Donald Trump has frozen out his would-be 2024 challengers by waiting to announce whether he'll seek re-election for a second time.
Some potential contenders have hired advisers, met with donors and visited key primary states ahead of a potential campaign, but it's not clear any of them would actually challenge the twice-impeached one-term president in a Republican primary race, reported CNN.
"Unless there's a dramatic shift in the base, the nomination is Donald Trump's and it would be a suicide mission to run against him," said an aide to one would-be contender. "[But] we aren't ever going to admit that. It turns off voters we might need down the road."
Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and a possible 2024 candidate, has suggested voters should write off any candidate who says they won't run if Trump does.
"If you're saying you're deferring to someone," Christie said earlier this year, "that's a real sign of both weakness and indecision."
Two senators who backed Trump's efforts to overturn his election loss -- Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley -- are among the possible contenders, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are also widely seen as potential candidates, but the field would likely be locked out if the former president does decide to run.
"Of the 30 or so people who are out there thinking about this or dreaming about it," said an Abbott adviser, "it's an honest assessment to say that if you like the Trump brand of policies, it will be very difficult to break through with voters if he is also competing in the race."