Former president Donald Trump refused to say whether he’ll commit to backing the 2024 GOP presidential candidate if it’s not him, injecting uncertainty into Republican hopes of reclaiming the White House next year.
Trump’s unwillingness to deliver a full-throated endorsement of the eventual nominee stood in contrast to other leading Republicans — including some critics of the former president — who have promised to support the GOP nominee even if it’s Trump.
On Thursday, Hewitt told Trump that former Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R) — a well-known anti-Trump Republican who has been mentioned as a possible GOP presidential candidate — had said in an interview earlier that day that he would support Trump if he ultimately wins the nomination.
“Yeah, I just don’t think he’s going to be the nominee, but I’ll support the nominee,” Hogan told Hewitt.
After the interview aired, Hogan said on Twitter that his “position on Trump hasn’t changed.”
“Trump won’t commit to supporting the Republican nominee, and I won’t commit to supporting him,” Hogan said. “As I have repeatedly said, I fully expect to support the Republican nominee — who I don’t believe will be Trump.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) also committed to supporting the GOP nominee even if it’s Trump.
“I don’t think it’s going to be Donald Trump, but, yeah, I’m going to support the Republican nominee,” he told CNN earlier this week, adding that he was just joking the time he called Trump “crazy.”
And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who broke ties with Trump when the electoral college certified Joe Biden’s victory in December 2020 and has been repeatedly mocked by Trump, has said he will back the eventual GOP nominee.
“I think I have an obligation to support the nominee of my party,” McConnell has said.
Trump’s comments Thursday echo a response he gave Fox News’s Bret Baier during a 2016 GOP primary debate. “It would have to depend on who the nominee was.”
Back in August 2015, a defiant Trump told Baier — and the rest of the 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls — that he wouldn’t commit to supporting the eventual nominee if it wasn’t him. All he committed to then was not running as an independent if he became the GOP nominee.
Trump is the only top Republican who has officially launched a 2024 presidential campaign, and some polls show him leading a hypothetically crowded field with many lesser-known candidates.
Still, plenty of other Republicans are making moves toward challenging Trump as the former president struggles to consolidate the support he once enjoyed in the party.
Nikki Haley, a former United Nations ambassador and governor of South Carolina, is planning to announce that she will run for president on Feb. 15, according to one person briefed on the plan. And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to launch a bid too, running with wide support following a decisive 2022 reelection victory.
Haley said in 2021 that she wouldn’t run for president if Trump did, but she has changed course since. Trump told Hewitt on Thursday that she called him and asked him about her bid.
“I told her she should follow her heart,” Trump said, noting that Haley said “numerous times” that she wouldn’t run against him. “But she’s a very ambitious person. She just couldn’t stay in her seat.”
In his conversation with Hewitt, Trump also falsely claimed that DeSantis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin — who’s also seen as a potential 2024 presidential contender — only got elected because he endorsed them. The former president has repeatedly said this, and on Thursday he told Hewitt that DeSantis “begged me for an endorsement.”
Hewitt asked Trump if he believes Republicans whom he’s “helped” in the past — including Youngkin, DeSantis, Haley or former secretary of state Mike Pompeo — should stay out of the race.
“Yeah, I would say that, but I know how life works, and I know how politics works,” Trump said. “Time goes by, and then they want to run, because they’re ambitious people. But you know, they’re polling very poorly.”