When pundits and analysts think of 2024 with or without Trump, they think of Nikki Haley, Kristi Noem, Mike Pence, and Ted Cruz. Noem is a newcomer, but is so telegenic, did superbly on the virus, and is such a natural star she has been promoted to varsity. But who are the dark horses? Who could emerge out of a post-Trump party, challenge the president in the primaries, or accept a veep nomination from Trump? Here are some possibilities.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota- Number three in the Senate GOP, Thune combines an MGM casting image with a solid conservative voting record. He’s the right age, about 60, and is an excellent communicator.

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida- Having Florida in your pocket going into the primary season is not a bad way to start. DeSantis is popular and youthful. He’s built a nice coalition in Florida that is a model for the rest of the party. Republicans also usually prefer governors over senators as their presidential nominees, as governors have run something other than their mouths.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas- It’s hard to beat his personal story. Disabled in an accident and very popular in Texas, he’d keep that key state in the GOP column and his personal image and reputation are squeaky clean. Also solidly conservative and would be very acceptable to Trump voters if the president were not to run. Would make a great contrast to either Biden or Harris.

Donald Trump, Jr – No. We sadly are not a hereditary monarchy and at least some experience in government and/or a background more than a bloodline should be a necessary requirement for this high office. In the future, if he or sister Ivanka were to gain office somewhere and succeed? Then sure. Go for it, especially Ivanka. She’s a natural. They could potentially join their sister in law Lara in the Senate.

If the bench stays on the bench, how could it play out amongst the current varsity? Ask the president. He will either be a favorite for the nomination or a kingmaker. If he wants his job back he has to pull a Nixon ’66, barnstorm for Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms, then take credit for the likely wins and thus House majority. Though, that will be a tough Senate year, we’re defending more than the Democrats, and Trump could get tarred with a jinx brush if we lose the Senate.

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Trump’s likely choice if he doesn’t run? Noem or Pence. Yes, he’s loyal to Pence, but he would also realize that a post-Trump era needs a post-Trump nominee.