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Is the GOP Afraid of Donald Trump?

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Where Are All the GOP Presidential Candidates to Take on Donald Trump? – With all the speculation about who could or should run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, you would think that the field would be taking shape by now.

Who will run against Donald Trump? 

Early voting in the primary is roughly a year away, and it would be a good thing for new candidates to start fundraising and building out the machinery to run in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Perhaps there is a fear permeating around those we assume are White House hopefuls.

Who Is Going to Get in the Ring?

This would mean many would sit on the fence indefinitely or not run at all.

Former President Donald Trump is already insulting his rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, as a RINO and globalist.

I’m not sure this applies to DeSantis, but once Trump labels you with his accusations they tends to stick.

Trump also has a handy nickname for the Florida top executive – “Ron DeSanctimonious” – most likely for his ample self-righteous indignation about everything in the culture wars.

DeSantis may not even officially launch until after the Florida legislative session in May.

Nikki Haley Goes First

South Carolina’s former governor and ex-UN ambassador Nikki Haley will announce a run for the White House on February 15.

Somehow Trump has not insulted or made fun of her.


Haley is undeterred, but it is not clear what her strategy is. Trump has already gathered support from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Governor Henry McMaster.

Plus, the Palmetto State’s Tim Scott could jump into the race and that could split up the vote in Trump’s favor.

Donald Trump Is Already Set Up in the Early States

Also, Trump is strong in Iowa, having won it in the general elections of 2016 and 2020. However, he lost New Hampshire in both contests and is weaker there. There could be an opening for a more establishment candidate in the Granite State.

Strategists Are Surprised About the Reticence

But what about everyone else?

“I would’ve told you last fall that there would be five senators in the race,” Ward Baker, a Republican consultant told Politico. At the RNC winter meeting in late January, there were no presidential candidates shaking hands with the committee members. Baker thinks that there will only be seven or eight serious White House hopefuls and some of these could drop out before voting takes place in 2024.

Can The Challengers Take the Heat of Donald Trump Attacks?

Trump and Haley are it so far. Since she jumped into the pool, there may be more soon to follow, but who wants to live through a Trump-bashing in the early going?

DeSantis isn’t even talking back much to Trump to answer the insults. DeSantis has reminded Trump and the media that he got re-elected – implying that Trump did not. But so far, there hasn’t been a war of words.

Taking on the Never-Trump Role

Vice President Mike Pence could be next to lead the group of former White House officials who could join the race, such as former Secretary of State Mike Pence and even ex-National Security Advisor John Bolton.

They are not busy now and might as well run. Never Trumper Liz Cheney could give it a go too.

People Who Do Not National Followings Could Try

Others who are making noises are former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and ex-Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson – moderates who have stood up before to Trump but who also lack name recognition and a national fundraising network.

They are also on the older side in age, which defeats the “need for new blood” argument. 

Tim Scott’s Chances

The money race is important too and another potential candidate is Scott, who has $21 million in his senate account that can be transferred over to his presidential kitty. Scott is not polling well at the moment, but that could change as he builds out his campaign apparatus and political operation.

That is, if he runs. I’m not sure if Scott chooses to take the “Never Trump” role. He has criticized Trump as being “racially insensitive,” but he mostly stayed on the right side of the former president.

Disclosure: I worked in the Senate for Scott. One time the senator had his staff in a board room and asked us if we voted for Trump. Very few hands went into the air. Most looked down at the table. Scott asked in disbelief, “How could you not vote for Trump?” So, Scott might join the campaign without the Never Trump status. It would be not easy to thread that needle though.

People Who Are Out of the Running

Youngish senators such as Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri said they are not running. Of the governors, two mentioned are Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Greg Abbott of Texas. Both are noncommittal. Abbott is busy in Texas with illegal immigration; he does not have the time to prep. Sununu has little name recognition and is from a small state.

So, who wants to beat Donald Trump?

We could see a handful of candidates – few of which could raise money like Trump, DeSantis, and Scott. This means that Trump is the favorite to win the nomination. If he sinks DeSantis and hounds others to stay on the sidelines, this may not be much of a race. That is just what they are planning in Mar-a-Lago.

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Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.