The conservatives who have turned on Trump
After the GOP's disappointing showing in the 2022 midterms, some Republicans are pulling their support for the former president
Former President Donald Trump is officially running for president in 2024. But will his party get behind him? Trump has been taking some of the blame for the GOP's lackluster midterm performance, with ABC News' Jonathan Karl calling him election night's "biggest loser." And his controversial Mar-a-Lago dinner with Ye, the rapper formally known as Kanye West, and white nationalist Nick Fuentes, hasn't helped things. West has faced backlash in recent months after making several antisemitic remarks, and Fuentes is known for being a Holocaust denier. Some conservative commentators, publications, and politicians who were previously vocal Trump supporters have started jumping ship.
Trump's former ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, usually has nothing but praise for his former boss. He once said Trump would join the "small cadre of Israeli heroes" after moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, The New York Times reports. However, after the news broke about Trump's dinner with Fuentes, Friedman's tone seemed to shift as he pleaded with the former president to denounce his recent guests.
"To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this. Even a social visit from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable," Friedman tweeted. "I urge you to throw those bums out, disavow them, and relegate them to the dustbin of history where they belong."
Morton Klein, national president of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, is another conservative Trump supporter who stopped just short of condemning the former president's character while criticizing his choice of dinner guests. Klein recently wrote an op-ed for Newsweek that Trump was the "greatest president ever for Israel and American Jews." But in light of the former president's recent actions, Klein, the child of Holocaust survivors, said he has "become very frightened for my people."
"Donald Trump is not an antisemite. He loves Israel. He loves Jews," Klein said on Monday, per the Times. "But he mainstreams, he legitimizes Jew-hatred and Jew haters. And this scares me."
Ben Shapiro, a right-wing political commentator and founder of The Daily Wire, has been one of Trump's staunchest allies despite having to deal with attacks from neo-Nazi Trump supporters in 2016, per the Times. Shapiro's patience appears to have run out; he joined the chorus of people who were unmoved by Trump's defense of meeting with Fuentes and West. Shapiro tweeted, "A good way not to accidentally dine with a vile racist and antisemite you don't know is not to dine with a vile racist and antisemite you do know."
The once Trump-endorsed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the former president had a bit of a public falling-out after the Jan. 6 riots. And since then, Trump has heavily criticized McConnell's performance as GOP leader, even going so far as to say he must have a "death wish" for collaborating with Democrats. McConnell hasn't shied away from criticizing Trump in return, and recently condemned his dinner with Fuentes and West.
"There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States," McConnell said during a press conference.
On her Daily Wire podcast, Candace Owens shared a story she'd been holding onto for months, telling listeners that after her December 2021 interview with Trump, he was "actually rude to me," and that is what "made me for the first time question him as a person." Owens said Trump misinterpreted comments she made about his COVID-19 vaccine stance, and his subsequent churlishness shows he's not a leader. She went on to lament that Trump was "having fun" in 2016 and had "electric" energy in 2020, but he's now "in an angry space," and his 2024 presidential pitch "needs to be more than 'I'm back.'"
The former New Jersey governor jumped on the Trump-bashing bandwagon on Nov. 15, telling a room full of Republican governors that he was tired of watching the GOP lose races because of Trump. "In 2021 we lose two winnable [Senate] seats in Georgia," Christie said. "And in 2022 we vastly underperform historic norms given inflation and gas prices and crime and a president at 40 percent. I'm tired of losing." Axios reports that Christie's speech "received huge applause."
Trump and his former vice president haven't exactly been on good terms since Trump repeatedly pressured Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. On the day Trump officially announced he was running again in 2024, Pence told Fox News' Special Report that Republican voters "have better choices" for president, adding that Americans want leadership that will "reflect the kind of respect and civility that the American people demonstrate to each other every day." Of course, Pence is mulling his own 2024 run, telling ABC News: "We're giving it consideration in our house."
Pence also chimed in on Trump's recent controversial meal with Fuentes and West, saying his former boss "was wrong to give a White nationalist, an antisemite, and Holocaust denier a seat at the table." Pence said Trump should apologize and "denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification."
The media mogul who owns 21st Century Fox and News Corp put his full weight behind Trump's 2016 presidential bid, and the two men reportedly spoke "as often as multiple times a week" while Trump was in the White House. But the friendship has soured, with i News reporting that Murdoch has made it clear to Trump that he will not be backing his 2024 bid. "There have been conversations between them during which Rupert made it clear to Donald that we cannot back another run for the White House," a News Corp source said.
...and his newspapers
On Nov. 10, The New York Post's cover depicted Trump as Humpty Dumpty. In a callback to Trump's failed campaign promises, the headline blared: "Don (who couldn't build a wall) had a great fall — can all of the GOP's men put the party back together again?" The words inside the tabloid weren't any kinder, with conservative writer John Podhoretz dubbing the former president "Toxic Trump" and calling him "the political equivalent of a can of Raid," with the election results suggesting that "Trump is perhaps the most profound vote repellent in modern American history."
The Wall Street Journal editorial board called Trump the GOP's "biggest loser," blaming him for midterm losses in races that should have been easy wins. "Maybe by now Republicans are sick and tired of losing," the board wrote.
Outgoing Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) hasn't been happy with Trump since the former president rescinded his endorsement of Brooks' Senate campaign. This came after Brooks, who echoed Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud, suggested that maybe it was time to start focusing on future elections rather than the 2020 contest; when Trump revoked his endorsement, he accused Brooks of going "woke." Brooks didn't win his primary in June, and now, he's holding nothing back; during an interview with AL.com on Nov. 11, Brooks said it would be "a bad mistake for the Republicans to have Donald Trump as their nominee in 2024. Donald Trump has proven himself to be dishonest, disloyal, incompetent, crude, and a lot of other things that alienate so many independents and Republicans." This is not the talk of a bitter man, Brooks declared. "Keep in mind 2016 when I said he was dishonest," he said. "You cannot trust a single word that he says and I have never recanted that."
Former Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a once staunch Trump supporter who told The New Yorker during the height of the pandemic that Trump was "a smart guy" doing "an excellent job," has also cooled on him. "I strongly believe he should no longer be the face of the Republican Party," King told The New York Times, adding that the GOP cannot "become a personality cult." He blamed Trump for the Republican midterm losses, and told The New York Daily News the longer Trump stays the face of the Republican Party, "the more his support is going to diminish. It's almost as if he's in his own world."
The Koch network
The conservative donor network associated with billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch says it is prepared to back a GOP candidate in the next presidential primary in an effort "to turn the page on the past." After sitting out the last two presidential races, Americans for Prosperity Action, the primary political arm of the Koch network, "is prepared to support a candidate in the Republican presidential primary who can lead our country forward and who can win," CEO Emily Seidel in a memo. While the message did not mention Trump by name, a spokesperson for AFP Action told CNN that the group does not plan to support the former president's 2024 bid. Its decision to engage in the next election, CNN says, "is likely to set off a scramble among Republican presidential contenders," which will help shape the GOP race. During his tenure in the White House, Trump often butt heads with AFP officials, who "sharply criticized his administration's trade and hard-line immigration policies," CNN writes.
Update Feb. 7: This piece has been updated throughout to account for the Koch network's announcement.