(The Hill) — The moment Tuesday’s midterm elections conclude, attention will shift to the 2024 presidential race.
On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden has said he intends to run for reelection. The greater intrigue will be on the Republican side.
Axios reported last Friday that former President Donald Trump is considering launching a 2024 bid on Nov. 14. Regardless of whether Trump runs, there are plenty of others in the GOP with White House dreams.
Here are the current top ten contenders — a list that could easily be shaken up by unexpected results on Tuesday.
Former President Donald Trump
Trump is the front-runner the moment he enters the race. Virtually every national poll shows him with a healthy lead over any other contender and, for all the controversy he brings in his wake, he remains popular with Republican voters.
An Economist-YouGov poll released last week, which showed him being viewed favorably by 70 percent of Republican voters, also showed the downside.
His favorability among the public at large is grim. Fifty-five percent of adults view him unfavorably, according to the poll, while just 38 percent view him favorably.
In the immediate future, there is a very real possibility that Trump will get indicted over the sensitive documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate by the FBI. Other probes about the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and attempts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia are also continuing.
On Tuesday, many eyes will be on controversial Trump-backed Senate candidates like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Herschel Walker in Georgia, as well as Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake. Their fates will be seen as judgements by proxy on Trump himself.
It’s tough to see anyone defeating Trump for the GOP nomination if he wants it.
But there are also very big questions that aren’t going away.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
DeSantis should cruise to reelection on Tuesday over his Democratic challenger, former Rep. Charlie Crist.
The margin of his victory will be important, however.
A resounding win in a national battleground would be powerful evidence of DeSantis’s electability — even though he draws the fury of Democrats and liberals for his policies on immigration, voting rights and education, among other topics.
As of Sunday evening, DeSantis led Crist, himself a former governor, by 11.5 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average.
If Trump were to unexpectedly decline to enter the race, DeSantis would immediately become the favorite.
If Trump launches a campaign, as expected, DeSantis is almost certainly the only person in the GOP with any realistic chance of defeating him.
Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas)
Polling indicates that Trump and DeSantis are well clear of others in the potential field for the 2024 GOP nomination.
Cruz, who was Trump’s most serious rival back in 2016, is probably the best of the rest.
He is staunchly conservative, a potent fundraiser and has a high national profile.
The 2016 primary campaign was a bitter one, culminating in Cruz notably declining to endorse Trump at that year’s Republican National Convention.
Cruz has, for the most part, made nice with Trump since then. But recently he has deviated from that path on occasion.
Just last week, he complained about the former president not spending enough money to support GOP candidates in the midterms.
“I wish Trump was spending some of his money,” Cruz said on his podcast. “Trump’s got $100 million and he’s spending almost none of it to support these candidates.”
Cruz has been overtaken by DeSantis as the main alternative to Trump but he could yet make some headway.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin
Youngkin thrilled party insiders with his victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe last year, becoming governor of a state Biden had carried by 10 points in 2020.
Youngkin’s fans were enthused not only by the fact that he won but the way in which he did so — with a campaign that neither fully embraced nor rejected Trump, and with a strong emphasis on parents’ rights in education.
Some saw in the Youngkin campaign a template for a winning Republican campaign in a post-Trump era.
But if Youngkin has higher ambitions, he has to contend with questions about his relative lack of political experience — and the fact that it’s not at all clear the post-Trump era has yet begun.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Pompeo has been more open than most about his presidential ambitions.
“We’ve got a team in Iowa, a team in New Hampshire, and South Carolina. And that’s not random. We are doing the things one would do to get ready,” he said at a September event in Chicago.
“We are trying to figure out if that is the next place for us to serve,” he added, referring to the White House.
Pompeo’s tenure as secretary of State gives him some gravitas and authority.
But it’s a lot more doubtful whether he has the charisma to go all the way — or whether there is a significant pro-Pompeo camp anywhere in the GOP.
Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley
Haley was widely seen as a gifted politician during her time as governor of South Carolina. As the daughter of Indian immigrants, she was also viewed as an emblem of a new, more inclusive GOP.
Haley is a compelling figure, but her political positioning in relation to Trump has caused her problems.
Though she served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during his tenure, she also left abruptly and is viewed with suspicion by some in the former president’s inner circle.
Haley caused a stir in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection when she was critical of Trump in a closed-door meeting with Republican National Committee members, saying his conduct between the election and the riot would be “harshly judged by history.”
Later, she again became far more supportive. She has indicated she will not be a candidate in 2024 if Trump enters the race.
“Every time she criticizes me, she uncriticizes me about 15 minutes later,” Trump mused to Vanity Fair in September 2021.
Former Vice President Mike Pence
Trump’s former deputy has been doing much of the work that traditionally presages a presidential campaign — giving big speeches, endorsing candidates and generally seeking to position himself as a major figure within the GOP.
The problem for Pence is pretty simple — and hard to overcome.
Pro-Trump hard-liners don’t like him because he — rightly — upheld the 2020 election results. And people who admire him for his conduct in that regard don’t amount to a sizable constituency in today’s GOP.
In a YouGov-University of Massachusetts poll in October, Trump secured 53 percent support and DeSantis 29 percent.
Pence was way behind, with 6 percent.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Abbott isn’t generally seen as in the top tier of presidential contenders, though some insiders in Texas believe he has a more bullish view of his chances.
Abbott will probably strengthen his case on Tuesday. He is expected to comfortably defeat former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D). Abbott is about nine points ahead in the RCP average. Assuming he vanquishes O’Rourke, it will likely end the Democrat’s once-bright hopes of higher office.
Still, Abbott’s presumed victory will come in a much more safely Republican state than DeSantis’s Florida.
While the Texas governor is an able politician, it’s hard to see how he gets past some of the figures higher on this list.
There has been gossip for a while in media and political circles about whether Carlson might harbor political ambitions.
On one hand, a presidential campaign seems highly improbable.
On the other, if Trump did not run, there would arguably be a gap in the market for a TV star with a taste for the provocative and inflammatory.
Carlson, whose Fox News show regularly draws more than 3 million viewers, has a readymade fanbase.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)
Our tenth Republican is a bit of a cheat for this list, at least in compiling the 10 figures most likely to be the GOP nominee for president in 2024.
Cheney is not going to be the Republican nominee.
Trump’s fiercest GOP foe on Capitol Hill lost her August primary to the former president’s pick, Harriet Hageman, in a landslide.
But Cheney has been plain about her mission to stop Trump ever holding high office again.
She will be leaving Congress in January but a “spoiler” run for the GOP nomination — or an independent bid — can’t be ruled out.