Authored by Nathan Worcester via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
As more Republicans challenge Donald Trump in the race for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, the former president’s dramatic impact on the GOP is becoming clearer.
Everyone from Nikki Haley to Vivek Ramaswamy has sought to link themselves to “America First,” as they court Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement.
Those Republican hopefuls face a daunting task. They have to distinguish themselves from Trump and woo many of his fans, all while mounting campaigns that can compete in the general election.
How are Trump’s competitors trying to set themselves apart from the former president—and how can they do so without alienating his fiercely loyal base?
While it’s early, some patterns are already being established.
DeSantis’s Delicate Dance
While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t yet committed to a primary bid, he’s widely seen as Trump’s most formidable 2024 competitor.
The Florida governor has so far avoided responding to digs directed at him by Trump, although his online supporters, some anonymous, have gone to bat for him.
Paul Ingrassia, a Trump administration veteran and Cornell Law school graduate and lawyer, told The Epoch Times that DeSantis has relied on “digital acolytes” to fight for him because he hasn’t yet entered the race.
“He wants to have these other guys do his dirty work for him while remaining above the fray,” Ingrassia, himself a prominent online Trump supporter, stated in a March 13 interview.
“People in the Trump orbit several months ago decided their best strategy would be to charge hard at former Trump supporters who’ve publicly aligned with DeSantis, in an effort to intimidate us into silence,” David Reaboi, a political consultant and well-known DeSantis advocate, said in a March 14 interview with The Epoch Times.
“This is crucial to their effort because they’re terrified of more people peeling off and abandoning Trump for a far more sane option—one who’s far more likely to succeed on every issue of policy.”
Both men seemed to agree that DeSantis is being pitched as a more competent version of Trump. In addition, DeSantis’s sometimes critical stance on the COVID-19 response could distinguish him from the former president.
Florida’s surgeon general has drawn attention to adverse events linked to the COVID-19 vaccines that were rolled out as a result of Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed.” That elicited a critical reaction from U.S. health authorities.
Ingrassia points out that a large majority of the population has taken at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. He believes DeSantis’s messaging on the issue may not play well with the public at large, even if it resonates with Republican primary voters.
DeSantis, he added, “was just as much of a rule follower during the early months of COVID as anyone.”
“As more time goes on, the vaccine will be an increasing political liability—as will Trump’s outsourcing of COVID to the expert class,” Reaboi said.
“Picking a fight on COVID policy with Ron DeSantis, of all people, is inadvisable.”
Ramaswamy’s ‘America First 2.0’
Ramaswamy, a venture capitalist, has explicitly pitched his campaign as the next development in Trump-inspired politics.
He calls his platform “America First 2.0.” His priorities include ending affirmative action, splitting from China, and rejecting the push for central bank digital currencies.
“I respect a lot of what President Trump did,” Ramaswamy told The Epoch Times in a Feb. 23 interview. “He acknowledged problems in this country on both sides of the aisle that no one else had acknowledged before him. The question is where we go from here.”
Reaboi said he doesn’t have any stance on Ramaswamy.
“I understand that people do this for name recognition or to fleece some money off of gullible donors, but just about any other use of their money, focus, and time would be better spent in policy activism or building institutions to nurture and support a new cadre of policy professionals,” he said.
Ingrassia believes Ramaswamy would fall short against Trump even if his message reaches “the more educated faction of the GOP.”
“I think he’s in over his head,” Ingrassia said.
Pompeo Criticizes ‘Larger-Than-Life Personalities’
Another figure, Mike Pompeo, also is setting himself apart from Trump.
The former secretary of state and CIA director, who has said he’s considering a run, can make a strong case for himself as a longtime critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Democrats and Republicans are starting to unite against the CCP, vindicating concerns of earlier China watchers.
Yet, in a March 3 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Pompeo said America’s “greatest threats are here,” not abroad.
He made what seemed like anti-Trump comments, saying conservatives “should not look for larger-than-life personalities.”
Read more here…