With an eye on both the midterm elections and 2024, a host of Republican lawmakers — including many potential presidential contenders — spoke in Las Vegas at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting this weekend. Most called this past week’s election outcomes a signifier of things to come during midterms.
“As we move forward, the signs are clear and the trends are unmistakable,” House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy said Saturday. “A Republican wave is underway.”
Attendees aim to ensure that GOP gains continue through 2024’s presidential election, with possible candidates making their case without explicitly stating their intentions.
“A lot of people have come here to audition,” said Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Saturday night.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Ambassador Nikki Haley, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Vice President Mike Pence all spoke at the event. The conference also featured a video message from former President Donald Trump.
“We will win back the House. We will win back the Senate,” Trump said in his video address. “And we will win back in 2024 that beautiful white building sometimes referred to as the White House.”
While there has been no shortage of commentary on the fact that Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin kept Trump at an arm’s length, most of the speakers in Las Vegas leaned hard into their support of Trump.
“President Trump’s single most redeeming characteristic — the man has a steel backbone and he doesn’t back down,” Cruz said Friday to boisterous applause. “After years of Republicans scared of their own shadows, there’s a reason we celebrate a leader who’s willing to stand up and fight.”
“Who’s going to be the nominee [in 2024]? I don’t know, but I do know this, that Donald Trump was a hell of a president,” said Graham.
On Friday night, Scott, who is the chair of the National Republican Senate Committee, told ABC News that Trump will do “whatever he can” to help Republicans take control of both chambers of Congress in 2022. Depending on the race, it could mean standing back.
“You should listen to the candidate because they know their state and they know their race,” Scott said. “And so you should let them figure out how involved you should be and that’s anybody, including the NRSC.”
On Saturday, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told attendees that connecting voters on issues they care about and presenting a united party to the electorate are the keys to winning more elections.
The Republican Jewish Coalition meeting typically centers on foreign policy, like relations with Israel and with other nations in the region. Former Vice President Mike Pence largely touted the accomplishments of the Trump administration as it pertains to Israel, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
“Under the Trump-Pence administration, if the world knew nothing else the world knew this. America stands with Israel,” said Pence. “Our administration was able to take historic steps to strengthen the ties in the American people and the Jewish state of Israel.”
In addition to U.S.-Israeli relations, this time around at the annual meeting there was a great deal of attention paid to domestic issues.
Among the most talked-about issues was teaching so-called critical race theory in schools, a topic that has emerged as a flashpoint in conservative circles. Every speaker referred to critical race theory during their remarks, with some, like Haley, calling it “liberal indoctrination.”
“We’ve got the midterm elections next year where the stakes couldn’t be higher,” she said Saturday. “Those elections are about whether we stop socialism, defend our borders, return on fiscal sanity and get the liberal indoctrination out of our schools.”
“We’re watching critical race theory and during the woke curriculum infiltrate our school districts,” Noem said.
Opposition to vaccine mandates was also a frequently mentioned topic.
DeSantis spoke of his opposition to voting reform, framing changes as a danger to Republican ability to wield power.
“They want to make conservative Americans second-class citizens,” said DeSantis. “They want to lock us out from being able to exercise power to be able to exercise policy.”
President Joe Biden’s agenda, including his newly passed infrastructure plan, also made waves. Most framed Biden’s agenda as being hijacked by progressives in comparison to how he campaigned. The word “socialism” was used freely to describe the Democratic agenda throughout the event.
During Christie’s remarks Saturday, he cited his record of supporting Trump, but implored the crowd to give up on trying to relitigate the 2020 election. The response from the crowd to Christie, an ABC News contributor, was tepid.
“We can no longer talk about the past and past elections. No matter where you stand on that issue, no matter where you stand, it is over,” said Christie.