The 2024 GOP presidential nomination race – at this early point – appears to be a heated battle between former President Donald Trump – the clear front-runner – and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — even though only one of the pair has officially entered the race.
Trump is one of five major Republican candidates to formally declare a White House run, but many are watching DeSantis, the popular conservative governor who’s already made stops the past two months in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to lead off the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
As political prognosticators speculate about who may run, two potential contenders whom pundits had viewed as likely candidates, recently declined to run.
POMPEO ANNOUNCES 2024 DECISION ON FOX NEWS
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a Fox News contributor, Army veteran, and former congressman from Kansas who later served as CIA director and America’s top diplomat in the Trump administration, announced during an appearance on Fox News’ “Special Report” in April that “this isn’t our moment.”
HOGAN PASSES ON 2024 BID IN ORDER TO AVOID CANDIDATE ‘PILEUP’
And former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced in March he won’t seek for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Hogan, a vocal GOP critic of former President Donald Trump who in January was term-limited after eight years in office, worried that his candidacy in a potentially packed presidential primary field could help Trump win the nomination.
“I want to avoid what we saw in 2016 where we had so many candidates all fighting over… a limited chunk of votes and Donald Trump became the nominee,” Hogan said on Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”
TRUMP ONCE AGAIN OVERWHELMING WINS CPAC 2024 STRAW POLL
Here’s a look at the handful of major candidates – starting with the former president – who’ve launched campaigns, and the larger list of potential contenders for the Republican nomination who are actively – or may be gearing up – or are just mulling – a White House run in 2024.
The 76-year-old former president became the first major Republican to declare his candidacy when he launched his third straight campaign for the White House in mid-November, soon after the 2022 midterm elections.
More than two years after leaving the White House following his 2020 election defeat at the hands of President Biden, Trump remains the most popular and influential politician in the Republican Party, and continues to be the overwhelming front-runner in the early 2024 GOP presidential nomination polls. In early March, Trump once again overwhelmingly won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The largest annual gathering of conservative leaders and activists has become a Trump-fest since the former president’s 2016 election.
But Trump’s taken plenty of incoming fire over his impact on the GOP’s lackluster performance in the midterms, received some unfavorable reviews following his mid-November campaign launch at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, and has faced of criticism over controversial comments and actions in the past two months.
Since he declared his candidacy, the former president’s made three trips to New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar. He returns later this month for his second visit to Iowa, whose caucuses lead off the Republican schedule, and he’s made on stop in South Carolina, which votes third.
Trump had dominated the 2024 spotlight, thanks in part to his indictment and early April arraignment in New York City, which made him the first former president in U.S. history to be charged with a crime.
Trump was indicted for allegedly falsifying business records related to hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 to keep her quiet ahead of that year’s presidential election over her claims she had had sexual encounters years earlier with Trump. The former president denies sleeping with Daniels and denies falsifying business records to keep the payment concealed. The president pleaded not guilty at his April 4 arraignment to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
The indictment fueled Trump’s fundraising – his campaign touted that the former president hauled in $15.4 million in the first two weeks after the news broke on March 30. And it’s padded his lead over DeSantis and the rest of the emerging field of rivals in the latest 2024 Republican nomination polls.
Former two-term South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who later served as ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, launched her presidential campaign in February in her hometown of Charleston before heading straight out onto the campaign trail in New Hampshire and Iowa.
Haley’s been going on the attack — both against President Biden and the Democrats as well as members of her own party. At a major donor retreat in March Haley blasted both parties — including Trump — for massive government spending that contributed to an exploding national debt.
HALEY BLASTS BOTH DEMOCRATS AND FELLOW REPUBLICANS OVER EXPLODING NATIONAL DEBT
“I’m not afraid to call BS on all the bailouts and handouts that are bankrupting America. And I’m not afraid to call out my fellow Republicans,” the 51-year-old Haley said.
Vivek Ramaswamy, a health care and tech sector entrepreneur, best-selling author, conservative commentator, and crusader in the culture wars, declared his candidacy in late February.
The 37-year-old Ramaswamy, author of “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” says his vision centers on restoring the “national identity in America.” He repeatedly called for the scrapping of the FBI and the Department of Education and has said he’d repeal federal affirmative action on his first day in the White House.
The multi-millionaire candidate told Fox News Digital earlier this year that he’s “making a big personal investment” in his campaign.
Businessman Perry Johnson declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in early March.
Perry, who last year ran for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination in Michigan, was considered a top contender before he and four other Republican hopefuls were disqualified because of invalid signatures.
Earlier this year the 75-year-old Johnson signaled his White House ambitions by spending big bucks to run an ad during the Super Bowl targeting Iowa voters and showcasing his pledge to cut federal spending by 2% per year.
