Which 2024 candidates won 2021?

Opportunist Trump takes a look at who never liked Trump in the first place

Chris Christie, Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo

In the 2016 presidential primary, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said of his opponent Trump: “Always beware of the candidate for public office who has the quick and easy answer to a complicated problem. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has said Trump is “anything a governor doesn’t want from a president.” And Rep. Mike Pompeo, perplexed for Marco Rubio during the Kansas caucus, tried to equate Trump with the Republican caricature of Barack Obama: “We spent 7.5 years with an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution. We don’t need four more years.

All three quickly stifled their criticism and went to work for Trump – Christie for a brief period as head of the transition team before being sacked, Haley as Trump’s ambassador to the UN and Pompeo in as Director of the CIA and Secretary of State to Trump. Now all three clearly want to run for president in 2024, but don’t know how to run against their former boss.

Pompeo, according to New York TimesMaggie Haberman, told Trump privately that he would run regardless of the former president’s decision. Shortly after reporting this information, a Pompeo ally told Haberman that the former secretary was just doing a to joke. Yet Pompeo clearly spent 2021 preparing for a race, launching a new political action committee and travel to key states. When asked what his message would be if he did execute, all Pompeo had was remaining talking points taken from Rick Santorum’s unsuccessful offers: “a return to the idea that the family is at the center of America”. Without any provocative justification for running against Trump, Pompeo remains barely known.

During Trump’s presidency, even though he did not have a formal job in the White House, Christie managed to stay close enough to Trump that he caught the president’s Covid. Now Christie’s tone has abruptly changed, and he’s one of Trump’s most outspoken Republican critics, even going after a new book, Republican rescue. But confronting his past and present views has proven awkward. “The book’s schizophrenia is so disguised it seems tactical,” the conservative columnist wrote Georges will, “Christie says, No one worked harder than me to put my 20-year-old friend in place and keep him there, and he’s a liar and a relic.” Maybe that’s why hardly anyone buys what Christie sells, literally: her new book only sold 2,289 copies in its first week.

But when it comes to political schizophrenia, no one is as committed as Nikki Haley.

In January, Haley was prepared to tell the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee that “Trump’s actions since election day will be judged harshly by history.” Later that month, she told POLITICO magazine: “I am deeply disturbed by what happened to him” and: “We have to recognize that he has let us down. He took a path that he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have gone, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. Then just three months later, after it became clear that many Republicans were still listening to him after the Jan.6 uprising, Haley changed tack, declaring, “I wouldn’t introduce myself if President Trump did, and I would tell him about it.” Then in October, she seemed more ambiguous: “At the start of 2023, if I decided that there is a place for me, if I decided that there is a reason to move, I would pick up the phone and meet the president… We work on it together. No longer greatly disturbed by Trump, Haley added, “We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the pre-Trump era.

Did Christie, Haley and Pompeo make good use of 2021? No. They haven’t figured out how to properly break with Trump without exposing their cowardly opportunism.

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