Could Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis potentially defeat former President Donald Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential primary elections, or is he doomed — if he decides to run — to go out like “low-energy” Jeb Bush? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the question.
A report by The Hill suggests that DeSantis would be no Jeb Bush. It starts by noting that, unlike Bush, the Florida governor is starting with a huge advantage.
“Not only is DeSantis coming off a staggering 19-point reelection win, but early polling of the potential Republican presidential primary field shows him notching nearly a third of the vote,” The Hill notes.
Plus, he reportedly already raised over $200 million during his 2022 reelection campaign.
Ron DeSantis raised over $200 million for his re-election campaign, much of it from establishment donors.
And yet, not a single #globalist policy.
I don’t think the establishment is controlling DeSantis, I think DeSantis is controlling the establishment.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) February 11, 2023
“DeSantis has a resounding victory in a battleground state on his resume, to go along with a well-funded war chest. All of that helps. He’s got high levels of curiosity from activist Republican voters in early states,” Kevin Madden, a Republican who served as a senior aide to Mitt Romney during his 2012 run, told The Hill.
However, Madden also admitted that “getting these voters to go from curious to converted is a big challenge.”
“Until a candidate puts a campaign together and demonstrates their plan to harness the momentum and manage the day-to-day grind of a campaign, the risk of not meeting expectations is real,” he explained.
Indeed, and DeSantis has yet to announce his run, let alone offer even a hint that he is for real planning to run.
Though this hasn’t stopped him from constantly making headlines.
“He dominated news cycles throughout the pandemic as a foil to public health officials like Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; picked a highly publicized fight with Disney, one of his state’s largest employers; and raised eyebrows last year by paying to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, the elite Massachusetts resort town,” The Hill notes.
Some Republicans say he’s as good at generating headlines as Trump himself.
“Because Ron DeSantis is currently in office, he’s able to make news. I mean, he’s better at making news than all other 49 governors combined,” Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former congressional candidate, told The Hill.
For example, the governor is currently in the news for blocking an African-American history course that includes racial essentialism:
Leftist heads explode after DeSantis nixes ‘historically inaccurate’ history course https://t.co/BltyOkuoDd pic.twitter.com/PEQfFKSkt4
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) February 1, 2023
The Hill report continues by arguing that the governor is in better tune with the GOP base than Bush ever was.
“Jeb had trouble connecting with the base. He was high in the polls but nowhere close to where DeSantis is. It’s just a very, very different field this time,” O’Connell said.
It’s true that Bush was once also the Florida governor, but that was back in the 2000s. By the time he ran for president in 2016, he’d been long gone and had therefore lost much of the clout that he’d once possessed.
Or put differently, by 2016 “the Republican Party had changed exponentially from when Jeb was in his prime,” O’Connell explained.
In addition, unlike Bush, DeSantis has no qualms about fighting tough cultural battles.
Doug Heye, a Republican strategist, said that the governor has a penchant for “picking and choosing battles that get conservatives excited nationally.”
Though interestingly, other Republican strategists say this is a bad thing. Strategists like Susan Del Percio, who told The Hill that DeSantis’ focus on cultural issues “isn’t the answer to the party’s problems.”
“DeSantis has no policy. He’s all about the culture wars. DeSantis is making the wrong bet that it should all be on culture wars. People should want more,” she said.
Joe Concha says DeSantis ‘winning’ culture wars: ‘A culture warrior, just as Trump was before him’ https://t.co/vE67KtH236 pic.twitter.com/g1BiJyWrkq
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 27, 2022
Yet DeSantis easily won reelection last year despite his focus on cultural issues. Moreover, not only did he reportedly win reelection by the largest margin in a Florida gubernatorial race in four decades, but he also obtained a supermajority in both the Florida House and the Florida Senate.
“He can do two things. Not only can he say that he won in a year that was somewhat disappointing for Republicans but that he won big. He can also demonstrate to his base that he’s a culture war warrior and that he’s an adult who can govern,” Heye said.
Lastly, going back to the governor thing again, it shouldn’t be lost on folks that DeSantis is still on the job.
“Unlike Bush, who had been out of public office for nearly a decade by the time he announced his 2016 presidential run, DeSantis still has the bully pulpit of the Florida governor’s mansion behind him — and he’s taking full advantage of it,” The Hill notes.
“A special legislative session came together last week to address some of the Florida governor’s highest-profile priorities, including expanding a controversial program to fly migrants between different states,” according to The Hill.
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