Johnson’s made two swings through Iowa and one in New Hampshire since lauching his campaign.
Former two-term Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson formally declared his candidacy for president at an event Bentonville, Arkansas on April 26.
“Bentonville holds a special place in my heart and my story,” Hutchinson told Fox News Digital ahead of his campaign launch. “I have experienced many firsts here: my first law practice, launching Bentonville’s first FM radio station, my first home with Susan, and announcing my first run for public office. I owe so much to Bentonville, it is only right to make my formal announcement among my many friends and supporters from this amazing community.”
A former federal attorney turned two-term congressman who served as Drug Enforcement Administration administrator and Department of Homeland Security undersecretary during then-President George W. Bush’s administration, Hutchinson has become a vocal GOP Trump critic.
Saying that he will “never back down in defense of the conservative values that make America exceptional,” Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina took a major step towards running for the White House as he launched a presidential exploratory committee in mid-April.
Showcasing his message of faith, hope, and unity, Scott emphasized in a video that was shared first with Fox News that “this is the fight we must win. And that will take faith. Faith in God, faith in each other, and faith in America.”
Scott, who notes that he “was raised by a single mother in poverty,” is a rising star in the GOP and the only Black Republican in the Senate. He charges that Democrats “weaponize race to divide us to hold onto their power,” and highlighted that “when I fought back against their liberal agenda they called me a prop. A token. Because I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control. They know the truth of my life disproves their lies.”
The 57-year-old Scott campaigned in Iowa and New Hampshire immediately after he launched his presidential exploratory committee. A ferocious fundraiser, the senator nearly $22 million in his campaign coffers at the beginning of the year, which could be transferred to a presidential campaign.
Scott is scheduled to formally launch his presidential campaign at an event in South Carolina on May 22.
Florida’s governor, who saw his popularity soar among conservatives across the country over the past three years due to his forceful pushback against coronavirus pandemic restrictions and his aggressive actions as a culture warrior going after media, corporations and teachers unions, won an overwhelming 19-point re-election victory in November.
DeSantis has showcased that his wins as governor have “transformed” Florida from a top general election battleground “into the nation’s leading red state,” and that his policy victories in Florida can serve as a roadmap for the entire nation.
The 44-year-old governor is currently racking up conservative victories – including a controversial six-week abortion ban – during Florida’s legislative session, courtesy of a GOP super majority in Tallahassee.
But the governor’s agenda in Florida isn’t preventing him from traveling across the country as he highlights his “Florida blueprint” and promotes his newly released book, “The Courage to Be Free.” And he’s beefing up his political staff at his homebase in Tallahassee.
DESANTIS AIMING FOR MORE CONSERVATIVE VICTORIES IN FLORIDA
DeSantis last year routinely dismissed talk of a 2024 White House run, but he’s dropped plenty of hints since his re-election victory. Sources in DeSantis’ wider orbit have said any presidential campaign launch would come in the late spring or early summer, after the end of the legislative session. But the governor’s latest travel itinerary, which has already taken him to Iowa and New Hampshire, with South Carolina on deck, is sparking more speculation about an increasingly likely White House run.
Trump and his allies repeatedly targeted DeSantis starting last autumn, and stepped up the attacks in recent months.
DeSantis has mostly refrained from responding, but he appeared to verbally swipe at the former president, who’s been criticized for contributing to the GOP’s less than stellar overall performance in last year’s elections.
“There is no substitute for victory. Republicans need to the shake the culture of losing that has developed throughout our party in recent years. The time for excuses is over. We must get it done once and for all,” DeSantis at a keynote address on April 14 to a sold out crowd at a state GOP fundraising gala in New Hampshire
DeSantis, who has been criticized for not excelling at the art of candidate-to-voter interactions and retail style politics, which are traditions in Iowa and New Hampshire, spent roughly an hour after his speech in New Hampshire, walking the ballroom and greeting the crowd. It was a repeat performance of his interactions with Republicans during his two stops in Iowa in March.
The governor didn’t mention his expected presidential campaign in his speech, other than to repeat his often used line that “I have only begun to fight.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate in 2016 and 2020, has repeatedly said that Republican voters will have “better choices” than the former president in 2024.
Pence is currently crisscrossing the country on a book tour for his new memoir “So Help Me God,” in which he showcases successes of the Trump-Pence administration, but also spotlights criticisms of Trump that have generated plenty of headlines. That tour, and other trips, have taken him numerous times to the early voting states.
The 63-year-old former vice president emphasized that the positive response he’s said he’s receiving from his new autobiography “has been very encouraging” as he weighs a 2024 bid.
The former congressman turned Indiana governor, who has long been a champion for social conservative voters, appears to be making a play for evangelical voters with meetings earlier this year with some of the right’s most influential pastors.
