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When (or whether) DeSantis will declare remains unclear – but he may want to leverage negative coverage about his chief GOP rival, former President Donald Trump, as a slingshot of sorts for his campaign announcement.
DeSantis emerges as the number-one challenger
DeSantis’s stock has skyrocketed, and while the 2024 election is still nearly two years away, DeSantis is the clear-cut number one challenger for the GOP ticket.
In fact, DeSantis may just be the clear-cut number one frontrunner for the GOP ticket.
DeSantis’s new stature is the result of two events rising in concert. The first is DeSantis’s rise of course. The second, is Trump’s decline.
For example, DeSantis implemented COVID policies that flouted CDC recommendations – a move that conservatives, fed up with the “safetyism” of the liberal COVID response, celebrated.
DeSantis also signed the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill into law. Again, conservatives celebrated the move, as a buffer against the creep of increasingly radical liberal social values.
And then, DeSantis loaded a jet-full of migrants and parked the thing in Martha’s Vineyard, the open-border espousing liberal-elite’s cherished enclave.
Using hungry, tired, desperate migrants as a political prop is obnoxious and cruel but giving liberals a taste of their own policies in their moated fortress is quite rich.
The political stuntsmanship has paid off.
DeSantis won the 2022 gubernatorial election by 20 points (over Charlie Crist), a bloodbath. But DeSantis appears to be posturing for higher offices than the Florida governorship – and recent polls indicate he may have the support to continue ascending.
A USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll revealed that GOP and GOP-leaning voters favored DeSantis to Trump – by a 23 percent margin. The poll was telling in that it found GOP voters still prefer Trump’s policies, yet those voters don’t want Trump to be the vehicle of Trump’s policies any longer. Voters want someone new. Specifically, voters want DeSantis.
Trump’s decline helps DeSantis
Aiding DeSantis’s rise is the fact that Trump is stumbling.
The former president is embroiled is lawsuits, investigations, and scandals. The House just made formal criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, recommending that the Attorney General charge Trump for his role in the January 6th riots.
If Attorney General Merrick Garland does charge Trump, it will represent the first time in US history that a former president was criminally charged.
DeSantis, a cunning opportunist, may want to use a moment like Trump becoming the first former president in US history ever criminally charged as a slingshot for the DeSantis 2024 campaign to announce itself – for the DeSantis campaign could offer conservatives a less-embroiled, less-criminal politician to promote the Trumpian policies that conservative voters still appreciate.
DeSantis will likely run for president in 2024. The early polling is too definitive to be ignored.
And DeSantis has clearly been marketing himself as a national figure. Trump’s decline will leave a vacuum at the top of the GOP. DeSantis will rush to fill the vacuum – but he won’t be alone.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.