In what is being billed as the first mass audition for the 2024 presidential election cycle, potential GOP candidates will take to the stage — or video screen — for the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership conference this weekend in Las Vegas.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, riding a wave of popularity following his reelection on Nov. 8, will be the keynote speaker Saturday night at The Venetian Resort. Mike Pence, the vice president under Donald Trump, was set to take the stage Friday night with a keynote address.
Trump, who on Tuesday became the first person to declare his candidacy for 2024, will not be in attendance, but will speak via video conference on Saturday, as will Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Pence is among several presumptive candidates who have criticized Trump, saying the former president was "reckless" during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and that the GOP has "better choices" in 2024 than his former boss.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, also scheduled to speak, said the former president is standing on shakier ground than in 2016 and 2020.
"Maybe there's a little blood in the water and the sharks are circling," Hogan, a longtime Trump critic, told The Associated Press.
Last week's midterm results, Hogan said, have given more Republican leaders the confidence to voice similar concerns.
"I don't think we've ever gotten to this point before," he said.
Others scheduled to appear include presumptive House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California and Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, neither of whom intends to run for president in 2024; Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Tim Scott of South Carolina; Mike Pompeo, a former secretary of state under Trump; and Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump.
The Venetian, which has held the conference for several years, was owned by Miriam Adelson, the widow of billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who before his death in January 2021 at age 87 was a huge Republican donor and political kingmaker. The AP reported Miriam Adelson, 76, will remain neutral in the Republican primary race, according to the family's longtime political gatekeeper, Andy Abboud.
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