US President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval office of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 13, 2019.
CNN  — 

When Donald Trump tells you he is running for president again, you should believe him the first time.

Witness an interview he did with New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi recently.

“Well, in my own mind, I’ve already made that decision, so nothing factors in anymore,” Trump said about a 2024 White House bid. “In my own mind, I’ve already made that decision.”

And, what might that decision be? Don’t worry, Trump will tell you. From Nuzzi’s story:

“‘I would say my big decision will be whether I go before or after,’ he said. ‘You understand what that means?’ His tone was conspiratorial. Was he referring to the midterm elections? He repeated after me: ‘Midterms.’ Suddenly, he relaxed, as though my speaking the word had somehow set it free for discussion. ‘Do I go before or after? That will be my big decision,’ he said.”

Right. So I guess the guesswork is pretty much over then.

Just in case you still aren’t convinced – I know there are some of you out there – then it’s worth considering this Washington Post report today that has people in Trump’s orbit suggesting a range of possibilities for a campaign announcement, from before the midterm election to September specifically to even sooner than that.

That follows on similar reporting from CNN earlier this month that made clear that a third Trump bid was a question of when, not if. Here’s the key bit from that story:

“[H]is desire to expedite a campaign announcement – ditching previous plans to wait until after the November midterm elections – grew even deeper after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson raised serious questions in a televised congressional hearing this week about Trump’s behavior during the final months of his first term, according to sources familiar with the matter.”

CNN’s Gabby Orr also reported that one person close to Trump said that if he doesn’t formally launch his campaign this month, the most likely alternative would be around Labor Day.

So, like, yeah. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s, um, extremely likely to be a duck.

Especially when you consider this fundamental fact about Trump: He craves attention, buzz and relevance. Why would he willingly pass up all three – which would be the obvious byproducts of another presidential candidacy? Answer: He wouldn’t.

The operative question then about the 2024 Republican race needs to change from “Is Trump going to run?” to “Who is going to run against Trump?”

That is a much more intriguing question, with a far less certain answer. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seems, at least at that moment, as the most likely non-Trump Republican to run – and, if polls and money are any guide, would have the best chance to beat Trump.

(Of DeSantis, Trump told Nuzzi: “I endorsed Ron, he was at 3, and as soon as I endorsed him, he went to first place, he was not gonna win.”)

Others such as former Vice President Mike Pence, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton are also mentioned – although it’s not clear how Trump’s official announcement, whenever it comes, would influence their decisions.

The Point: Trump is running. He’s literally saying it out loud now. So, we need to start treating him like a presidential candidate. Again.