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The GOP’s wealthiest contributors and biggest fundraisers will be in Palm Beach, Fla., this weekend for a Republican National Committee (RNC) donor retreat that’s also attracting more than half a dozen potential 2024 presidential contenders.
Among those expected to show up and mingle with some of the Republican Party’s biggest powerbrokers and rainmakers – according to multiple sources — are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rick Scott (the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair) and Marco Rubio of Florida. All six politicians are considered possible hopefuls in the next race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Also speaking at the conference is another GOP politician who’s flirting with a 2024 White House run – former President Trump.
The two-day conference is being held at the Four Seasons resort in Palm Beach – but on Saturday evening it will shift about 4 miles north, to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where the former president will address the attendees.
Former U.S. President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., Feb. 8, 2021. (REUTERS/Marco Bello)
The starting line for the next presidential race is still more than a year and a half away – following the 2022 midterm elections – but this weekend’s donor retreat is the third gathering, or cattle call, already this year of potential GOP White House hopefuls, following the RNC’s winter meeting in January and the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February. And the RNC’s committee member meeting in Dallas, Texas, in a couple of weeks could see a similar collection of possible 2024 contenders.
“That’s campaign 101,” Henry Barbour, a longtime RNC committee member from Mississippi, told Fox News. “If you’re thinking about running in ’24, you want to meet with not only the most important donors, but the most important fundraisers, because so many of these donors are able to go out and raise money well beyond what they can personally give.”
Barbour added that “the same is true for the RNC committee members meeting in a couple of weeks in Dallas. These are the activists and grassroots leaders of the party in their states. So these are important people to meet if you’re thinking about ’24.”
While the appearance by the former president as well as the other possible White House hopefuls will grab attention, those involved with the planning of the retreat say the main objective of the conference is to share with donors the RNC’s plan to grow the party and how donors can be part of that mission. The GOP, out of power in both the White House and Congress, aims to win back majorities in the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.
The pilgrimage on Saturday to Mar-a-Lago also to a degree illustrates the continued sway Trump continues to hold over the party, more than two months after his departure from the White House. And that’s not sitting well with some in the donor class. A conference attendee who spoke with Fox News but asked not to be quoted voiced reservations about the former president’s immense clout.
Barbour, who’s not attending the retreat, noted that “it’s a big party. You have some donors who think that Trump’s influence is not big enough and we have some donors who think that Trump’s influence is too much.”
Former President Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
((AP Photo/John Raoux))
“The party is bigger than any one candidate. Clearly, Donald Trump is a big force in the Republican Party but I think the key for us moving forward and winning elections, particularly national elections, is to focus on our conservative principles and ideas and being a party that practices the politics of addition rather than division,” he emphasized.
Another concern being voiced is Trump’s fundraising prowess post-presidency and whether that’s a competitive threat to the RNC’s fundraising. Fox News confirmed that Save America, the former president’s leadership PAC, has a massive $85 million cash on hand.
While prospective presidential contenders – like Trump – are always raising money for their political agenda, Barbour noted that “the difference is, Trump’s a former president,” which puts the GOP in unchartered waters.
The RNC’s spring donor retreat isn’t the only game in town the next few days.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina are at Mar-a-Lago, hosting a two-day gathering for their newly formed nonprofit the Conservative Partnership Institute.
And the three-day Save America Summit kicked off Thursday. The conference, hosted by the pro-Trump organization Women for America First, is being held at the former president’s Doral golf club and resort in Miami.
As Fox News first reported earlier this week, embattled Rep. Matt Gaetz will speak at a conference on Friday evening. It will likely be the first time that Gaetz will speak in front of a live audience since reports surfaced last week that the FBI has been investigating him since last summer amid allegations he had sex with a minor and paid for sex with women of legal age. The congressman has denied the allegations, including during an interview last week on Fox News.
Among the conservative politicians also speaking at the summit is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who was removed from her committee assignments by the House Democratic majority for her past social media postings in support of conspiracy theories. Greene is scheduled to introduce Gaetz at the conference.
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Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky – a 2016 GOP presidential candidate who may harbor national ambitions again in 2024 – and Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Kat Cammack of Florida are among the other conservatives speaking at the event. There’s speculation — but no confirmation — that Trump will make an appearance at the summit.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.
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