Republicans are bracing for Donald Trump to announce an early bid for the White House, a move designed in part to shield the former president from a stream of damaging revelations emerging from investigations into his attempts to cling to power.
Many Republicans would welcome Trump's entry into the race, but it would also make it more difficult for the party to win back the White House. The party is not sure if his candidacy is a distraction or a threat to democracy.
Trump has been campaigning for much of the past year, and has beenying with the idea of running for president for a third time. He accelerated his planning in recent weeks just as a pair of investigations have intensified and congressional testimony has revealed new details about Trump's indifference to the threat of violence.
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Some of Trump's preferred candidates have lost recent primaries, raising hopes that voters may be drifting from a politician long thought to have an iron grip on the party.
The developments have allowed Trump to try to reestablish himself as the leader of the party, overshadow damaging headlines and steal attention from potential rivals, including Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a rising favorite of donors and voters. A formal announcement would back up Trump's claims that the investigations are politically motivated.
Trump would enter the race as the clear front-runner, with an approval rating among Republicans around 80%, but there are signs that a growing number of the party's voters are considering other options.
Haley Barbour is a former Republican National Committee chair and also served as Mississippi's governor.
It is not known when a formal announcement from Trump will take place. He surprised some advisers by saying he might announce his candidacy on social media, and aides are scrambling to build out basic campaign infrastructure in time for an announcement as early as this month.
It's unusual for presidential candidates to announce their candidacies in the year before the election, and it could have immediate implications for Republicans. It would be easier for Democrats to turn the elections into referendums on the former president if Trump were to run again. The GOP has a strong advantage in congressional races due to pocketbook issues.
"Republicans want to win badly in 2022, and it is dawning on many of them that relitigating the 2020 election with Trump's daily conspiracy theories are sure loser."
The former president's team is not sure if he should run again. Those opposed to a third White House bid have concerns ranging from doubts about Trump's remaining political power to questions about whether he can articulate a clear rationale for running.
Some people are urging Trump to take a break. Donald Trump Jr., his oldest son, has taken a more central role in Trump's inner circle of political advisers and has told others that he wants his father to install a more expansive campaign team around him in preparation for a run
Federal campaign finance laws were one of the reasons for an early announcement. If Trump decides to run for president, he won't be able to use any of the $100 million he has parked in his political action committee to support his candidacy. His campaign would be limited by a $2,900 per person donation cap for the primaries, meaning he would only be able to raise money from his largest donors once over the next two years.
Some on Trump's team are not concerned about the limits on the amount of money they can raise.
As investigations into the behavior of Trump and his associates intensify, there is a debate over timing. There are efforts to keep Trump in office after he was defeated. There is an investigation into whether the former president and his team tried to influence the vote in Georgia. The House committee is scrutinizing his conduct in the run up to the Capitol riot.
Lindsey Graham is a senator from South Carolina. According to Graham, the former president would be blamed for anything that happened in the November elections and that an early announcement would focus Trump's attention on policy.
Graham said it was up to him if he ran or not. He needs to compare his policy successes with what is happening today.
Republican leaders tried to stop Trump from announcing.
Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, had urged Trump to wait until after the elections, fearing that news about his campaign could hurt the party. The RNC stopped paying Trump's legal bills when he started his campaign, according to one official. People familiar with the conversations say that she has resigned herself to the idea that he will announce before the election.
Even though Trump aides are supportive of another campaign, they worry that the former president's path to a third nomination has become more difficult than he knows.
The congressional hearings into the Capitol riot have raised concerns for some of Trump's closest advisers. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, testified this week that Trump was aware that some of his supporters were carrying weapons and encouraged his team to let them through the security checkpoint. The panel had evidence of witness tampering according to Rep. Liz Cheney.
In real time to the hearing, Trump posted a dozen messages on his website attacking Hutchinson and denying her most incriminating testimony.
Most Republican officeholders have either dismissed the congressional investigation as a partisan sham or have not commented on the hearings. There are signs that Republicans are aware of its power.
"Ms. Hutchinson would be the star member of a women's Republican club, a committed conservative, no reason to say anything but the truth." The lawmaker spoke on the record. It gives Americans the ability to judge themselves.
Mick Mulvaney, one of Trump's four White House chiefs of staff, told CBS News that he couldn't defend Trump anymore. He said he heard from two dozen political appointees from the Trump administration who had thanked him for his comments.
Mulvaney wouldn't say if he would vote for Trump in the presidential election. The people close to Trump made calls this week looking for someone who could attack Mulvaney in South Carolina, the former adviser's home state.
The Republican Party has changed because of Trump's policies. The red-capped constituency has always been independent from the Make America Great Again movement. Some of Trump's favored candidates were rejected by Republican primary voters.
Some Republican voters may be trying to slow-walk from Donald Trump, according to a Republican strategist. He was not surprised by Trump jumping into the race. You have to put that fire out if you are in his shoes. The more it burns the more it burns.
Interviews with two dozen Republican voters, party activists and elected officials showed that the Jan. 6 hearings had little to do with their interest in other candidates. Several people said they were looking for a nominee who was less divisive.
A former Newt Gingrich aide who is a member of the Georgia Republican Party said there will be a number of Republicans who will govern with conservative policies. The Republicans will back Trump in the general election if he wins the nomination.
Nicole Wolter, CEO of a suburban Chicago manufacturing firm and a member of the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, has an office decorated with photos of her visiting the White House.
In an interview last month, she said that Trump has become too toxic for Republicans to win the general election.
There are a lot of people who don't like him. He wouldn't be able to pull that off if he ran, because we want everyone to rally around him.
According to post-presidency polls, Trump is still the most powerful figure in the party. Potential competitors have not been afraid of competition.
A survey of Republicans in New Hampshire showed a statistical tie between Trump and DeSantis.
After telling Trump last year that he wouldn't compete against him for the presidential nomination, the former Secretary of State has continued to lay the groundwork for a bid for the White House.
People familiar with the conversations say that Pompeo told others he could beat Trump in the Iowa caucuses.
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