From DeSantis to Pence: Republican runners and riders for the 2024 US presidential election – The Telegraph

Donald Trump became the first major candidate to officially enter the 2024 race when he declared his third presidential bid at his Mar-a-Lago club in November.

The former president hoped that his early announcement, almost two full years before the next presidential election, would deter rival Republicans from entering the race.

But there is no doubt that a host of GOP figures, from emerging stars to veteran campaigners, are mulling a run for the White House in 2024.

Some have made no secret of their willingness to challenge Mr Trump, who will be 78 at the time of the next election.

Others have been more circumspect about the possibility of taking on Mr Trump, who remains the party’s undisputed leader.

But the Republican Party’s disappointing midterm results, which included Trump-picked candidates losing in a number of critical races, has only encouraged Mr Trump’s rivals. 

Mr Trump’s chief rival is Ron DeSantis, Florida’s self-proclaimed “anti-woke” governor.

The Florida governor’s profile was boosted during the pandemic by his anti-lockdown stance and his willingness to engage in America’s culture wars.

Mr DeSantis has an impressive record – a star baseball player at Yale, as well as a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former Navy officer – but has won supporters over more with his anti-establishment approach.

Mr DeSantis’ supporters see the 44-year-old as the natural successor to Mr Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement.

They believe he offers a path to victory for Republicans after his landslide re-election in Florida, a critical presidential swing state, this November.

At 44, they argue he can lead a new generation of conservatives and can appeal to a broader base than Mr Trump.

His recent victory provided a potential roadmap to future Republican success as he drew in new support from Hispanic and formerly Democrat voters.

Mr DeSantis appears to have won the backing of the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, which ran the headline “DeFUTURE” following his re-election.

Some polls have Mr DeSantis leading Mr Trump in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in the 2024 Republican primary. 

Mike Pence, the former US vice president, has positioned himself for a 2024 run with a new memoir as well as appearances in a number of critical states.

Mr Pence is balancing a tightrope as he distances himself from his former boss’s push to overturn the 2020 election, while simultaneously taking credit for the achievements of what he terms the “Trump-Pence administration”.

The 63-year-old has won the praise of some moderates for refusing to follow Mr Trump’s demand that he stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in Congress on January 6, 2021.

He has described his fury after he and his family were whisked away as a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6 and ransacked the building.

In his memoir, he describes Mr Trump’s behaviour in the run-up to the Capitol attack as “reckless”.

In several rounds of media interviews, he has said there are “better choices” than Mr Trump to lead the party into the next election.

A devout Christian, Mr Pence said he and his family are giving “prayerful consideration” to whether he should run himself.

But he faces an uphill battle, given his unpopularity among Mr Trump’s base, which makes up a sizeable portion of the Republican grassroots.

Nikki Haley, Mr Trump’s former UN ambassador, has signalled she is willing to challenge her former boss for the Republican nomination, despite previously ruling it out.
 
Ms Haley, 50, is also a former governor of South Carolina. She was a respected member of Mr Trump’s cabinet, known for her defence of his America First policy on the world stage.

She has been a prominent campaigner for Republican candidates and her non-profit, Stand for America, raised more than $8.5 million (£6.9 million) last year.

Her complicated relationship may pose problems if she runs for president. Ms Haley criticised Mr Trump after Jan 6, 2021, and suggested the Party “shouldn’t have followed” him.

But she quickly backtracked and insisted “We need Trump in the Republican Party” and ruled out running “if President Trump ran”.
 
She has flip-flopped again, telling an audience at one recent event: “A lot of people have asked if I’m gonna run for president. Now that the midterms are over, I’ll look at it in a serious way, and I’ll have more to say soon.”

She added: “For now, I’ll say this. I’ve won tough primaries and tough general elections. I’ve been the underdog every single time. When people underestimate me, it’s always fun. But I’ve never lost an election. And I’m not gonna start now.”

Ted Cruz has repeatedly teased a second White House run after coming second to Mr Trump in the 2016 Republican primary.

The senator from Texas is one of the most high-profile Republicans in the chamber and has strong conservative credentials.

