Boxes of classified documents are stored inside the Mar-a-Lago Club's Storage Room in this photo included in Donald Trump's federal indictment. (US District Court/Southern District of Florida)

(CNN) — twice-indicted Donald Trump puts the Republican Party at a crossroads as we head into the 2024 election. Does the GOP lean into backing the current frontrunner who is campaigning on personal grievances, or support a candidate running to advance America’s greatness? And do his primary challengers choose loyalty to Trump over the rule of law?

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all 37 criminal charges related to his handling of classified documents. The former president then falsely claimed these were “his own documents” and that he “had every right” to keep them under the Presidential Records Act.

Trump is calling for fealty to him over fidelity to the rule of law and the constitution. He’s asking supporters to turn a blind eye to his impropriety and false claims that special counsel Jack Smith is a “thug” engaged in “political persecution.” In short, the misguided cries denouncing what he says are a double standard masquerade as an unspoken hope for no standard at all. This is not what the party of “law and order” represents.

With all due respect to the patriotic, good-hearted Trump supporters who took trains, planes and automobiles to get to Miami for his court appearance and Bedminster, New Jersey for his post-court rally, I encourage you to take your head out of the sand. Take off your bedazzled rose-colored glasses and take a good hard look at the reality of this losing proposition.

Why are you standing by someone who will not win over suburban women and disaffected independent voters in the 2024 general election? Exit polls in 2020 show Biden beat Trump with the help of suburban women and independent voters.

The 2024 candidates have a delicate dance ahead of them: put one arm around Trump’s base, then give a swift kick to Trump, saying he’s no longer right for the job. Your messaging needs to include the following: acknowledge that Trump has done some good things for the party, such as reshaping the courts, reducing regulations and tax reform. He’s no doubt a party favorite in the primary, but he’s an albatross for the GOP in a general election.

The GOP has lost three times when Trump was the issue, it’s time to turn the page on Trumpism. But the initial reaction to the indictment from Trump’s 2024 GOP opponents was to rush to the former president’s defense.

Trump’s top challenger Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted, “the weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society.”

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who announced his presidential run in February, has pledged to pardon Trump if elected.

Yet the tide is turning and as details of the indictment flesh out, many challengers have taken on a different tone.

Former Vice President Mike Pence told the Wall Street Journal editorial board, “these are very serious allegations. And I can’t defend what is alleged.”

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley called Trump’s actions “incredibly reckless with our national security.” And South Carolina Senator Tim Scott acknowledged these are “serious allegations.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the Trump indictment is “very solid” and urged Trump to drop out of the race.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a CNN town hall earlier this week that this is a “very evidence-laden indictment….the conduct in there is awful.”

Even the once-favorable Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote that Trump’s “actions were reckless, arrogant and remarkably self-destructive.”

The GOP field appears to be willing to call out Trump. It’s a calculated decision and important one: How do you thread the needle of endearing yourself to the base while convincing them that Trump is no longer right for the job?

This is an especially difficult task when a majority of Republican voters say they would rally around Trump even if convicted in this case. A poll by CBS News and YouGov found that 76% of likely GOP primary voters believe the indictment was politically motivated.

Similarly, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found that 81% of Republicans believed that “politics was driving the case.”

The difficulty is that many Republicans are consumed with espousing “whataboutisms”: What about Joe Biden? What about Hillary Clinton? What about Pence? Here’s one: What about Donald Trump being responsible for his own actions? What about his absconding with intel secrets? What about the former president facing retribution for his lifetime of shameful and illegal behavior?

The Mar-a-Lago case may be a turning point. Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly said Trump appeared to be “scared s—itless… for the first time in his life, it looks like he’s being held accountable.”

Former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr said “if even half of it is true, then he’s toast.”

Retired US Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling tweeted that the amount of classified information that Trump took is “gobsmacking” and none of the documents are his “personal papers.”

Democratic strategist James Carville never said, “it’s the indictment, stupid.” Campaigns are about the economy, public safety, and national security. Yet, Trump will make this latest indictment the cornerstone of his campaign, saying “if it can happen to me, it can happen to you.”

Amid the optics of a highly choreographed MAGA rally, Trump is embarking on a personal crusade for a get-out-of-jail free card. This is a campaign about self-preservation, not selfless public service. I’m not convinced that’s how you Make America Great Again.

Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator, board member at the JFK Institute of Politics at Harvard University and former Communications Director for Ted Cruz for President. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.