While the 2022 midterms remain the focus for the Republican Party still, it is an open secret a 2024 presidential campaign of former President Donald Trump looms after November.
"I'll be shocked if he doesn't run," Sen Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told The Washington Post in an early look ahead to the 2024 GOP primary candidates. "All the polling shows he would be the front-runner by a country mile. The day that Trump makes it clear he's going to run — it would be a mountain to climb to beat him.
"If it's a policy election, he's in good shape. It's his primary to lose."
Most polling has Trump as a large favorite, including this week's Morning Consult Poll showing Trump as a 37-point leader over runner-up, Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.
"This from a left-leaning pollster, but thank you very much!" Trump wrote on Truth Social on Wednesday.
The other candidates reviewed by the Post were former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla.
"They're all going to run against him," longtime Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio told the Post. "If you have the former vice president running, what does that say for the loyalty argument?"
The Post noted the visits to the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, along with work with advisers and fundraising efforts.
"They are working hard at it, some more than others," Massachusetts Republican National Committee member Ron Kaufman told the Post. "There are a lot of good people who are thinking about it and would like to be president.
"Former presidents who can serve another term always have a special status at least for the first two years."
Christian conservative group Family Leader's Bob Vander Plaats said the way to attack Trump in a primary is from establishment angles.
"If you come at Trump from the left — say a Mitt Romney approach — I don't think that would ever work," he told the Post. "If you came at Trump from the right — more like a Pence or a Pompeo or a Ted Cruz or a DeSantis — then I think people would be willing to listen."
The Post report claims establishment Republicans want to move on from Trump.
"Republicans think he is declining in relevance and they want someone else," an adviser told the Post. "But people feel like they have to appease him. We are in the appeasement phase."
Christie was unafraid to break from Trump from the right.
"As I travel around the country campaigning for other Republican candidates, there is more and more doubt and disinterest regarding the president's claims the 2020 election was stolen," Christie, who took a job with ABC News after breaking from the Trump transition team, told the Post. "They care about the issues affecting them."
Ultimately, it might only be DeSantis with a shot at dethroning Trump in the GOP, according to former Trump transition adviser Darren Blanton to the Post.
"I think DeSantis is the only one besides Trump who has a chance in hell – and I would bet a lot of money on that," he said. "At first I thought DeSantis had no chance because he seemed more like an introvert and strategist, but not a charismatic celebrity, and I pretty much told him that to his face. But he has really impressed me by how much better he has gotten.
"And I just don't think a pasty, old-school, dignified Republican is ever going to do that again."
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