WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Donald Trump is telling allies he's strongly considering another run for president in 2024 - and close advisers want him to choose someone other than former Vice-President Mike Pence for his ticket, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Mr Trump publicly teased at the Conservative Political Action Conference last Sunday (Feb 28) that he's mulling another bid for president. Privately, he's discussed alternatives to Mr Pence as he takes stock of who he believes stood with him at the end of his term and who didn't, according to two of the people.
They requested anonymity because the conversations have been private.
Mr Trump's advisers have discussed identifying a Black or female running mate for his next run, and three of the people familiar with the matter said Mr Pence likely won't be on the ticket.
Two advisers have suggested Mr Trump consider South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, the people said.
Mr Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Ms Kimberly Guilfoyle, are hosting a fundraiser for Ms Noem on Friday at Mr Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and home in Palm Beach. The former president is planning to make an appearance, people familiar with the matter said.
And on Tuesday, Mr Trump issued a public endorsement for South Carolina Senator Tim Scott's re-election. Mr Scott is the only Black Republican in the US Senate.
Mr Pence rejected his boss's appeals to unilaterally overturn Mr Trump's re-election defeat when he presided over the congressional count of Electoral College votes on Jan 6.
The event turned into an insurrection by Mr Trump's supporters, who invaded the Capitol, disrupted the count and forced the vice-president and members of Congress to flee. Five people died in the melee.
The two men didn't speak for days afterward. Mr Pence hasn't said whether he'd be interested in running with Mr Trump again, according to person familiar with the situation, who believes it's doubtful Mr Pence would.
Mr Trump adviser Jason Miller said "no such conversations are happening" about picking someone other than Mr Pence if he runs again, and that the former president "hasn't made any decisions regarding a potential 2024 run."
A Mr Pence spokesperson didn't immediately comment.
In Mr Trump's camp, there's been no serious consideration of future vice-presidential candidates yet, the people familiar with the matter said. If he runs, Mr Trump likely won't make a formal announcement until the summer of 2023, they said.
If Mr Trump runs in 2024, it would be good for him to pick a female running mate or someone who can appeal to voters that he lost in 2020 and for Mr Pence to break out on his own and partner with someone who shares his core conservative values but doesn't put off voters in the way that Mr Trump's rhetoric did at times, said Ms Alyssa Farah, a former communications director for Mr Trump.
"It's probably best for both of them," Ms Farah said on Bloomberg Radio's "Sound On" programme Wednesday.
At a rally outside the White House before the deadly Jan 6 riot, Mr Trump said he would win the 2020 election if Mr Pence did "the right thing" and rejected Electoral College votes for Mr Joe Biden from several states where the former president had alleged, without evidence, that widespread fraud had cost him victory.
After Mr Pence refused, Mr Trump tweeted that his vice-president "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution." At the time, the mob was swarming the Capitol, with some insurrectionists chanting "hang Mike Pence," as the Secret Service spirited the vice-president to safety.
While Mr Trump didn't formally announce his candidacy at CPAC on Sunday, his first public appearance since leaving office on Jan 20, he hinted at another bid.
Mr Trump rattled off the accomplishments of his term in the White House, repeated his false claim that he won the 2020 election and added, "Who knows? I may even decide to beat them a third time."
The former president's public musing about another run may effectively freeze the 2024 Republican presidential field, as many other prominent GOP candidates are likely to wait on the former president's decision before announcing their own campaigns.
Mr Trump is building a political structure that would serve as a campaign foundation should he decide to run again, including an existing political action committee, Save America, that accepts donations up to US$5,000 (S$6,664) per individual. A new super PAC, which would accept unlimited donations, is also planned.
Mr Pence was invited to speak at CPAC but informed organisers weeks ahead of the event that he and his family had decided to keep a low profile in the first half of the year. He has said he's opening a transition office and plans to move back to Indiana this summer.
The former vice-president is himself considered a top-tier potential candidate in 2024. A Harvard-Harris poll conducted Feb 23-25 found that 42 per cent of Republican voters preferred Mr Trump as their 2024 nominee, compared to 18 per cent for Mr Pence, who placed second.
Without Mr Trump, Mr Pence led the field with the support of 36 per cent of Republican voters, followed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz at 13 per cent.