PENCE REVEALS HIS POTENTIAL 2024 ADVANTAGE
Pence told Fox News Digital earlier this year that Republican voters’ familiarity with his story affords him some breathing room as he makes a decision on whether to launch a presidential campaign.
“I think the advantage that we have is I think the American people know the Pences,” he said. “By and large they know our story and our career, and some are getting to know it better every day. So, we think we have time to be discerning, to be reflective, to listen,” Pence said.
On his 2024 timetable, Pence said on April 14 in a “Fox and Friends” interview that “I believe that you’ll have a clearer idea of what the Pences will decide in weeks, and not months.”
Gov. Chris Sununu was easily re-elected in November to a fourth two-year term steering the key northeastern battleground state of New Hampshire.
Sununu, like Hutchinson, has in recent years become a vocal GOP critic of the former president and has repeatedly predicted that Trump won’t win the 2024 nomination. Sununu has emphasized that the GOP should “move on” from Trump and that “there’s lots of other great leaders out there.”
The 48-year-old governor called Trump “the orange-haired elephant in the room” in a speech recently at a 2024 GOP cattle call.
Similar to DeSantis, Sununu is currently dealing with his state’s legislative session, and has said a 2024 announcement likely would come following the conclusion of that session and the signing of the state’s next biennial budget.
WHAT SUNUNU TOLD FOX NEWS ABOUT HIS 2024 TIMETABLE
“I think the entire presidential timetable will start coming into full vision, full gear, later this summer sometime. We’re not rushing anything. There’s a lot of interest and that’s kind of exciting,” Sununu told Fox News Digital recently.
Gov. Kristi Noem, a conservative congresswoman who spent eight years in the House of Representatives before winning South Dakota’s governorship in 2018, was overwhelming re-elected in November in the reliably red state.
Pundits view Noem, 51, as a possible contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, or as a potential running mate.
“I’m focused on doing my job here in South Dakota,” Noem said when Fox News Digital asked earlier this year whether she’s mulling a White House run.
But she also said that “I’m focused here, but I’m going to continue telling South Dakota’s stories,” adding “that’s a story that I think can bring hope to the rest of the country.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie predicts that in a 2024 Republican presidential nomination race that’s shaping up to be combustible, “it’s not going to end nicely” for Trump.
And Christie, a former two-term Republican governor and 2016 presidential contender who’s seriously mulling another White House run, argued that he’s got the debate chops to potentially take down Trump should he face off with the former president.
Christie made his comments as he headlined a nearly two-hour long town hall late last month in New Hampshire. He returned to New Hampshire in April and has said he’ll decide on a 2024 run sometime in May.
Christie, who is considered one of the best communicators in the GOP and was known during his tenure for the kind of in-your-face politics that Trump has also mastered, was asked by Fox News after the town hall if he thought any of the other actual or potential contenders in the emerging Republican presidential field also had the debate skills to effectively take on Trump.
“I don’t know the answer to that question but what I would say is no one has to wonder if I do,” the former governor emphasized.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Christie explained that the three factors going into his decision will be “seeing a pathway to winning… believing that you have something at that moment to offer the country that it needs to hear,” and whether he would have the support of his family.
“If I answer yes to all three of those questions, then I’ll run. If I answer no to one of them, then I won’t,” he said.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 2021 election victory — he was the first Republican to win a gubernatorial election in Virginia in a dozen years — energized the GOP. And last year he was a politician in demand on the campaign trail, crisscrossing the country on behalf of fellow Republicans.
Youngkin, 56, has repeatedly reiterated that he’s focused right now on his 2023 agenda for Virginia, and on flipping the state Senate from blue to red in this year’s elections in Virginia. But he faced a setback in his policy push for a 15-week abortion ban when Democrats captured a GOP held state senate seat in a special election earlier this year, increasing their razor-thin majority.
When asked on May 1 by the Wall Street Journal if he’ll head out on the presidential campaign trail this year, the govenor answered “no.”
However, Youngkin did not appear to directly rule out a 2024 presidential bid.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott topped Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke — a former congressman who unsuccessfully ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — by 11 points in November, his third straight double-digit gubernatorial victory in the reliably red state.
Thanks to his actions on immigration, abortion and a host of other issues, he’s become very visible and popular with conservatives across the country.
Asked in a Fox News Digital interview earlier this year about a possible 2024 presidential run, the governor emphasized that “my primary focus right now is to maintain those conservative principles and policies for the state of Texas and do my part to expand them across the country. But for the next six months, I’ve got to get these policies passed for the state of Texas to ensure that we put our state on a pathway for not just the next four years but for [the] next 40 years.”
