GOP governor: Debate candidates must 'attack Donald Trump' to ensure 'his path to victory shrinks'

GOP governor: Debate candidates must 'attack Donald Trump' to ensure 'his path to victory shrinks'
DES MOINES, IOWA - AUGUST 12: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump is directed to his vehicle after speaking at the Steer N' Stein bar at the Iowa State Fair on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former President Donald Trump are visiting the fair, a tradition in one of the first states to hold caucuses in 2024. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images).

Former President Donald Trump decided last week that he will not attend the Republican National Committee's first 2024 presidential primary debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Wednesday, August 23rd. But his anticipated absence is an opportunity for candidates to "break free of Mr. Trump's drama, step out of his shadow, go on offense, attack, and present their case," New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) writes in a Monday New York Times opinion column.

The other hopefuls "need to see if they can catch fire this fall — and if they can't, they need to step aside, because winnowing down the field of candidates is the single best chance to stop Mr. Trump," Sununu says. "Too much is at stake for us to have wishful candidacies. While the other Republican candidates are running to save America, Mr. Trump is running to save himself."

Sununu believes that "candidates on the debate stage should not be afraid to attack Donald Trump. While it's true that Mr. Trump has an iron grip on more than 30 percent of the electorate, the other 60 percent or so is open to moving forward with a new nominee."

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If Trump secures the GOP nomination, Sununu warns, "Republicans will lose up and down the ballot. According to a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they would likely not support Mr. Trump in 2024 — not even Jimmy Carter had re-election numbers that bleak. Every candidate with an (R) next to their name, from school board to the statehouse, will be left to answer for the electoral albatross at the top of the ticket."

Sununu predicts that "ever the narcissist" Trump is "beatable" and "will spend the entire campaign whining about his legal troubles and bilking his supporters of their retirement savings to pay for his lawyers," noting that Trump's polling domination is "a reflection of the national conversation, name ID, and who is top of mind — not where the momentum is headed."

Sununu observes that Trump is "struggling" in the critical early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where "more than half of Republican primary voters — our party's most ardent voters — want someone not named Trump." To accomplish this, Sununu adds, "Trump must face a smaller field" because "it is only then that his path to victory shrinks."

Trump "will always have his die-hard base, but the majority is up for grabs," Sununu continues, and "candidates who seize on the opportunity and present a clear contrast to the former president will earn the votes."

READ MORE: Trump campaign weighing 'counter-programming' options to 'upstage' GOP debate: report

View Sununu's editorial at this link (subscription required).

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