GOP Financiers Still Looking for a Trump Alternative

Donald Trump Jr. and fiancee Kimberly Guilfoyle at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 23, 2023 after the first Republican presidential debate. (Photo by PEDRO UGARTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Happy Monday! Did the first debate shake up the Republican presidential primary race in any meaningful way? Fire away in the comments.

Up to Speed

  • Donald Trump’s presidential campaign told Politico it raised $7.1 million through Saturday following the former president’s brief stop Thursday evening in an Atlanta-area jail, where his mug shot was taken in connection with the Fulton County indictment over his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election there. His campaign said it raised more than $4 million on Friday alone.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy, who during last Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate seemed to be auditioning for the role of Donald Trump understudy, raised $625,000 in the 24-hours following the primetime event, his campaign tells The Dispatch. The wealthy biotechnology entrepreneur and novice candidate was a consensus winner of the debate, along with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, per polling and focus groups conducted immediately afterwards. The former president did not participate.
  • Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy signaled Sunday that the Republican conference could be proceeding soon with impeaching President Joe Biden. “If you look at all the information we have been able to gather so far, it is a natural step forward that you would have to go to an impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy said on Fox News. His remarks follow months of investigation by House Republicans into the business activities of Hunter Biden, which has raised some questions about President Biden’s knowledge of influence peddling.
  • Federal prosecutors are reportedly weighing bringing criminal charges against Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez in connection with an ongoing investigation into whether he and his wife received undisclosed gifts in exchange for political favors, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a Sunday press conference that he will cancel a scheduled campaign trip to South Carolina on Monday as he prepares for Tropical Storm Idalia in Florida. “We’re locked in on this, we’re going to get this job done,” DeSantis said.

No Clarity for GOP Donors After Debate

MILWAUKEE—The broader community of wealthy Republican donors is still sitting out the 2024 campaign, waiting for a consensus alternative to Donald Trump to emerge after the first GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee that did not appear to shake up a primary so far dominated by the former president.

“Donald Trump is still the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” a veteran Republican donor told The Dispatch during a breakfast interview in downtown Milwaukee, the morning after Wednesday evening’s debate. This contributor actually did sign on with a GOP contender awhile back. But as part of his regular conversations with other donors, both before and after the first presidential debate, he expected little change in the existing dynamic.

“We don’t have enough information to say: ‘There’s anybody that has the definitive chance of beating this guy.’ So, I think most people are going to still sit on their pocket books,” this Republican financier said. This individual’s evaluation of where his contributor colleagues stand was backed up in multiple interviews with senior GOP operatives who interact with the party’s well-heeled mega donors.

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