GOP voters apparently only want Trump as president

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 18:  (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump T...
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There's been much recent speculation about whether or not former President Donald Trump will run for office again — never mind the question of if he should be allowed to in the first place. For his part, Trump has been happy to add his own self-interested fuel to the speculative fire, claiming in late April that he's "100% thinking about running again" just months after Axios reported that he'd already begun plotting a 2024 comeback in the days following his 2020 defeat.

So intoxicating and potent is the mere possibility of a second Trump term in office within the newly MAGA-fied GOP, that pointing out the obvious problems of rewarding the animating force behind the Jan. 6 insurrection with another shot at the White House was enough to get the number three Republican in congress ignominiously booted (and booed) from her party's leadership team.

But if Donald Trump doesn't run for office again — a very real possibility, despite his lucrative protestations to the contrary — the question then becomes one of who within the Republican party is poised to take his place? According to a new poll out from Politico/Morning Consult, the answer is: It's wiiiiiide open. Because while nearly half of GOP voters indicated they'd vote for Trump in a 2024 Republican primary, none of the other high profile Republicans even cracked 15%. In fact, the next most popular potential GOP candidate is former Vice President Mike Pence, a man whose obsequiousness to Trump only delivered a lynch mob and a disavowal from his former boss. According to the poll, Pence has just a 13% share of GOP voter support.

Incredibly, everyone else listed in the poll scored dramatically worse than Pence. The third highest theoretical candidate, Donald Trump Jr., scored just 8%, which is better than Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who landed at 7%. From there on out it's 4% and lower for everyone from Nikki Haley, to Marco Rubio, to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. To add insult to injury, when presented with the list of potential 2024 GOP candidates, 4% of respondents said they simply wouldn't vote at all, which has to be painful for someone like Mike Pompeo, who landed at a paltry 1% of support.

If there's a grand takeaway from this poll, conducted between May 14-17 with 652 GOP respondents, it's that the Republican party is both locked into backing the former president by an overwhelming margin, and that — without Trump sucking up all the political oxygen — 2024 is wide open for anyone to seize upon. Absent Trump, there is simply no clear GOP frontrunner or figurehead.

Should Trump choose not to run in 2024, the GOP primary will likely hinge as much on who can manage to finagle his blessing (or at least avoid his wrath) and with it, his lockstep supporters, eager to be told who will be best for them in a Trumpless future.