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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

Jan 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

White House criticizes bleak “outlier” Quinnipiac Biden poll

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer O'Malley Dillon speaks with White House counsel Dana Remus last July. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House deputy chief of staff Jennifer O’Malley Dillon is publicly attacking a new poll that gave President Biden a 33% approval rating, using the full weight of her office to call it an “outlier,” according to a memo shared with Axios.

Why it matters: By releasing a memo questioning the Quinnipiac University poll’s methodology, the White House is demonstrating how seriously it takes negative perceptions of the president’s job performance at the outset of a critical midterm year.

McCarthy's plot to build the House of Trump

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Al Drago/Bloomberg, Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy is signaling he'll institutionalize key Trumpian priorities if he takes over as House speaker next year — aggressive tactics targeting undocumented immigrants, liberals and corporate America. 

Why it matters: He'd govern with an edge and agenda in stark contrast not just to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) but to Paul Ryan, the last Republican in the role. McCarthy's vision would empower populists and pugilists to complete the Republican makeover Donald Trump drove this far.

Focus group: Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images 

As President Biden approaches the one-year mark of his presidency, some swing voters say his handling of the pandemic has weakened him in their eyes.

  • But they see him projecting strength when he talks about protecting American democracy.

Driving the news: These were key takeaways from the latest Engagious/Schlesinger swing-voter focus groups for Axios, conducted Tuesday, just days after the president's Jan. 6 anniversary speech.