GOP Senators Worry About Trump 2016 'Replay' as Primary Field Grows

GOP Senators Worry About Trump 2016 'Replay' as Primary Field Grows
Former President Donald Trump (left) addresses the crowd during a 2024 election campaign event in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 28, 2023; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (right) speaks to guests at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, 2022. (Logan Cyrus, Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Some top Republican lawmakers who have signaled opposition to former President Donald Trump's 2024 presidential bid have expressed worry that the former commander-in-chief will prevail with a crowded GOP primary field.

This week, former Vice President Mike Pence filed paperwork for a 2024 presidential bid, coming on the heels of announcements made by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Other candidates include former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Reports indicate that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum are aiming to run.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former member of the GOP's leadership in the Senate who has been critical of Trump's 2024 bid, suggested to The Hill that the current field appears to be "a replay of 2016" when Trump emerged from the fray to ultimately become the Republican nominee.

“A number of these people are in low single digits, so my hope would be that, if after a few months their numbers don’t get better, that they decide to drop out so that it becomes a two- or three-person race. I think that would be the best development, as far as I’m concerned,” Cornyn told the outlet.

An ally of Cornyn, Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.C.), who endorsed Scott, made similar admissions about the race.

“That’s always a possibility when you have one candidate that has a loyal following that starts with a bigger base,” Thune said, adding that he believes DeSantis hasn't done well enough to be a clear alternative to Trump.

“I think the fact that that many people are getting in suggests that they sense an opening. I think there’s a sense out there that people are looking for a new direction and a lot of these candidates are responding to it,” the Republican senator said.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.C.), who also backs Scott's 2024 bid, agreed with Cornyn and other senators by saying that 2024 candidates who don't obtain enough support should leave the race sooner than later. “He’s just stating the facts. That’s the way that it works,” he told the outlet.

Pence Enters

After months of speculation, Pence filed paperwork on Monday declaring his campaign for president in 2024, setting up a challenge to his former boss. It comes just two years after Trump criticized Pence after he presided over the Joint Session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Pence, a former radio host who ultimately became Indiana's governor, made his candidacy official Monday with the Federal Election Commission. While Trump is currently leading the early fight for the nomination, with DeSantis polling consistently in second, Pence supporters see a lane for a reliable conservative who espouses many of the previous administration’s policies but without the constant tumult.

Former Vice President Mike Pence meets with guests at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition in Clive, Iowa, on April 22, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Former Vice President Mike Pence meets with guests at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition in Clive, Iowa, on April 22, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Notably, Pence supports a national ban on abortion procedures and has campaigned against transgender policies in schools. He has argued that changes to Social Security and Medicare, like raising the age for qualification, should be on the table to keep the programs solvent, which Trump has strongly opposed.

Pence also has said the United States should offer more support to Ukraine against Russian aggression, while claiming there are “Putin apologists” in the GOP unwilling to stand up to the Russian leader. Trump, meanwhile, has often said that he would end the Russia–Ukraine war in 24 hours and claimed that the death toll is far greater than is being reported.

“I think we’ll have better choices,” Pence recently told The Associated Press. “The American people want us to return to the policies of the Trump–Pence administration, but I think they want to see leadership that reflects more of the character of the American people.”

A recent Fox News national poll, taken May 25, showed that Trump was leading DeSantis by more than 30 percentage points among potential voters. Meanwhile, all the other candidates, including Pence, stood at 5 percent support or less among voters.
Neither Trump nor DeSantis have yet to react to Pence's move to enter the 2024 race. Reports indicate that Pence will announce his White House bid this week.


While Trump has publicly signaled that he doesn't want to partake in the Republican National Committee's debates, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel revealed that the first one will be held Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 23, 2023.

“The RNC is committed to putting on a fair, neutral, and transparent primary process, and the qualifying criteria set forth will put our party and eventual nominee in the best position to take back the White House come November 2024," McDaniel said.

But in April, Trump wrote on Truth Social that regarding the debates, "nobody got my approval, or the approval of the Trump Campaign, before announcing them."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.