THERE WERE NO CLEAR TRENDS LAST NIGHT except the obvious one — the elections were all about Donald Trump, as usual. He won some and lost some. Some extremists won, some lost. Some Republican winners are convinced that the 2020 election was stolen, and they will be pressed until November to provide evidence that Trump was cheated.
SO IT’S BUSINESS AS USUAL, with Trump dominating the narrative — much to the annoyance of mainstream Republicans in Washington who want to move on. They see issues to exploit — inflation, urban crime, illegal immigration, etc. — yet the GOP still is all about Trump.
WE’VE SENSED A SHIFT IN RECENT WEEKS, as fresh faces in the Republican party are itching to run for president in 2024. Not only do they consider Trump an unwelcome distraction for a party looking to the future — they consider him an obstacle to their own presidential ambitions, and they’re increasingly unwilling to wait until 2028 to run for the White House.
SO HERE’S OUR EARLY TAKE on the impatient field of Republicans, who are quietly raising money and testing their messages — while hoping that Trump decides not to run . . .
Honorable mention — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, eyeing the VP nod, Donald Trump Jr. and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
10. Ted Cruz: Of all the fiercely ambitious politicians in the GOP, Cruz stands out. He’ll run for president again, no question; the issue is whether he will wait until 2028.
9. Greg Abbott: Likewise, the Texas governor is extremely ambitious, moving to the right wing on most issues to guarantee his good standing among Texas conservatives. Trump rode the issue of illegal immigration all the way to the White House; could Abbott as well?
8. Liz Cheney: Despised by most of the party’s base, Cheney could finish first or second in the nation’s first primary, in unpredictable New Hampshire. On issues other than Trump, she’s fiercely conservative.
7. Larry Hogan: See above, New Hampshire is intriguing. The Maryland governor is immensely likable and sensible, and the media loves him like it did John McCain. Hogan could lead a centrist third party, but that has virtually no chance of succeeding.
6. Tim Scott: With little fanfare, the African-American conservative from South Carolina has raised more money than most everyone in this field. He probably wouldn’t run if Trump is in the race.
5. Nikki Haley: Another South Carolinian, she’s shrewd and sharp, an expert on foreign policy who could appeal to all factions in the party. Whether she has been sufficiently loyal to Trump will be an issue.
4. Mike Pence: Surprise !! The former vice president has enjoyed a resurrection within the party in recent weeks, raising money and appearing at Republican rallies around the country. He’s critical of Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riots, but not too critical. Pence has one huge asset: strong support from conservative Christians.
3. Mike Pompeo: A sleeper to watch, the former Secretary of State appears to be running in 2024, before his brand fades. He has lost 50 pounds and is willing to criticize Trump’s handling of foreign policy. We were in Kansas last week, and found surprisingly strong support for the native son.
2. Ron DeSantis: No one is as hungry as the provocative Florida Governor, who has a major decision to make this winter: run in 2024 or wait until 2028? DeSantis has issues with Trump on vaccine mandates and would run to Trump’s right. Trump is leery of the popular DeSantis, with good reason.
1. Donald Trump: It’s still Trump’s race to lose, but he will turn 76 next month and is not transparent about his health record or medications (neither is Joe Biden). Trump faces legal challenges, but his lawyers are amazingly adept at stalling tactics. We hear from Republicans who like Trump’s policies but are tired of his personality, so we rank him as the frontrunner for the nomination — but not a shoo-in.
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