The Republican presidential primary got a little smaller on Monday evening. Will Hurd, the former representative for Texas’s Twenty-third Congressional District, a massive district spanning parts of both South and West Texas along the Mexican border, announced that he was ending his campaign. “While I appreciate all the time and energy our supporters have given, it is important to recognize the realities of the political landscape and the need to consolidate our party around one person to defeat both Donald Trump and President Biden,” Hurd wrote in a fundraising email to supporters. The announcement comes fewer than two weeks after Hurd told supporters via email that, after missing the cutoff for both candidate debates, his campaign was at “an inflection point.” But to anyone watching the 2024 presidential race unfold, it has long been clear that Hurd just didn’t have the cash nor the name recognition to make an already unlikely presidential run worthwhile.
Hurd was once a rising star in the Republican Party. Before assuming office, he served for nearly a decade in the Central Intelligence Agency, and his background in national security, and the multicultural district he represented, helped raise his profile. He’s also Black, brainy, and young. As I previously reported, he had a unique platform and pitch for why he should run for higher office, centered around criticizing the former president. The problem with running for president, however, is that a lot of what made Hurd stand out in Congress didn’t necessarily translate to the comically large 2024 field. Take race for instance: Hurd was one of three Black candidates in the Republican presidential primary (see: Tim Scott and Larry Elder) and was one of six people of color. At 46, he was one of four candidates under 50 (see: Vivek Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis, and Francis Suarez). But perhaps most importantly, he was competing with two other candidates (see: Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie) to occupy a narrow—or perhaps nonexistent—anti-Trump lane.
Indeed, Hurd is a veteran Trump basher, dating back to the former president’s 2016 campaign. That’s probably why he’s out of the race after a mere four months. His appeals to “common sense” and bipartisanship would have made sense if he were running for president in 2000 or 2008. But that’s not where the Republican Party is today, said Republican political consultant Matt Mackowiak, who called Hurd a “friend” and has worked with him on his congressional races. “To a certain extent, Hurd was kind of hoping and wishing that the Republican Party electorate nationally is different than it is. He’s wishing it was more like it might’ve been ten years ago in a pre-Trump era,” Mackowiak told me. “[Hurd] would love to play a role in having a nominee that’s not Trump—whether it be him or someone else. But the reality is that we’re not in a post-Trump era.”
Fact is, GOP voters just aren’t ready to move on from the former president. Nationally, polls suggest that Republican primary voters overwhelmingly prefer Trump above anyone else in the field. And Texas’s Republican voters want him too, but there’s evidence that they’ll settle for DeSantis.
Hurd attempted to position himself as the only candidate who could take on Trump directly. Hurd was right on the merits—it took his former opponents months to even begin lobbing softball attacks toward the former president. Perhaps the buzziest moment of Hurd’s brief campaign came during a speaking appearance in Iowa, where he was jeered by a crowd of Republicans after saying that Trump was only running for president “to stay out of prison.” But Hurd was vying for a thin slice of primary voters, the minority of the larger GOP.
Exclusively appealing to anti-Trump or Trump-skeptical voters wasn’t the only problem with Hurd’s campaign. His style as a grown-up, bipartisan technocrat who refused to throw red meat with aplomb just doesn’t jibe with today’s GOP. “He’s under the impression that there are a lot of closeted, quiet conservative voters that don’t like the culture war stuff, don’t like the drama, and are looking for somebody that is just going to be a competent conservative governor,” said Tim Miller, a Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign and is now an outspoken critic of Trump. “That’s just wrong. I wish that that were true, but it isn’t.”
According to Miller, “the whole premise of Hurd’s campaign was fundamentally flawed.” Of course, a plurality of Republican voters—depending on which poll you read—are ready to move on from Trump. So, in that sense, Hurd’s voice had some value and distinction even if you never got to hear him in a nationally televised debate. But those preferences aren’t playing out in the primary just yet. Now the Republican field has essentially become a two-way battle between Trump and an erstwhile Trump ally.
Hurd was a long-shot, even in the heady early days of the primary. For one, he lacked national name recognition. In polls, he consistently hovered near the bottom of the pack or barely registered support. Even his fellow anti-Trump comrades implicitly criticized him and others for keeping the field crowded rather than coalescing around one anti-Trump candidate. And even in Texas, Hurd struggled to get a toehold. A Texas Politics Project poll from September had Trump’s favorability among Texas voters at 41 percent compared with 35 percent for DeSantis; voters weren’t even asked their preference on Hurd. “All these state polls are a reflection of their name ID, generally,” Mackowiak said. “Hurd hasn’t done enough to get well-enough known across the state of Texas.”
So what’s next for Hurd? The usual glib explanation is that people run for president for the exposure to sell a book, to get a gig as a cable news talking head, or to lay the groundwork for a future candidacy (whether that be the White House or another office). The former congressman has remained tight-lipped about whether he’ll run for public office again. “I’m looking forward to, one, taking my wife on a honeymoon, and two, I’m going to stay actively involved in issues that are important to me: foreign policy, technology, and the future of our country,” Hurd told me. “And what shape that takes, as soon as that clarifies, I’ll let everybody know.”
Miller said it might be wise for Hurd to set his sights back on Texas and run as an independent centrist or a conservative Democrat where there’s a far-right incumbent (as in the attorney general or lieutenant governor’s races set for 2026). “I think that there’s room in Texas for someone to try that,” Miller said. “But, no, these guys don’t seem willing to try it. They want to fight for a party that doesn’t exist anymore. And if they want to do that, they’re going to keep losing.”
But you haven’t seen the last of Hurd. For one, it’s likely he won’t sit idly by during next year’s race. During his exit, Hurd endorsed former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and encouraged other 2024 duds to drop out too. If nothing else, he could be a voice for the party whenever the post-Trump era comes. Hurd could give the presidency another shot—even in 2028 or 2032. “This run shows that Hurd wants to be part of the future,” Mackowiack said. “We’re just not in there yet.”