Donald Trump's early entry into the 2024 presidential race has indeed frozen the field of Republican challengers, as anticipated.
At this point four years ago, Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Kirsten Gillibrand had all formed exploratory committees or announced campaigns, but Republicans are still only privately discussing the possibility of jumping into the race in spring or summer, according to three GOP strategists who spoke to Politico.
“It’s very, very quiet,” said Wayne MacDonald, a New Hampshire legislator and former state GOP chair.
Would-be challengers are wary of becoming a foil for Trump, whose own campaign is off to a shaky start, and one GOP strategist said an adviser to one potential candidate has had informal talks with two other would-be candidates' teams about possibly jumping into the race together -- but for now they're all content to stay on the sidelines.
“When you see Trump in a free fall, why get in the middle of that?” said one Republican strategist, while another added: “Trump’s best when he’s got an opponent, so don’t give him one.”
Would-be challengers are also aware that donors don't shell out much this early in the cycle because, as veteran GOP strategist Dave Carney said, "no one's paying attention."
“What are they going to be asked about? Debt ceiling, Biden’s papers -- you’re not going to be on message," Carney said. “As soon as someone pops their head up, Trump will be whacking on them.”