GOP primary field, namely Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. In an interview with Axiosone GOP source was fairly blunt with why Republican donors might be trying to sway Youngkin and Kemp towards jumping in the race, saying, "People are desperate. They are concerned with what could happen if Trump wins the primaries and they want a viable alternative." But another acknowledged that big money donors, and the base of the Republican Party, which appears to be undeterred by never-ending indictments of Trump, are two very different animals, noting, "The base likes Trump."

So what do the scenarios for both governors look like? Glenn Youngkin's name has been bandied about for a while. Youngkin was a political novice when he was elected in 2021 and ran against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. As parents all over the country were beginning to find out through virtual classrooms brought to their children by COVID-19 what their kids were learning — or not learning — it was parents in Virginia who led the way in showing up at school board meetings to make their voices heard. McAuliffe sealed his fate in a gubernatorial debate with Youngkin by declaring, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Youngkin was on his way. 


Even though Youngkin has dismissed calls to jump in, there are some deep pockets willing to back him. Billionaire Ronald Lauder is one of them. Billionaire Thomas Peterffy has already signed on, throwing $2 million into Youngkin's Spirit of Virginia political action committee (PAC). Fox News and New York Post head Rupert Murdoch is also a fan of Youngkin, although not publicly.

Success in Virginia has kept Youngkin on the national stage. But Youngkin has said repeatedly that his focus is on Virginia, and this year's off-year elections for Virginia's statehouse, maintaining GOP control of the House and gaining control of the Senate are his top priority. Should both of those things happen, it would be a viable jumping-off point to consider a presidential campaign. But if Youngkin waits until after Virginia's elections to make a decision, he risks being unable to compete in Nevada and South Carolina because of early filing deadlines.

Brian Kemp would have plenty more hurdles to clear in addition to just focusing on Georgia and election procedure issues. It appears to be former Trump national security advisor John Bolton, long a critic of Trump, who's been meeting with Kemp and encouraging him to jump into the primary. But Kemp's biggest obstacle would be the Republican base itself. A large number of those voters have soured on Kemp because of his rejection of the claim that any voter fraud went on in Georgia during the 2020 election. Kemp may also be eyeing a Georgia Democrat Senator Jon Ossoff's seat in 2026. 


GOP big-money donors are frustrated. They see Trump's surge in the polls, and with primaries beginning in January, time is running out. There may be a glimmer of hope, as either DeSantis may rebound from a bad start if he has a good performance in this week's first GOP primary, or another candidate may emerge as someone to take a second look at. 

Those big-money guys likely will be facing a lot more frustration. The latest Real Clear Politics average shows Trump up by 40.9 points. Then again, if they are looking for campaigns to throw money at, there are always Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson.


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