Republican strategists see a "fear of alienating Trump voters" among primary rivals

As expressed by authoritative voices within the GOP, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley and Mike Pence could be making the same mistake.

With just over a month before the debate between the Republican candidates for president, Donald Trump remains the clear leader in the polls. According to several Republican Party analysts, one of the causes of this current scenario is the lack of decisiveness of the other candidates when it comes to criticizing the former president.

With an average 32-point lead over his closest challenger, Ron DeSantis, Trump is sitting comfortably heading into the event, in which it is unknown whether he will participate. Only he, DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy and most recently, Chris Christie achieved one of the key eligibility requirements for the debate: having at least 40,000 unique donors nationally.

“Ultimately, Luke Skywalker had to face Darth Vader”

Some Republican analysts have been researching the causes that have led to the current poll numbers and have concluded that one could be the reluctance to criticize the former president by name.

According to them, this strategy seeks not to anger the former president’s voter base but could be counterproductive in the long run.

Speaking to The Hill, Doug Heye, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said that while “we’ve seen some criticism of Trump depending on the candidate, it’s usually been limited and it’s not been a situation where it’s taking on Trump directly.”

“Ultimately, Luke Skywalker had to face Darth Vader. He couldn’t sit back and wait for the force to take care of it for him. And that’s where the Republican candidates are going to have to go,” he added, making a Hollywood reference.

On the other hand, Alyssa Farah Griffin, who served as White House communications director during the Trump administration, assured that “when post-mortems of the ’24 GOP race are written: #1 will be the bad advice nearly all candidates got to not go after Trump.

Fear of alienating Trump voters materialized in candidates failing to stand out in any real way, while also failing to weaken their chief opponent,” she added in a Twitter post.

Tim Hagle, an associate professor at the University of Iowa, agreed. “It’s got to be something along the lines of, ‘We agree with Trump’s policies and what he did as president, but it’s time to move on.’ But so far, what we’ve seen is every time Trump gets indicted, he goes up in the polls,” he said.

Requirements to enter the RNC debate

The candidates are waiting for the August 23 debate so they can face Trump, but at this point, it is uncertain whether Trump will participate.

For starters, they will have to commit to supporting the eventual Republican nominee, something Trump is not in favor of. In addition, they must have donations from at least 40,000 domestic taxpayers, consistently obtain more than 1% in three national polls or in two national polls and one state, while having “at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in more than 20 states and/or territories.” Finally, they may not participate in any external debates.

The deadline to comply with the requirements will be August 21, only 48 hours before the debate. As to which polls will be valid, only those after June 1 will be counted.