2024 Watch: Trump’s in – what about DeSantis, Pence, and other potential contenders, long shots, & wild cards
Former President Donald Trump heads to the crucial early presidential nominating state of South Carolina in just over a week, as he holds his first 2024 campaign event since launching his third White House bid.
Two and a half months after November’s midterm elections, which marked the unofficial start of the 2024 cycle, it remains a field of one in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
More than two years after his 2020 election defeat at the hands of President Biden, Trump remains the most influential politician and ferocious fundraiser in the Republican Party, and until recently, he was the clear and overwhelming front-runner in the early 2024 GOP presidential nomination polls.
But the former president’s taken plenty of incoming fire over his impact on the GOP’s lackluster performance in the midterms, received some unfavorable reviews following his mid-November campaign launch at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, and faced plenty of criticism over controversial comments and actions he’s make and taken the past two months.
While none of his potential rivals appear close to officially launching bids in the coming weeks, behind the scenes there’s been plenty of action, as many of the likely contenders begin the important steps of building campaign teams.
Here’s a look at Trump’s potential rivals for the nomination.
The former president’s biggest likely threat, as of now, is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the popular conservative governor who was overwhelmingly re-elected in November.
DeSantis, a former congressman, narrowly won his first election as governor in 2018 thanks in part to strong support from then-President Trump. But he saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country the past three years, courtesy of his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a conservative culture warrior, going after media and corporations.
The governor, who’s rivaled and even eclipsed Trump in some 2024 polling, has already pushed legislation in the opening days of his second term that is pleasing to conservatives in Florida and nationwide. And as Fox News first reported, he’s got a memoir titled ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ publishing next month. Writing a book is a rite of passage for many potential and actual presidential candidates.
In a sign of his political prominence, DeSantis has taken incoming fire recently not only from Trump but also from other potential rivals for the GOP nomination.
The governor became a prolific fundraiser during the 2022 election cycle, hauling in over $200 million as he built a massive war chest with contributions from across the country. And his nearly 20-point victory over former Republican-governor-turned Democratic congressman Charlie Christ, along with a double-digit re-election win by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, helped transform the one-time blockbuster battleground into a red state.
DeSantis for over a year routinely dismissed talk of a 2024 White House race as he focused on his gubernatorial re-election. But he’s dropped plenty of hints of a possible presidential bid since his re-election victory speech in November.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate in 2016 and 2020, has repeatedly said that Republican voters will have ‘better choices’ than the former president in 2024.
Pence is currently crisscrossing the country on a book tour for his new memoir ‘So Help Me God,’ in which he showcases successes of the Trump-Pence administration, but also spotlights criticisms of Trump that have generated plenty of headlines.
The former vice president emphasized in an interview with Fox News Digital last month in the kickoff presidential primary state of New Hampshire that the positive response he’s said he’s receiving from his new autobiography ‘has been very encouraging’ as he weighs a 2024 bid.
And the former congressman turned Indiana governor, who has long been a champion for social conservative voters, appears to be making a play for evangelical voters with meetings this month with some of the right’s most influential pastors.
Mike Pompeo, who served as CIA director and later as Secretary of State in the Trump administration, has a memoir of his own releasing next week.
‘Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love,’ spotlight’s the former Army officer turned Kansas congressman’s tenure as America’s spy chief and top diplomat.
Similar to Pence, Pompeo’s spent plenty of time since the end of the Trump administration crisscrossing the country on behalf of fellow Republicans who ran in 2022 midterm elections. The Fox News contributor’s travels included numerous stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada – the first four states to vote in the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
Pompeo’s political action committee last year went up with ads in the early voting nominating states, another sign he’s seriously mulling a White House bid. Asked in an interview with Fox News Digital in November about his 2024 plans, Pompeo answered that ‘we are doing the things that one would do to be ready to make such an announcement and then to engage with the American people on the ideas that we believe matter.’
Former two-term South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the first half of the Trump presidency, is another Trump administration alum who was very busy during the 2022 campaigning on behalf of fellow Republicans and making numerous stops in the early primary and caucus states.
At a major Republican 2024 cattle call in November, Haley repeatedly teased a potential presidential run, telling the crowd that ‘between us, I’m just getting started.’
‘A lot of people have asked if I’m going to run for president,’ Haley said to cheers. ‘Now that the midterms are over, I’ll look at it in a serious way.’ And she reiterated that ‘I’ve never lost an election and I’m not going to start now.’
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the runner-up to Trump in the combustible 2016 GOP presidential nomination race, has consistently not ruled out making another White House run.
He’s stopped a handful of times over the past year and a half in the early voting states and has told Fox News and other news organizations that ‘when I ran in ’16, it was the most fun I’ve had in my life.’
Cruz has stated that he’s running for re-election next year and he’s focused on the current battles in the Senate. But he hasn’t closed the door on a White House run, saying ‘they’ll be plenty of time for that’ ahead.