He crisscrossed the country during the 2022  midterms on behalf of Republicans, including in a number of early-voting primary states.

However, Mr Cruz faces a dilemma in 2024, as his own Senate seat is up for re-election.

Mr Cruz has confirmed he is running for a third term but has not ruled out the possibility of also being a presidential candidate.

In a pointed comment, Mr Cruz said of Mr Trump’s bid: “I don’t think he’ll run uncontested. I think there will be candidates that run against him. But we’re very early in this process. There’s plenty of time for the debates and discussions.”

Mike Pompeo, a former congressman for Kansas, CIA director, and most recently Mr Trump’s Secretary of State, is another potential candidate.

Mr Trump has loosely hinted that Republicans should move on from Mr Trump, saying: “Conservatives are elected when we deliver. Not when we just rail on social media.”

The foreign policy hawk has undergone a dramatic weight loss since quitting the Trump administration and has been doing the media rounds with a new book, prompting speculation he is preparing to run.

Mr Pompeo said he would likely make a decision about declaring his candidacy by the spring.

Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia governor, is a relative political newcomer but caught pundits’ attention with his 2021 win in a blue state where Joe Biden took a 10-point margin.

Mr Youngkin pulled off the feat by presenting himself as an independent-minded politician – a delicate balance that allowed him to secure Trump voters as well as moderate Republicans and independents.

It helped him defeat Democratic heavyweight Terry McAuliffe to become the first Republican to flip Virginia in more than a decade.

Mr Youngkin’s supporters argue his success in Virginia – in many ways a microcosm of the national electoral map – offers a winning roadmap for Republicans nationwide.

While shying away from Mr Trump, the former private equity executive has not been reticent about issues that excite his base.

He has waded into the culture wars, in particular on children’s education and critical race theory, while also proving adept at presenting himself as a unifying candidate.

While campaigning for other Republican candidates in the midterms, including Kari Lake in Arizona, Mr Youngkin hinted at a potential White House run.

Unlike many potential 2024 candidates, outgoing Maryland governor Larry Hogan has not shied away from criticising Mr Trump.

Mr Hogan has confirmed he is mulling a presidential bid and has made his anti-Trumpism a cornerstone of his brand.

But Mr Hogan believes his track record in Maryland, a staunchly blue state, could stand him in good stead.

“I’ve been saying since 2020 that we have to get back to a party that appeals to more people that can win in tough places like I’ve done in Maryland,” he told CNN following Republicans’ poor midterm results.

“And I think that lane is much wider now than it was a week ago.”

Chris Sununu, New Hampshire’s governor, has gone even further, making headlines as one of Mr Trump’s most prominent Republican critics.

He secured one of the biggest Republican wins of the midterms, winning New Hampshire – the second state to vote in the GOP presidential primary – by 15 points.

Mr Sununu has called the midterms a “rejection of extremism” and called for the party to “stop supporting crazy, unelectable candidates”, in a dig at Mr Trump.

The governor has been explicit about his thoughts on the former president, telling a high-profile Washington DC blacktie event earlier this year: “He’s f—— crazy.”

He has been less explicit on whether he will challenge Mr Trump, but his plans to tour the country to make the case for a pragmatic version of Republican conservatism.

He said: “I’m open to everything. I seriously am. I never close off opportunity.”

Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican governor, gained a national profile amid his high-profile clash with Mr Trump over the latter’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election result.

Mr Kemp survived a Trump-backed primary challenge and won a convincing re-election in the Peach State, proving that Republicans can break with Mr Trump without sacrificing support from the party’s grassroots.

The governor won praise from Georgians for his handling of the pandemic, re-opening the state far more rapidly than many of his counterparts.

Significantly, Mr Kemp’s job performance has even won him grudging respect from some Democratic voters, a rare feat in these days of deeply entrenched partisanship.

Mr Kemp has not been shy about touting the significance of his victory. “If we didn’t hold the governor’s race in the 2022 midterm, there’s no path for a Republican to win the presidency in 2024,” he said. “And I think now we have that path.”

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