OPINION: Kemp for president? Better start choppin’.

Barely six months into his second term as governor, Brian Kemp has traveled to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum; New York, Texas, Nashville, and Sea Island to meet with large-dollar GOP donors; and later this week will head to Israel for a week-long trade mission.

He’s also launched a super PAC to raise money for federal races and he left the door ever-so-slightly open to chatter that he might be considering a run for president in 2024.

It all makes you wonder, what’s he planning?

“I never say never in politics,” Kemp told WSB-TV’s Richard Elliot last week when asked if he sees a run for the White House in his future. “Does ‘your future’ mean like this year? Next year? Four years from now? I mean, I wouldn’t be able to answer that question right now.”

Cody Hall, an adviser to Kemp, said, “People have routinely underestimated Brian Kemp and he has routinely proven them wrong. No matter what the governor decides to do or not do down the road, I have no doubt he will be successful.”

Ok. But this is your reality check that if he is really thinking about throwing his hat in the White House ring, he’s already behind the curve on a process that, like building an airplane, is complicated, time-consuming, and not something that works well when rushed .

To see how realistic it is for anyone to get into the 2024 presidential contest who hasn’t already taken concrete steps to make it happen, I reached out to Iowa Republicans and national activists to kick the tires on a Kemp run.

“Campaigns are gonna have to kick it into high gear and get people,” said Steve Scheffler, an RNC committeeman from Sioux Center, when I called to see what viable presidential campaigns should be doing by now.

Scheffler goes back to the Bob Dole days when he was a Dole staffer for the Iowa caucuses. He said candidates, including Kemp, should prepare to be in Iowa to meet voters personally, early and often. He reminded me of the old joke that an Iowa voter would have picked a certain candidate for president, but they’d only met the candidate four times.

“You can run TV ads, you can run radio ads, but that’s not going to cut the mustard in the long run,” he said. “You need to have troops on the ground sooner rather than later.”

At the moment, Kemp has no troops on the ground in Iowa. He has a national political staff of just two in Georgia. And key activists, including Scheffler, have never heard from Team Kemp.

Pottawattamie County GOP chair Starlyn Perdue hasn’t heard from Kemp supporters, either. But she said some Iowa voters are still looking at their options — and Kemp could be one of them. But he’d need to soon be “in Iowa coffee shops, large venues, and everything in between.”

In other words, Kemp should probably go to Iowa instead of Israel next week if a presidential run is really in the cards next year.

“We have already seen all of the candidates coming through and many who have not yet announced as well,” Perdue said.

She had just been with Vivek Ramaswamy, the GOP hopeful and biotech executive, over the weekend.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made his second trip to Iowa Saturday, too, where he flipped pork burgers in Sioux Center and picked up endorsements in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. He also just announced his top state staff there.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been traveling to Iowa since she announced her run in February, while U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who announced his “Faith in America” exploratory committee last month, held a town hall meeting in Waukee, Iowa a week ago.

Doug Heye, a veteran GOP strategist, said Kemp is unusually well-known nationally because of the high-profile role he’s played as a Trump foil for the last few years. But more than that, Republicans took note of Kemp’s huge GOP 2022 primary win against a Trump-backed challenger.

“He shows Republicans what the 2.0 can look like,” Heye said. “It doesn’t mean he’s going to run, and if he does, that doesn’t guarantee success. But it shows what success can look like.”

Heye said the early campaign organizing that’s happening in Iowa should also already be happening in New Hampshire and South Carolina, too. Other states will need full operations down the line, along with a separate fundraising apparatus. Also, the first presidential primary debate is three months away.

A question has come up — even if Kemp wanted to run for president, could he remain governor and run for the White House at the same time, too? The Secretary of State’s office said yes — the state’s resign-to-run laws do not apply to running for president or vice president.

But time , realistically, is running out. If Kemp’s 2022 campaign motto was, “Keep choppin”!” he hasn’t even picked up the ax to run for president yet.

But his potential D.C. ambitions might not have to end there. A Senate run in 2026 is only helped in the future by the talk now.

Although Kemp has no foreign policy experience beyond trade missions as governor, GOP honcho Eric Tanenblatt, who is supporting Haley, said Kemp has a lot to offer as potential vice presidential timber.

“He’s got a great record and what he did in 2022 was quite remarkable. So I can see him on anyone’s shortlist.”

And unlike running for president, all a person has to do to run for vice president is pick up the phone and answer the call. No planning, staffing, or chopping required.