‘Hope is not a strategy’: former 2016 Rubio adviser says GOP rivals must engage Trump 

Republican strategist Terry Sullivan on Sunday called out 2024 GOP primary candidates for not engaging directly enough with former President Trump, the leading primary candidate by far, saying they have no chance of winning the party’s nomination if they avoid attacking the front-runner.

Sullivan, who managed Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential campaign, warned 2024 candidates against being passive when running against Trump, reflecting on his experience managing a candidate who faced Trump in his first bid for the White House.

“Hope is not a strategy,” Sullivan said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” when asked whether he thought former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a chance of jumping in the polls from what usually are single-digit numbers.

“In 2016, there was a lot of hope that you could be the last one when, you know, there’s no way Trump can get over 50, and there’s all these different things. And so I think with Haley and a lot of them, they’ve got to be able to go after the guy in the first place,” Sullivan added. “He’s the de facto nominee. He’s the de facto incumbent. If you don’t engage him and take him on, he’s going to skate to victory.”

Sullivan’s concerns echo some others’ in the party, including former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who earlier on the show Sunday warned that noncompetitive candidates should drop out of the race. Hogan had said he did not seek the GOP nomination himself because the candidate pool was already too crowded, warning of a repeat of 2016. 

Trump has maintained a sizeable lead in virtually all national polls in the last several months. Most polls have put Trump 30 or 40 points ahead of the second-place candidate, and candidates have largely struggled to balance what they perceive as the need to appeal to Trump’s base as well as to voters who have largely sworn off Trump and his brand of politics. 

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