When a party loses the White House, a new crop of presidential hopefuls typically begin moving quickly to lay the groundwork for a run in the next campaign.

Not this year.

President Donald Trump’s increasingly overt flirtations with running again in 2024 are freezing the potentially vast field of Republican candidates. GOP White House hopefuls are essentially left to watch what Trump does next instead of courting fundraisers, building networks and visiting early-voting states — the usual campaign planning steps — for fear of angering Trump and risking turning off his large and loyal base.

And that’s just the way the president likes it, ensuring he stays in the spotlight and generating the cash and media coverage he craves. But strategists say Trump is essentially leaving the party in a holding pattern, with could-be-candidates unable to prepare as they try to avoid crossing a notoriously unforgiving president who has an enormous Twitter bullhorn and little tolerance for perceived disloyalty.

“Trump is delaying the start of the 2024 campaign in a significant way,” said Alex Conant, a Republican operative who served as communications director to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. In a normal campaign cycle, Conant said, “you would see potential presidential candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire this month.” This year, “That’s not going to happen because nobody wants to be seen as challenging Trump.”

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