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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Former President Trump is telling most anyone who'll listen he will run again in 2024 — and poll after poll shows the vast majority of Republicans would gladly cheer him on and vote for him. 

Why it matters: Trump is the heart, soul and undisputed leader of the Republican Party and will easily win the nomination if he wants it, the polls make unmistakably clear.

It's not just idle chatter. Trump is spending much of his time thinking about politics, holding calls with his political team and surveying polling.

  • Trump is keeping close tabs on his would-be rivals for the nomination — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former V.P. Mike Pence and former SecState Mike Pompeo in particular.
  • A source close to Trump told me he "is keeping all options open for 2024. With [an 84%] approval rating in the Republican Party, he doesn't need to keep 'close tabs' on anyone."

What we're watching: Trump has been endorsing loyalists who back his fraud claims in secretary of state races around the country — a sign he’s thinking ahead about political levers and remains obsessed with the "Big Lie."

What we're hearing: Trump's most likely opponent is Pence, who — I'm told — has no plans to defer to his former boss.

Reality check: The idea someone could challenge Trump as an anti-Trump candidate seems ludicrous. The market is minimalist inside the new GOP. 

  • That means someone would need to out-Trump Trump when the latest Quinnipiac Poll shows 8 in 10 Republicans want him to run.
  • Almost every top Republican we talk to said it would take a severe illness, death — or criminal charges sticking — to stop Trump from walking away with the race before it even begins.

Pompeo has been the most obvious about his presidential ambitions — starting a PAC and doing all the obvious travel.

  • Trump aides have commented on how much weight Pompeo has lost — another sign, they interpret, of his ambitions.
  • But Trump's advisers cannot imagine Pompeo or DeSantis would dare run against him.

Trumpworld is more uncertain about Pence, who has been quiet about his intentions but maintains a strong and loyal team around him.

  • Nikki Haley — the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, who's often talked of as a potential 2024 candidate — has explicitly said she wouldn’t challenge Trump.

Pence has notably not made any such declaration.

  • And you know who's noticed? Donald J. Trump.
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Go deeper

Vulnerable Democrats: Less Trump talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vulnerable House Democrats are convinced they need to talk less about the man who helped them get elected: President Trump.

Why it matters: Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump's role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

Trump endorses David Perdue for Georgia governor

Former President Trump makes an announcement with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to his right and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) to his left in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Aug. 2, 2017. Photo: Zach Gibson/Pool via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Monday endorsed former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in his campaign for governor of Georgia.

Why it matters: Trump turned on Republican Gov. Brian Kemp after Kemp doubled down on the state's electoral integrity last year.

Regulators investigating Trump SPAC deal

Former President Donald Trump speaking during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, in October. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Regulators are investigating the planned merger between Digital World Acquisition Corporation and former President Trump's social media business, according to a recent filing by the SPAC.

Driving the news: The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority are looking into the trading of Digital World's shares, while the SEC is investigating communications and documents between Digital World and Trump Media Technology Group.