Trump’s Republican Rivals Are Afraid of Him, Will Hurd Says

(Bloomberg) -- Presidential hopeful Will Hurd said his GOP primary rivals aren’t ready to be president if they’re afraid to stand up to Donald Trump.

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“You can’t kiss the behind of your opponent. That’s not a winning strategy,” Hurd, a former congressman from Texas, said from Dallas in an interview on Bloomberg Television on Thursday. “They are afraid.”

Hurd’s comments are thinly veiled knocks at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and other opponents seeking the Republican nomination who he says have been far too circumspect in their criticism of the former president amid a slew of criminal indictments. Last month, Republicans booed Hurd at an Iowa dinner after he said Trump was running for office to avoid prison.

Read More: Hurd Says Trump Running Because He Knows He Won’t Survive Prison

Hurd said he has met the 40,000-donor requirement to qualify for the first Republican debate next week in Milwaukee. He also believes he will meet the 1% support level in polls needed to meet the Republican National Committee‘s threshold for voter backing. He has until Monday to qualify.

Hurd reiterated that he won’t sign an RNC pledge to support the eventual nominee no matter who it is. Failing to do so could potentially keep him from participating in the debate. Trump has also said he won’t sign the Republican loyalty pledge and isn’t expected at the debate next week.

“I think we’re going to be able to resolve this with the RNC,” Hurd said.

A strong showing at the debate is crucial for Hurd’s campaign. As one of the lowest-polling and least-funded candidates, he needs the exposure. The latest numbers from FiveThirtyEight, which aggregates polling data, has Hurd with 0.2% support. Trump is leading the pack with 54%, followed by DeSantis with 15%.

Hurd, 45, steers away from culture-war issues, preferring to focus on foreign policy, the economy and technology. He said he is broadly supportive of the US continuing to supply Ukraine with equipment and weapons, a contrast with many conservative Republicans in Congress who are calling to cut off financial support.

Hurd, who was until June a board member of the ChatGPT parent company OpenAI, also has cast himself as a tech-friendly politician. He said that the emerging technology has the power to be a useful educational tool, but that it needs oversight and regulation. He said that AI needs to follow the law and that major applications of the technology should require permits.

With President Joe Biden’s suffering at the polls — a recent Quinnipiac survey found him with just 37% support — there’s a ripe opportunity for Republicans to win the presidency in 2024, Hurd said. It shouldn’t be hard to find a winning candidate, he emphasized.

“All we gotta do is put up someone who’s not a jerk, who’s not a racist, who’s not a homophobe, who’s not a misogynist and we can see victories in places we probably haven’t seen,” Hurd said.

(Adds that Hurd has met a threshold for participating in the GOP debate in the fourth paragraph.)

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