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Trump's White House bid comes as the GOP shapes its future after frustrating midterms

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

For more analysis on Trump's run and Republican tensions, we're joined by Republican strategist Alice Stewart, who previously worked with a number of prominent Republicans, including Senator Rick Scott when he was Florida's governor. Good morning. And thanks for being on the program, Alice.

ALICE STEWART: Good morning, Leila. Great to be with you.

FADEL: So my first big question really is, should Donald Trump be the Republican Party's candidate for the 2024 presidential election?

STEWART: That's certainly what Donald Trump would like to see happen. But I can assure you, up and down the Republican ranks, people are wanting to turn the page from him. And we heard in his speech last night that he says it's time to make America even greater again. And one thing that jumped out with me in his speech is that we need to go far, fast. And the problem is he did go far, and he failed. Donald Trump's brand of extremism has met its expiration date.

And the last person you talked with made some excellent points in terms of he's done a great deal for the Republican Party and building and solidifying the base. But his constant efforts to deny the elections and conspiracy theories and relitigate the past election in 2020 was tiring on many people. And candidates that he endorsed that espoused those policy points lost widespread across the board in this midterm election. And many people are saying it's just time to turn the page.

FADEL: Now, you point out that his form of extremism, of denying the election, that lost in the midterms. But I wonder why, previous to that voting day, so many prominent Republicans didn't call him out for those lies.

STEWART: Quite frankly, there are a lot of people that believe that there is widespread voter fraud. I do not. I think we have free and fair elections. And every day, if you're in public office or you are surrounded in politics, you should remind voters that our election process is one of integrity. And we should encourage people to vote. The fact we had record numbers of voters turn out in this election goes to show that people do have confidence in the process.

And some of the issues that the former president talked about last night that he would focus on, in addition to the conspiracy theories, was to improve our economy, secure the border and achieve energy independence. These are key tenets of the Republican Party. And there are many people, many faces that have indicated they would want to run in 2024 that would put these on the agenda and do so in a positive message, looking forward, talking about pocketbook issues that are critical to the American people. And that's the kind of face and voice that Republican voters that I've talked to across the country and up and down the ranks of the party would want to see.

FADEL: You mentioned other faces. There's a lot of speculation around Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis. I wonder, though, do you worry that the party could split? I mean, Trump still has a powerful base. There are others emerging as powerful in the party. What does this mean for the future of the Republican Party?

STEWART: Look; a healthy, robust, vigorous primary is important. And it's part of the process. I've been on five presidential campaigns. And that's how you test the voice and the will of the party. We're going to have several people put their name in the ring. And that's a healthy part of letting the base decide who they want to support them. But I will say this. If Donald Trump thinks he is going - if he's going to get to the top by insulting popular governors like DeSantis and Youngkin, he's making a tremendous mistake. I think he needs to focus on the issues that he wants to espouse and stop attacking people that are popular and successful as state governors.

FADEL: That's Republican strategist Alice Stewart. Thank you so much for your time this morning.

STEWART: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF VITAMIN STRING QUARTET'S "THANK U, NEXT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.