Sen. Tim Scott is a rising star in the GOP, one of the party’s top fundraisers, and the only Black Republican in the Senate. The lawmaker from South Carolina easily cruised to re-election in November to what he’s said will be his final six-year term in the Senate.
While Scott’s repeatedly demurred when asked about 2024, he raised eyebrows in November at his re-election victory celebration by telling the story of how took his grandfather to the polls in 2012, and that his grandfather proudly voted for him as well as for Democratic President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president.
‘I wish he had lived long enough to see perhaps another man of color elected President of the United States,’ Scott said, before adding ‘but this time let it be a Republican.’
Sen. Rick Scott, a former two-term Florida governor who this past cycle chaired the Senate GOP campaign committee, has repeatedly said he’s running for re-election in 2024.
But political pundits still view Scott, a former health care executive who’s the wealthiest member of the Senate, as a possible White House contender.
Fueling more speculation is Scott’s latest ad, where he calls for ‘change’ the Republican Party. The seven-figure ad blitz, which was first reported by Fox News, isn’t running just in Florida, but from coast to coast on national cable TV.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin was a politician in demand on the campaign trail last summer and autumn, helping fellow Republicans who were running in the midterms.
Youngkin energized Republicans nationwide 14 months ago, as the first-time candidate who hailed from the party’s business wing edged out former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe to become the first GOP candidate in a dozen years to win a gubernatorial election in the one-time swing state that had trended towards the Democrats over the past decade.
The governor said in a recent Fox News interview that ‘we’ll have to see how things pan out’ as he reiterated that he’s ‘incredibly flattered by this discussion’ and ‘the fact that my name is in the national mix is pretty overwhelming.’
Gov. Kristi Noem, a conservative congresswoman who spent eight years in the House of Representatives before winning South Dakota’s governorship in 2018, was overwhelming re-elected in November in the reliably red state.
Pundits view Noem as a possible contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, or as a potential running mate.
‘I’m focused on doing my job here in South Dakota,’ Noem answered when asked by Fox News Digital earlier this month if she’s mulling a White House run.
But she also said that ‘I’m focused here but I’m going to continue telling South Dakota’s stories,’ adding ‘that’s a story that I think can bring hope to the rest of the country.’
After eight years running the very blue state of Maryland, Wednesday was term-limited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s last day in office. And as he left office, Hogan was touting that he remained one of the most popular governors in the nation.
Like many of his potential rivals, Hogan’s made many of the moves a politician makes in advance of launching a White House campaign.
Hogan, a vocal GOP critic of Trump, touts his conservative credentials but is viewed as a moderate Republican by many on the right.
‘Early next year we’re going to be sitting down and figuring out what the future looks like, but I haven’t ruled anything out,’ Hogan reiterated in an interview with Fox News late last year.
Gov. Chris Sununu was easily re-elected in November to a fourth two-year term steering the key northeastern battleground state of New Hampshire.
Sununu, in an interview earlier this month with Fox News, once again emphasized that the GOP should ‘move on’ from Trump and that ‘there’s lots of other great leaders out there.’
While noting that his state’s current legislative session and next two-year budget are his top priorities, he’s repeatedly said he is not ruling anything out when it comes to a possible White House bid in 2024.
‘A lot of folks are coming to me. A lot of folks want me to run. It’s definitely conversations that we’re having,’ Sununu shared.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson acknowledges that his two trips to Iowa last week— the state whose caucuses for a half century have kicked off the GOP presidential nominating calendar — are a sign that he’s seriously considering a White House run.
‘Going to Iowa probably does send some signals that your serious about looking at 2024,’ Hutchinson, who just completed serving eight years as governor, told Fox News.
A former federal attorney turned two-term congressman who served as Drug Enforcement Administration administrator and Department of Homeland Security undersecretary during then-President George W. Bush’s administration, Hutchinson is not that well-known outside of Arkansas. He told Fox News that ‘I’m not setting an artificial timeframe — I’m wanting to make sure that if I did become a candidate, that there would be the kind of financial support that’s needed.’
Former Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas will visit New Hampshire later to month, to speak at a major state GOP meeting.
The trip by Hurd, who served three-terms in Congress before deciding against running for re-election in 2020, will spark speculation that the one-time clandestine officer in the CIA is mulling a bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Former Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming has repeatedly vowed to do ‘whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office.’
Cheney, a longtime Trump critic who was stripped of her House GOP leadership position and last summer routed in the Republican primary in her bid for renomination by a Trump backed challenger, was a co-chair of the Democratic dominated Jan. 6 select committee that in its final report recommended barring the former president from ever holding office again.
Cheney, who’s mulled a presidential bid in order to directly take on Trump, has said she hasn’t ‘made a decision yet about what I’m going to do.’