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The 2024 presidential primary and the potential candidates' travels to Iowa have begun, even though the caucuses are more than three and a half years away.
That sentence will make me weep into my pillow tonight.
Nevertheless, the 2024 campaign has come to Iowa's doorstep. On Friday, Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. secretary of state, addressed a suburban Des Moines conservative club.
The trail will not remain cold for long. This week, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, of Florida, will participate in a Republican Party of Iowa event in Cedar Rapids with multiple Iowa GOP leaders. And U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, of South Carolina, is scheduled to be in Davenport in mid-April.
Clearly potential Republican presidential candidates are laying some early groundwork - emphasis on early.
But it's all conditional.
Former President Donald Trump has not yet said whether he will run again in 2024. If he does, Trump obviously remakes the GOP field.
A new poll shows as much: 61 percent of Iowa Republicans 'very likely” to participate in the 2024 caucuses said they would support Trump if he runs in 2024, according to a Victory Insights poll conducted March 5-8 and published last week.
No other Republican candidate reached double digits in the poll.
In other words, unless there is seismic movement among the GOP electorate, if Trump enters the 2024 Republican presidential race, Trump wins the 2024 Republican presidential primary.
But if Trump does not run, the Republican race likely would be wide open and include many candidates - maybe as many as the unwieldy 2016 field, which at one point grew to nearly 20 candidates.
So until Trump makes a decision, other potential candidates are testing the waters.
And it may be like this for a long time. There is no reason for Trump to rush a decision: As a former president who remains popular within the party, there is no need for him to mount any early campaign. He could drop into the race well into the cycle and still win comfortably.
So each time we talk about these other potential candidates - Pompeo, the Scotts, Tom Cotton, Nikki Haley, even Mike Pence - it will all come with the caveat: But Trump has not yet announced whether he will run.
Until that question is settled, the GOP primary will be Trump's to lose. No matter how early any other Republicans come to Iowa.
Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His column appears Monday in The Gazette. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.