According to a report from Politico, Republicans looking to ramp up possible 2024 presidential campaigns are working on the margins to build support for their run while at the same time trying to avoid the wrath of former President Donald Trump who keeps hinting at another run for the nation's highest office.
Trump, who continues to fundraise and play power broker within the Republican Party, has claimed he wants to run again and that has kept a multitude of possible GOP candidates on the sidelines when they would prefer to be actively building the infrastructure needed for what could be a grueling series of primaries.
Fearful of making an announcement that they are running -- which could lead to Trump launching an attack and turning his rabid followers on them -- GOP hopefuls are instead making the rounds in early primary states where they are boosting 2022 midterm hopefuls that could pay off in 2024.
Case in point, according to the report from Politico's Alex Isenstadt, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is heading off to Iowa to throw his support behind a handful of Republican House candidates with one eye on retaking the House and another on collecting chits he could call in as 2024 approaches.
"The potential 2024 contender is plotting a swing through the state — home of the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses — to stump for three freshmen House Republicans as part of a broader, two-year effort to bolster congressional candidates," the report states. "Cotton, a former congressman who's been in touch with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy about the midterm elections, has spoken with fellow veterans looking at waging campaigns and raised money for others."
As the report notes, Cotton's visit is part of a "shadow" campaign that doesn't directly challenge Trump's primacy within the party.
"It's the latest chapter in a slow-building 2024 shadow primary. By throwing themselves into House races, potential candidates are currying goodwill with lawmakers and activists, testing out campaign themes and introducing themselves to voters around the country who will eventually determine the party's next presidential nominee," Isenstadt wrote before adding, "And there is another reason why House races are attractive playground for those looking to run: It's a way to put themselves out there without poking the eye of former President Donald Trump, who has made clear that he's interested in a comeback bid."
According to former Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, a past NRCC chair, the potential candidates -- which include former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) -- need to watch that they don't promote their run in such a way that draws Trump's ire.
"They're trying to figure out, how do you lay the groundwork without being seen as maybe trying to push the president out of the way?" he explained. "Until President Trump decides what he's going to do, I think they can be helpful in House races in their own ways and keep focused on that and not run afoul of the big elephant in the room."
The report goes on to note, "The hope is that their support will pay off down the line — and that when it's their turn to run in four years, House Republicans they backed will return the favor with endorsements of their own. Sitting members of Congress maintain networks of donors and supporters who can be critical in swaying presidential primary contests."
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