We’re about six months away from the first G.O.P. primary debate and the jockeying and positioning within the 2024 field feels a little stunted. The counting of the first ballots is less than one year away. So in what is fast becoming a weekly tradition around here, I reached out to my partner Peter Hamby to discuss the different considerations for each candidate about when to enter the race, their emerging strategic lanes, and how the much-anticipated Trump–DeSantis slugfest factors into it all. Plus, how DeSantis’s former staffers could be a boon to Trump and how Biden’s student loan relief struggles may affect his reelect.
Tara: This already feels like the longest primary ever, especially since it started after the midterms with Trump’s announcement, and yet it has barely even begun! As I’ve noted recently, I’m also hearing that Glenn Youngkin, Chris Sununu, Chris Christie, and Rick Scott are all exploring this idea of a late entry in the 2024 Republican primary, perhaps in summer or even early fall, ostensibly after Trump and DeSantis have had their way with each other. Do you think that’s a viable option?
Peter: My short answer is no, not really. I was struck by a recent New York Times analysis by Nate Cohn showing that there’s actually a pretty decent historical correlation between a candidate’s early support in the polls and the eventual winner of the nomination. Trump in 2016 was the big exception in recent memory, but Cohn’s data is correct. If you’re polling in high double digits at this point in the campaign, you tend to have the best shot. DeSantis (around 30 percent support in most polls) and Trump (usually polling around 40 percent) are the only two candidates in that discussion. If you’re polling in low single digits at this point in the race—approaching the conclusion of the first quarter of the year—modern history shows you’re a non-starter.