Manafort on Trump challengers: GOP not one-candidate party

[CUOMO]

(NewsNation) — Donald Trump announced his third consecutive presidential bid Tuesday but many in the GOP, including his former campaign chair Paul Manafort, believe the Republican nomination is far from a sure thing due to the party’s “deep bench.”

“The primaries will allow the party to vent and in the process of doing that, it will allow whoever’s the victor to emerge stronger, not weaker,” Manafort said on NewsNation’s “CUOMO” Thursday.

Manafort served as Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman. He was convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and later received a pardon from Trump.

Manafort said Trump wanted to announce his 2024 presidential run before the midterms and that the information was already out there that he was going to enter the race.

“I mean, the announcement was simply putting a period at the end of the sentence. People say, ‘Well, he should have waited.’ Why?” Manafort questioned.

The Hill’s Nial Stannage says when it comes to the midterms, Trump had a miserable cycle. Stannage pointed to losses by high-profile candidates endorsed by Trump including Mehmet Oz, Doug Mastriano, Blake Masters and Tudor Dixon.

“Exit polls showed 58 percent of voters holding an unfavorable impression of Trump, far overtaking the 39 percent who view him favorably,” Stannage wrote. “Trump had once hoped to take advantage of a tailwind of success from the midterms. Instead, the GOP is debating the extent to which he is an electoral millstone around the party’s neck.”

As far as the outcome of the midterms goes, Manafort said it boils down to Republicans not being united when Democrats came together.

With a spotlight on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a potential presidential candidate and some pushing for change in the GOP, Manafort weighed in on his former boss’ chances to return to the White House.

DeSantis’ possible candidacy shows “that the Republicans have got a strong bench. They’re not just a one-candidate party. I think the Democrats should fear that, not welcome that,” Manafort said.

Manafort said he doesn’t view people talking about other politicians who may be qualified to be president other than Trump as a bad thing.

“DeSantis has got a great record. I mean, he’s a part of the future of the Republican Party. He’s a smart guy. He’s got options, and I think he’s doing the right thing now by sitting on the sidelines and letting the game come to him. It may come to him, it may not. It’s what he’s sorting through,” Manafort said. “But if he gets into the ring, he knows that it’s going to be a fight. He knows it’s not going to be just a spelling bee contest … it would be an interesting fight.”

But, what does chatter about other potential presidential candidates mean for Trump?

“He beat 15 guys last time, so he’s not bothered by numbers,” Manafort said, later adding: “But the point is, Trump is going to be able to run on a record. If you don’t agree with his record, meaning the American people, they’re going to have a chance to voice it again.”

“He believes that the Biden administration and the problems that the Biden administration is facing, many of which he believes that the Biden administration caused, contrasts very nicely with his record as president,” Manafort said about Trump. “He thinks that will give him the best chance to win in 2024. And to the people that will say, ‘Well, it’s time to turn the page, that we need the leader to focus in on the future, not the past,’ I recognize that political strategy. I mean, I understand it, but the reality is, we’ve got a guy who has a record (he) can point to, that can be the future. And that’s what his campaign will be all about.”

Manafort said he’s not sure if he will become involved in Trump’s 2024 campaign but said he will be speaking out in favor of certain issues Trump is discussing.

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