GOP hopefuls crank up the "if-Trump-doesn’t-run" primary

In a primary in which the former president is still outpacing every other potential contender, said Tony Fabrizio, who was a Trump pollster in 2020, the goal is not to be seen as preferable to Trump — but as the best alternative.

“As long as he holds sway, everybody’s going to be looking at, ‘How do I get his voters if he chooses not to run?’” Fabrizio said. “The No. 1 question — and if it’s not, they should fire whoever’s working for them right now — is how does my candidate get to be the second choice of Trump voters.”…

But Trump may be leaving the field in suspense for an extended period of time — long past when most presidential candidates move beyond networking to organization building, which may be harder with Trump’s intentions unclear. The former president told Fox News last week that he won’t decide if he’ll run for president again until after the midterm elections next year, which doesn’t leave much time for lesser known candidates to establish their brand and name identification within the party. And although that delay will not preclude early state visits from other potential candidates, it will limit their ability to hire staff if the uncertainty drags on.

“It’s a different story come mid-next year, and then they’re only 16 to 18 months from the primary,” Moore said. “Top-level operatives in early states will be hesitant as long as the former president is considering it.”

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