The effort by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) could keep him in President Donald Trump’s good graces in the coming years. | Liz Lynch/Getty Images
The 2024 Republican primary has begun — and the opening clash is over whether to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s election win.
While Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are setting themselves up as the chief spokesmen for challenging certification of the Electoral College vote, aligning themselves with President Donald Trump, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse are staking out the opposite turf. Other Republicans, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Vice President Mike Pence, are playing it safe and saying little.
The debate underscores how fealty to Trump — who might run again himself in 2024 — has emerged as the defining battle line in the fight over the Republican Party’s future. While past primaries have revolved around hot-button issues like health care or immigration, the forthcoming contest is being propelled, so far, by a single question: How loyal should one be to Trump?
Pence’s office released a statement over the weekend saying he “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on Jan. 6th.”
The statement, however, did not specify whether Pence supports overturning the election.
Some argue that Wednesday’s vote may have little bearing on 2024. While Trump remains in control of the party now, they contend, he may not in four years. And while Trump’s supporters are exercised over the Electoral College fight today, the memory may have long faded by the time the next presidential primary begins in earnest.
Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who worked on both of Trump’s presidential campaigns, predicted that even assuming Trump doesn’t mount his own 2024 comeback bid, it’s likely that “some of today’s perceived frontrunners won’t ultimately get out of the gate.”
“I think four years is an eternity in politics — especially presidential politics,” Fabrizio added. “If I had told you on January 4, 2013 that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz would be the top two contenders for the nomination in 2016 and that Trump would win the nomination, you would have thought I was dropping acid.”