Republican presidential hopefuls are already gearing up for a 2024 campaign, but prospective candidates could see all their work evaporate if former president Donald Trump jumps into the race.
Prospective candidates like Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and Ron DeSantis are planning events crucial primary states in the coming weeks, but the twice-impeached one-term president remains so popular with GOP voters that he would enter the race as the prohibitive favorite if he decides to run for a second term, reported Politico.
"He's got them in a box," said Matt Moore, former chair of the South Carolina Republican Party.
GOP hopefuls are competing for Trump's voters with the understanding that any support they build up could come tumbling down if the former president jumps into the race.
"If you do nothing and assume Trump's going to run and he says, 'I'm not going to run,' then you're scrambling," said Wesley Enos, the former chair of the Republican Party in Iowa's Polk County. "Now is your opportunity, realistically."
Republicans with presidential ambitions may as well test their voter support, said GOP strategist Stuart Spencer, but they'll likely be forced to give up should he come back.
"You become a Trump-y, you endorse him," Spencer said. "Trump is Trump, it's Trump's party."