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Eyes on 2024: Search for Trump alternative focuses on DeSantis and Haley

The news comes as the anti-Trump effort within the GOP has floundered.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley are emerging as the top two alternatives for Republicans who do not want to see former President Donald Trump win the GOP nomination — at least for major GOP donors. 

NBC News’ Allan Smith, Jonathan Allen, Matt Dixon and Dasha Burns were first to report on Friday that major Republican donors are gathering in Dallas on Oct. 13, where they’ll hear presentations from the DeSantis and Haley campaigns (the candidates themselves will not attend). GOP megadonors Ken Griffin, Harlan Crow and Paul Singer are organizing the meeting. 

“Donors are not expected to be asked to formally consolidate their support behind one candidate during the meeting,” write Smith, Allen, Dixon and Burns. “But the gathering offers both Haley and DeSantis camps to try and convince the group their candidate is the most viable alternative to Trump, who leads the GOP primary polls by wide margins.”

The meeting comes as the anti-Trump effort within the GOP has floundered, NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard and Ben Kamisar reported last week. 

Win It Back, a PAC tied to the conservative Club for Growth, has slowed its anti-Trump spending. And in a memo to donors last week, the group’s leader, David McIntosh, wrote that their ad campaign saw “diminishing returns” in hurting Trump’s standing. 

“While we successfully identified messaging and a series of ads that lowered President Trump’s support across our testing and polls, none of the alternative candidates have consolidated the non-Trump vote yet,” McIntosh wrote.

In other campaign news … 

Trump trials: Trump is expected to appear in court on Monday and Tuesday as part of the civil fraud trial, NBC News’ Tom Winter, Jonathan Dienst and Garrett Haake report. He’s also been using the trial to fundraise for his campaign, per CNBC. In the federal election interference case, prosecutors submitted a new court filing Friday highlighting Trump’s recent comments in a push for a gag order in the case. 

Mister independent?: Mediaite reported on Friday that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who is currently running for the Democratic presidential nomination, will announce later this month that he will run for president as an independent instead. Kennedy has not yet publicly confirmed that news, but he did share a video on X teasing a “major announcement” in Philadelphia on Oct. 9. Politico also reported that the pro-Kennedy super PAC, American Values 2024, has begun polling a potential independent bid

The fight for Iowa: Trump is focusing on counties in eastern Iowa that he flipped in 2016 in his bid to win the Hawkeye State caucuses, per the Associated Press. And former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is also focusing on Iowa, looking to capitalize on momentum from the second GOP debate, per the New York Times. 

Labor relations: The Washington Post explores President Joe Biden’s relationship with United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain. 

DPCC loses DP: Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., announced Sunday he is stepping down from his post as co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Caucus “to avoid unnecessary distractions.” He noted his calls for a primary challenger to Biden “are incongruent with the majority of my caucus.”

Battle for the Senate: CNN spoke to National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines, R-Mont., who weighed in on multiple races. He advised Arizona Republican Kari Lake to “look to the future” in her expected run; said Republicans will “have to keep an eye on Texas;” and signaled the committee would stay out of the Ohio GOP Senate primary. On Trump, Daines said the former president “provides a lot of strength for us down ballot in many key states.”

Abortion on the ballot: Democrats running for governor this year in three red states — Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi — will test different approaches to running on the abortion issue in conservative areas. 

Shutdown politics: Even though a shutdown was averted for now, the threat still looms later this year. But some Republican strategists did not expect a shutdown to endanger the GOP’s slim House majority.  

All eyes on Virginia: Virginia’s legislative elections next month will provide clues for 2024, and Democrats are upping their investment as GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin rakes in cash for the GOP. Axios reports that the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is spending an additional $1 million on the races.