Donald Trump has a big lead for the GOP nomination. Can DeSantis, Pence or anyone else catch him?

A half-year before anyone actually votes, and one year before the Republican nominating convention, the GOP presidential race is in the same place it has been for months: A bunch of challengers chasing former President Donald Trump.

Trump has built a huge lead in polls despite − or because of − two indictments and two other ongoing investigations, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other GOP candidates are scrambling for ways to close the gap on the former president.

"We're up very big in the polls - very, very big," Trump told a convention of young supporters Saturday night in West Palm Beach, Fla., questioning why DeSantis or any other Republicans would bother running against him.

Meanwhile, DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others are fanning out across the country looking for supporters, particularly in Iowa, which begins the nomination process with caucuses on Jan. 15.

Challengers are also aiming at an Aug. 23 debate, though Trump has strongly suggested he will not attend due to his lead in polls over his Republican rivals.

"When you have a big lead, you don't do it," Trump told Fox News Channel’s "Sunday Morning Futures."

When a reporter in Iowa asked DeSantis how he hopes to cut into Trump's lead, the Florida governor responded: "Watch and learn."

Among the Trump challengers' strategies:

Donald Trump and his challengers

Ron DeSantis: It's Trump or me

DeSantis and his allies are pushing the idea that only he and Trump have the money, organization and supporters needed to win the GOP nomination. They're also suggesting DeSantis is a better bet in the general election against President Joe Biden, given Trump's struggles with independent voters in the wake of his legal problems.

While DeSantis has said little about Trump's indictments, he is trying to draw differences on issues important to conservative voters.

In a memo to donors, the DeSantis team said "soft Trump voters and America First conservatives do not look kindly on Trump's record on guns, the deficit and spending, Transgenderism, and his family's ... cozy relationship with the Saudi Royal Family."

DeSantis is Trump's closest challenger, but he is also struggling with stagnant poll numbers, nervous supporters and staff shake-ups. He is also embarking on a new media strategy, including scheduling an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

The Real Clear Politics website average of recent polls as of Sunday puts DeSantis at 20.6%, more than 30 percentage points behind Trump at 53%.

Pence contrasts with Trump

The former vice president, who is in third place in many polls, is stressing the more conservative aspects of the Trump-Pence administration, while drawing distinctions with his former president on issues such as Ukraine and the rising costs of entitlement programs.

Pence has also criticized Trump for pressuring him in early 2021 to throw out the electoral votes that elected Biden. Trump-inspired efforts to overturn the election are the subject of investigations in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., the latter of which featured grand jury testimony by Pence.

Like DeSantis and other candidates, Pence is putting a big emphasis in Iowa, where evangelical voters hold sway.

During a Friday appearance at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, Pence said "we will secure our border., We will support our military. We will revive our economy and stand by our values, and we will also lead the world for freedom."

Ramaswamy rising?

Vivek Ramaswamy, the 37-year-old businessman and first-time candidate who made his political name by attacking "woke" corporate culture is hoping to catch a wave of buzz about his status as an outsider.

He's also been supportive of Trump, suggesting he would pardon the former president over his legal troubles.

Trump has also been complimentary of Ramaswamy. The former president invokes his name during campaign riffs in which he predicts that DeSantis will soon be overtaken for second place by another candidate.

"Maybe it's Vivek," Trump said in his Florida speech. "Could be ... He's doing well."

Nikki Haley: The 'new generation?'

The former governor of South Carolina and United Nations ambassador is trying to move up in the race for the White House by casting herself as the leader of a "new generation" of Republicans, while portraying Trump as a figure of the past.

"We're 5 months into our campaign and 6 months to the Iowa caucuses," Haley tweeted Saturday. "Join @TeamHaley and let's make America strong and proud again!"

The only woman in the race, Haley is generally polling at less than 5%. Her main goal is to survive the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire and make it to the South Carolina primary in late February.

Tim Scott: Another South Carolinian

A U.S. senator from South Carolina, and the only Black Republican in that chamber, Scott is also trying to portray himself as a candidate of the future.

"I think minority voters are trending toward the Republican Party. That's great news," Scott previously told 

And like Haley, Scott is mired far down in the polls and hoping to hang in until South Carolina.

Chris Christie, Trump attack dog

The former New Jersey governor is already using a tactic that other candidates may have to adopt: Attack Trump directly.

Christie, a former federal prosecutor, has been particularly critical of Trump's handing of classified documents, the subject of a June federal indictment. Trump also faces a trial in New York state over hush money payments.

"In this Republican primary there is one lane to the nomination, and that lane is right through Donald Trump," Christie said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

On CNN's "State of the Union," Christie denounced Trump's frequent claim that he is being indicted because of his presidential campaign.

"He's a liar and a coward," Christie said, downplaying Trump's lead in the polls by saying "there's a lot of campaign to go here."

Christie is focused on New Hampshire, site of the first primary. He hopes that success there will rocket him through the rest of the primaries, which happened for John McCain when he took the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

Trump, challengers, and debates

Christie and all the other challengers are banking on specific events to help them catch up to Trump: Debates, though there's no guarantee that the front-runner will be there.

Trump has repeatedly said he will probably skip the first debate scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee. He said he doesn't want to give rivals shots at him when he is so far ahead in the polls.

Some of those challengers may not make it either: The Republican National Committee has said candidates need at least 40,000 donors before they can ascend the stage.

Asa Hutchinson, Doug Burgum and Will Hurd

Burgum, the little-known North Dakota governor is trying to attract donors by offering them gift cards for contributions.

Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Tex., may not make the debate stage because he is refusing to sign a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee − because it might be Trump.

Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, closed his appearance at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa with a direct appeal to contributors.

"Help us get on the debate stage," he said.

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