(The Hill) – All eyes are turning to a number of Republicans to see which rising stars and notable voices might decide to take on former President Donald Trump in 2024.
Though Trump formally announced a third run for the White House earlier this month, the disappointing midterm results for the GOP, which included Trump endorsees who struggled to cross the finish line in their respective races, has only encouraged other Republicans to make their own presidential bids.
Here’s a look at seven Republicans most likely to challenge the former president in the next election cycle:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida speaks during a campaign rally on Nov. 7, 2022, in Hialeah, Fla.
Though DeSantis was seen as a likely 2024 challenger even before the midterms, Republicans saw his reelection in Florida — by a whopping 19 points over Democrat Charlie Crist — as a silver lining in a generally tough slew of elections for Republicans.
The Florida governor, best known for going head-to-head with the Biden administration over COVID-19 restrictions and stoking the culture wars against companies like Disney, has evaded questions about whether he’ll run in 2024. But over the weekend, his remarks suggested he isn’t shying away from a bid.
“In times like these, there is no substitute for victory. We in Florida are the light. Freedom will reign supreme with Florida leading the way,” DeSantis said Saturday at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting, later adding, “We’ve accomplished more over a four-year period than anybody thought possible, but I can tell you this: We’ve got a lot more to do, and I have only begun to fight.”
While Republicans say DeSantis is buoyed by his successful gubernatorial reelection, GOP strategist and former Trump campaign alum Brian Seitchik also noted that “he has a very favorable legislature. So he’s able to try to pass legislation that will play well in primaries and in a general election.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley listens during a news conference in Allentown, Pa., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022.
Haley has also show hints of 2024 presidential aspirations and made her presence during the midterms very clear as she stumped for candidates like New Hampshire GOP Senate hopeful Don Bolduc and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).
“And if Biden succeeds in getting back in the Iran deal, I will make you a promise. I’ve said it before. The next president will shred it on her first day in office,” Haley said to applause during the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting.
A former ambassador to the U.N. and a former two-term South Carolina governor, Haley is lauded in Republican circles for her impressive résumé. But some members of the party suggest Trump’s 2024 presidential bid complicates the prospects of candidates like Haley and others who worked in Trump’s administration and might be viewed as “Trump-adjacent.”
“That’s the problem some of these Trump-adjacent candidates have. [Mike] Pompeo, [Mike] Pence. Some of these people — I mean they were in his administration. So why would someone choose you … when they could choose Trump?” said GOP strategist Scott Jennings.
Haley has previously said that she wouldn’t run if Trump mounted a bid in 2024, telling The Associated Press in 2021 that she’d talk to the former president about it. But Haley’s teasing out possible aspirations suggest she might not stick to that plan.
Former Vice President Mike Pence
Former Vice President Mike Pence sits for an interview with the Associated Press, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, in New York.
Pence has also attracted speculation of a 2024 White House bid as he’s made trips to states like Iowa and New Hampshire. The release of his new memoir has only added to questions about his political future, while he’s made hints in passing about what might come next.
“He gets to run on a record of what he did as the vice president as part of the administration and decisions that were made. But at the same time, he can say ‘I’m a kinder, softer, gentler kind of candidate for president,’” said Republican strategist Saul Anuzis.
Anuzis said while the fallout between Pence and Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot may complicate whether some members of the party support the former vice president, he suggested that might not play as much a factor among mainstream Republican activists.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses an audience at a periodic “Politics and Eggs” gathering at Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, N.H., Sept. 20, 2022.
A former Kansas congressman, a former CIA director and a former secretary of State under the Trump administration, Pompeo has teased presidential ambitions and has been comfortable taking indirect swipes at his previous boss. Like Haley, Pompeo would come to a possible White House bid with foreign policy experience.
Seitchik said that Pompeo was “certainly qualified for the job” but also noted that the former secretary of State “doesn’t have a natural fundraising base. He doesn’t have a natural electoral base.”
“I’m not sure if he has that ‘it’ factor that I think is required in today’s modern politics,” he added.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R)
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks to supporters as he attends a campaign rally on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Westchester, N.Y.
Youngkin made headlines in 2021 when he won the Virginia governor’s race against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), making him the first Republican in more than a decade to flip the seat red. The former private equity executive has also waded into the culture wars — most notably on the issue of critical race theory during his run in the gubernatorial election — but also sought to project himself as a unifier among different coalitions of his party during the midterm elections.
He campaigned with Republican gubernatorial nominees like Kari Lake in Arizona, Tim Michels in Wisconsin and Joe Lombardo in Nevada. “I think that the Republican Party has to be a party where we are not shunning people and excluding them because we don’t agree on everything,” Youngkin said on CNN’s “State of the Union” last month.
“Youngkin is a solid conservative who won in a quintessential swing state that is still kind of leaning purple or blue even,” said Anuzis. “He showed how you can deliver a conservative message without being, you know, edgy and confrontational, while still addressing some of the confrontational and controversial issues that are out there.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R)
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Las Vegas.
While many Republicans have avoided criticizing Trump until more recently, once the midterms delivered disappointing results for the party, Hogan hasn’t shied away from making his dissatisfaction with the former president known. The Maryland governor has confirmed he’s considering a possible bid, but some Republicans aren’t sure if his brand of “never-Trumpism” could bode well with blocs of the GOP who still embrace Trump.
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“I think if your identity is as a never-Trumper, remember the votes you’re competing for are a bunch of people who voted for Trump twice. It’s a Republican primary, everybody voting in a Republican primary basically voted for Trump twice with a few exceptions,” said Jennings, while noting that Hogan had earned the right to run for president.
“I think a lot of those voters find the never-Trump crowd to be agitating in some way because they saw them as essentially helping the Democrats to pile on during the Trump years,” he continued.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a campaign rally for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Oklahoma City.
While Cruz also hasn’t closed the door on another presidential bid, the calculus will be more tricky given that he’s also up for reelection in 2024. The senator confirmed he would be seeking reelection, though it’s unclear if White House ambitions change that planning.
Republicans say they’re interested to see, if Cruz does decide to run, whether he’ll change the way he brands himself as a candidate. Some say that while he has an impressive conservative track record, they aren’t sold quite yet.
“His conservative credentials are impeccable. He is a brilliant guy. Again, he’s qualified to do the job. But I think there’s a likability issue with him,” said Seitchik, later adding, “I don’t think voters found him particularly likable in 2016. Has he evolved since then is an important question.”