Ex-Trump chief of staff warns “he’s the only Republican who could lose” as allies pan 2024 speech

Longtime Trump allies are turning on him as he launches third presidential bid

Published November 16, 2022 12:18PM (EST)

Mick Mulvaney on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2020 on February 28, 2020 in National Harbor, MD.  (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Mick Mulvaney on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2020 on February 28, 2020 in National Harbor, MD. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump's third bid for the White House may harm the Republican Party because he's the "only" candidate who could lose in 2024, Trump's former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney predicted on Tuesday.

Asked on CNN Tuesday night if he thought Trump's announcement at Mar-a-Lago was good for the GOP, Mulvaney responded: "No I don't. I think he's the only Republican who could lose."

Mulvaney served as Trump's director of the Office of Management and Budget and then served as Trump's third acting chief of staff between 2018 to 2020. 

A growing number of Republicans believe Trump cannot garner enough support for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election. With the rise of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the failure of many Trump-endorsed candidates in the midterm elections last week, pundits believe Trump is not worth the risk in a general election.

Mulvaney believes that while Trump will likely win in the primaries, he won't get far against President Joe Biden, who received about 7 million more votes in 2020. If Trump wins the primary, Mulvaney believes that he'll be a distraction 

"It will be about Donald Trump, the same thing we saw in 2020," Mulvaney said on CNN. "No one voted for Joe Biden. Everybody voted for or against Donald Trump. It was a referendum on him."

He also said a Trump nomination would mean "the 2024 race is not about Joe Biden or whatever Democrat is on the ticket, not about inflation, not about world events, not about abortion."

"That's what we're hurtling toward in 2024," he warned. "And I don't see the outcome being any different two years from now than it was two years ago."

Other former allies of Trump are now backing out and washing their hands clean of the former president. On Wednesday, Stephen Schwarzman, a major Trump donor and chief executive of Blackstone, announced that he would not support him this time around.

"America does better when its leaders are rooted in today and tomorrow, not today and yesterday," Schwarzman said in a statement to Axios. "It is time for the Republican party to turn to a new generation of leaders and I intend to support one of them in the presidential primaries."

Former Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper was similarly displeased with the Mar-a-Lago announcement when appearing on CNN Tuesday night. 

"I wish he wouldn't," Esper said of Trump's third consecutive run for president. "I think he's unfit for office. I thought his remarks were very subdued and very uninspiring and I think it's time for the Republican Party to go to more unified leaders and work on policy issues and not on personal attacks."

Esper also claimed that Trump "puts himself before [the] country." 

"So, to me, that's shortcoming number one," Esper elaborated. "I believe he has integrity issues and character as well. I don't think he's an honest person. We saw the falsehoods in the remarks that came out of his remarks last night, with regard to this. And Americans need a leader they can trust, that they have confidence in, that is putting them above an individual's own self-interest. This is that's what we need from leadership. I've mentioned, that's what Ronald Reagan gave us."

Like many GOP leaders, Esper believes that the party can succeed with its agenda without Trump as a figurehead.

"My message has been there were accomplishments in the Trump administration … better border security, conservative judges, lower taxes, deregulation," he told CNN. "I think you can get all those things with a new generation of Republican leaders who may be more inline with what I consider myself, a Reagan Republican, who can do so without the baggage and personal attacks and self-centeredness of Donald Trump and can grow the Republican base as well."

Pointing to the failure of the "red wave" in the 2022 midterms last week, Esper said Trump is "incapable of winning an election" and that he's done more to help Democrats than Republicans. 

"There's no reason why we shouldn't have a bigger margin in the House and we should have taken the Senate and yet we haven't," Esper said. He put DeSantis at the top of his list for the Republican nomination.

Trump's own family members are distancing themselves from his 2024 campaign. Ivanka Trump, who served as a key advisor in the last two Trump campaigns alongside husband Jared Kushner, did not attend the Mar-a-Lago campaign launch and stated that she is stepping away from politics now.

"I love my father very much. This time around, I am choosing to prioritize my young children and the private life we are creating as a family," she wrote in a statement Tuesday night.

While she said she "will always be proud of many of our administration's accomplishments," she added "I do not plan to be involved in politics." 

"While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena," she said.

Ivanka Trump also gave an exclusive interview to Fox News claiming she "never intended to go into politics," and that she "left it all on the field, and I don't miss it."

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, both Republicans, also rejected Trump's candidacy and believe their party won't win if he is chosen as the 2024 Republican nominee.

"Doubling down on losing isn't just foolish. It's a gift to the Democrats," Hogan wrote in a Tweet Tuesday night. "It is time to turn the page."

Hutchinson wrote that "there are better choices" for a Republican nominee and called Trump's message "self-indulgent."

"Trump is correct on Biden's failures, but his self-indulging message promoting anger has not changed. It didn't work in 2022 and won't work in 2024," wrote the governor.

Jeb Bush Jr. also claimed Trump was "weak," referring to him as "#SleepyDonnie."

"What a low energy speech by the Donald. Time for new leaders!" wrote Bush.

In addition to Mulvaney, other former staffers are coming out against Trump, including former White House director of strategic communications Alyssa Farah and deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews

"This started as, again, sort of professional, it was sort of on-script at first, but then just interspersing it with just outright lies, dabbling into conspiracy that maybe China had something to do with the midterms, something I haven't even seen on the dark corners of the internet," Farah told CNN on Tuesday.

"No credible person in the Republican Party wanted this announcement today, but this is going to get legs," Farah warned. "We are going to be covering him for the next two years and again there's a non-zero chance he could be president again."

Matthews added on Twitter that Trump's Mar-a-Lago address was "one of the most low-energy, uninspiring speeches I've ever heard from Trump."

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

MORE FROM Samaa Khullar

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Donald Trump Elections Ivanka Trump Mark Esper Mick Mulvaney Politics Ron Desantis