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Some observers say Gov. DeSantis is being smart by staying quiet on a 2024 presidential bid

FILE - President Donald Trump talks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, during a visit to Lake Okeechobee and Herbert Hoover Dike at Canal Point, Fla., March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
FILE - President Donald Trump talks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, during a visit to Lake Okeechobee and Herbert Hoover Dike at Canal Point, Fla., March 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Former President Donald Trump is the first person to officially declare his bid to get his old job, back. But two years before a presidential election is an eternity in politics, and a lot can happen between now, and then. The path to Trump getting the GOP nomination runs through the Republicans who backed him in the past, and through a certain Florida Governor who is being encouraged to pursue his bid for the job.

Republicans nationally have taken notice of the potential contest between Trump and DeSantis. Especially, after the former president took a swipe at the popular governor during an early November campaign rally in Pennsylvania, where he also threw shade at other potential rivals, too.

"Let’s see…Trump at 71%, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10%, Mike Pence at 7—oh, he’s doing better than I thought…Liz Cheney?! There’s no way she’s at 4%!" Trump said as the crowd booed Cheney's name.

That rally was before the November 8th election when Republicans didn’t win as big as they predicted. The survey’s taken after Election Day show GOP voters may be starting to lean more toward DeSantis. A YouGov poll released November 16th showed Republicans preferring Florida’s governor to be their GOP presidential nominee in 2024, over their former one—by a margin of 46% to 39%. The Conservative Club for Growth gave Politico a copy of a November 14th poll showing the former president trailing the popular Florida Governor in states with early primaries.

“It’s going to be fun for people in my world to watch for the next two years because they’re going to do a lot of our work for us," said Ryan Wiggins, a longtime Florida political consultant and insider who is the Chief of Staff for the anti-Trump group, the Lincoln Project.

"You’re going to have Ron DeSantis taking out Trump, and Trump taking out DeSantis, and us watching and eating popcorn on the sidelines. It’s going to be interesting.”

An opinion piece published recently in the Washington Post lays out a case for why Republicans, and Democrats, should support a DeSantis presidential bid. It posits that DeSantis represents the best scenario for a “return to normalcy.” For Wiggins, that’s laughable. She says Ron DeSantis is no moderate.

For the country as a whole, it’s a very dangerous thing because I think that Ron DeSantis and [his wife] Casey are doing their best to portray themselves as the new Camelot, the new JFK and Jackie-O on the other side. And that’s not who they are. They’re not the old establishment. They’re not your parents’ Republican Party. They’re very much MAGA, and I think that’s being hidden from the general public.”

As Governor, DeSantis picked up on Trump's efforts to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training and applied that ban to state government institutions, including schools and businesses. As then-President Trump railed against critical race theory, DeSantis pushed for a ban on certain methods of teaching race and history in public school classrooms. And it was DeSantis who allowed the use of state money to go to chartering a plane to fly migrants from Texas to Martha's Vinyard.

For his part, DeSantis continues to brush aside talk about a presidential bid.

"We just finished this election. People need to chill out a little bit on some of this stuff," he said when recently asked by reporters if he's considering running.

"We have a GA runoff coming, which is very important for Republicans to win that GA runoff. I know around the country Florida was the biggest bright spot. It was not so bright in many other parts of the country. It was a substandard performance given the dynamics at play.” 

Republicans expected to make bigger gains in state and congressional contests than what actually panned out. And most political pundits and Republican insiders have placed those losses at the feet of former President Trump, which in turn, has boosted DeSantis’ profile even higher.

"Gov. Ron DeSantis is playing it right. He’s playing it right because two years is a political eternity, and the state is going to be facing some challenges next year," said GOP strategist Christian Camera.

Camara says DeSantis has his own problems to deal with before trying to jump into a presidential race: the state’s property insurance market is a mess, and Hurricanes Ian and Nicole did a number on several critical communities.

“He’s going to have to devote time and attention to that and I think it would hurt him politically, not just the state but him, politically, if he were running around running for president,  raising money, and traveling to other states, while the state of florid is dealing with these issues that require his attention.”   

Still, Camara notes the groundswell of support for DeSantis to mount a presidential bid is real and not just made-up hype by the news media.

Anything can happen in two years. So why should voters care about the GOP presidential primaries right now? Camara believes they shouldn’t.

“I think the reason people are so obsessed two years out from the election is because that is their lives, that’s what they focus on and obsess over rather than focusing on their family and their faith and their jobs. And that’s more of a critique of where we are as a society."

For Wiggins, who is actively working against Trump and DeSantis, the conversation around the two men matters now because she sees it as an extension of a deeper and more complex issue: how to address the anger and cultural divisions that she says undergird the politics of both men.

“If you want to truly make this country great again, and we need to after what happened after 2016 and 2020…you have to be the answer…you have to practice empathy," which neither man does nor has, she says.

According to the poll aggregation site, fivethirtyeight.com, President Donald Trump still holds the overwhelming odds of securing the 2024 GOP Presidential nod two years from now. So maybe it's worth taking DeSantis’ advice to chill out, and Camara and Wiggins’ advice to focus on reconnecting with other things and people in the interim.

Copyright 2022 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.