Asked if he’s not ruling out a potential White House run, the 65-year-old Abbott said, “I think a more accurate way to say it is it’s not something I’m ruling in right now. I’m focused on Texas, period.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the runner-up to Trump in the combustible 2016 GOP presidential nomination race, is running for re-election in the Senate next year, and is already gearing up for what may become a bruising battle.
CRUZ SAYS HIS 2024 RE-ELECTION WILL BE A ‘FIREFIGHT’
While he has repeatedly said that “when I ran in ’16, it was the most fun I’ve had in my life,” the senator is clearly passing on any 2024 presidential bid. And two of his top outside politcial advisers are now helping DeSantis.
But Cruz doesn’t rule a future White House run, telling Fox News Digital in March that “there is a season for everything. I can tell you this. I am 52 years old. And life is long, and I intend to be in this fight for as long as there is breath in my body.”
Sen. Rick Scott, a former two-term Florida governor who this past cycle chaired the Senate GOP campaign committee, has already started ramping up his 2024 re-election campaign.
But some political pundits still view Scott, a former health care executive who’s the wealthiest member of the Senate, as a possible White House contender.
Fueling more speculation was an ad Scott went up with earlier this year with an ad where he calls for “change” the Republican Party. The seven-figure ad blitz, which was first reported by Fox News, didn’t run just in Florida, but from coast to coast on national cable TV.
While the 70-year-old Scott virtually headlined a weekly gathering of top conservative leaders and activists in New Hampshire earlier this year, it’s unlikely he’ll change course and launch a presidential campaign.
Former Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas has made two trips so far this year New Hampshire and one to Iowa, sparking speculation that the one-time clandestine officer in the CIA who went on to serve three terms in Congress, is gearing up for a potential White House run.
“The GOP will continue to lose to Democrats if Donald Trump is the nominee,” Hurd told Fox News recently.
Hurd, who was the only Black Republican in the House during his tenure in Congress from 2015 to 2021, is not a fan of the former president, so his criticisms of Trump come as no surprise.
But Hurd added that “I’m not satisfied with the field as it stands right now. No one is taking on Trump effectively, or presenting a vision for the future.”
“I’ve served my country before, and I won’t rule out the opportunity to do it again,” he emphasized.
Former Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming has repeatedly vowed to do “whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office.”
Cheney, a longtime Trump critic who was stripped of her House GOP leadership position and last summer routed in the Republican primary in her bid for renomination by a Trump backed challenger, was a co-chair of the Democrat-dominated Jan. 6 select committee that in its final report recommended barring the former president from ever holding office again.
Cheney, 56, has mulled a presidential bid in order to directly take on Trump, but has said she hasn’t “made a decision yet about what I’m going to do.”
Former national security adviser John Bolton, who served under Trump, has been weighing a Republican presidential run since December.
That’s when he told Fox News he was “prepared” to get into the White House race if other potential Republican contenders didn’t “repudiate” controversial comments Trump had made days earlier suggesting the “termination” of parts of the U.S. Constitution in order to “throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT.”
“I view it really as roughly equivalent to saying he [Trump] wants to overthrow the government,” Bolton argued at the time.
The74-year-old Bolton has a long history serving in Republican administrations, from working in the Justice Department under then-President Ronald Reagan and the State Department under then-President George H.W. Bush.
As a leading State Department official during former President George W. Bush’s administration, he was a strong proponent of the Iraq War. He later served as ambassador to the United Nations during Bush’s second term.
Bolton, who’s long been known as a foreign policy hawk and advocate of U.S. military action overseas, called for the scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal signed during the Obama administration.
Bolton tested the presidential waters in the 2016 cycle with trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in the GOP’s presidential nominating calendar. But he eventually decided against making a White House run.
Former Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, who along with his wife formed a group called “Lead America” to try to remedy the growing discouragement with politics and find solutions to national problems, has been road testing his message and his suggested solutions in recent months with trips across the country, including with stops in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“I think it’s important to get here to have this discussion of ideas about the future of the country with people who are going to have an outsized impact on what happens in 2024,” Rogers stressed.
When asked about his 2024 timetable, Rogers told Fox News he will jump into the race “if I can get to that point where people are really ready for those hard solutions, and creative solutions, and innovative solutions, and an optimistic position for our future.”
After a stop in Iowa in March, Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami headed to New Hampshire in April.
The visits to the first two states to vote in the GOP presidential nominating calendar are sparking further speculation that the Florida Republican is seriously mulling a White House run in 2024.
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“Look, I’m seriously considering a run. It’s something I discussed with my family. My family is on board,” the two-term mayor said in a recent interview on the Fox News Channel.
The 45-year-old Suarez, the son of former Miami mayor and former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, is also currently on a 10-city cross-country swing to speak with law enforcement, politicians and community groups about keeping Americans safe from crime.