RICHMOND, Virginia — The race for the White House is just five months from the first state primary.
As a crowded field of Republicans looks to take on former President Donald Trump, he’s trying to stay out of the courtroom so he can remain on the campaign trail.
The former president remains widely popular with the Republican Party base.
As he runs for a third time, Trump continues to spend much of his time questioning the 2020 election outcome, which is also at the center of his most recent indictment. Still, many of his opponents decline to confront him on it, which some say allows him to keep his position as the front-runner in next year’s GOP presidential primary.
Speaking before hundreds, seven GOP hopefuls kept silent on Trump’s mounting legal cases during Iowa Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson’s barbecue over the weekend.
The candidates focused instead on presenting themselves as better alternatives to President Joe Biden.
“Biden’s policies have failed this country. We need to go in a different direction,” Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “Here’s our vision to reverse American decline. If that is the choice, we are going to win and we are going to win across the country. If the election is a referendum on other things that are not forward-looking, then I’m afraid that Republicans will lose.”
At a recent state Republican event in South Carolina, Trump addressed the new federal charges against him, arguing opponents are bringing the charges for political reasons.
“The fake charges put forth by the Biden sham, we call it a sham indictment,” Trump said. “And you know, the man (DOJ special counsel Jack Smith) that’s suing, I really believe he’s mentally ill. But these are outrageous.
Trump pleaded not guilty Thursday to crimes related to trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The Justice Department is charging him with orchestrating a scheme to block the peaceful transfer of power. Charges include conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, is now his Republican rival for the 2024 presidential nomination. A magistrate judge warned Trump against attempting to influence witnesses, which could include Pence, who testified before the grand jury.
A recent Associated Press-NORC poll finds that only 22% of Republicans have high confidence that votes in the upcoming presidential election will be counted accurately compared to 71% of Democrats.
It underscores a partisan divide fueled by false claims related to the 2020 presidential election.
The Republican National Committee has set the first GOP debate for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
So far seven candidates have met the requirements to appear on the stage.