As the 2024 presidential race gains momentum, speculation has been rampant regarding potential running mates for former President Donald Trump.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, currently spearheading his own bid for the White House, could seem like a crafty choice. DeSantis has the Covid-skeptic record loved by much of the Republican base, and Trump already has over half the party’s voters behind him. However, recent developments and the dynamics between the two figures suggest that a Trump-DeSantis ticket is unlikely.
DeSantis, once hailed as a “friend” and potential vice presidential pick by Trump himself has seen his campaign experience a recent shake-up. Reports emerged of the campaign’s decision to reorganize its financing and let go of a significant portion of its staff. This move indicates internal struggles and raises questions about DeSantis’ ability to effectively navigate a high-stakes presidential campaign.
Furthermore, DeSantis has made it abundantly clear that he sees himself as a leader, not a second-in-command. When asked about the possibility of running as vice president alongside Trump, he firmly asserted that he prefers to continue serving as Florida’s governor, a position he deems more influential and significant.
Trump ‘Panicking’ Over Legal Issues
Trump’s scorned ex-associate Michael Cohen told MSNBC on Wednesday that the ex-President is “panicking” over his ongoing legal disputes. If convicted in any of these cases, Trump could potentially face significant jail time, with each charge carrying a maximum sentence ranging from five to 20 years. Legal experts suggest that the Department of Justice is likely to seek incarceration due to the nature and seriousness of the alleged offenses.
The situation raises unique challenges given Trump’s status as a former president and the potential implications for national security. Some experts speculate that the authorities may consider alternatives to traditional imprisonment, such as house arrest with an ankle monitor, to address these concerns.
Still, Trump could be in with a shot at a return to Pennsylvania Ave. Why would he surrender that to DeSantis, who would in any case be unwilling to back a boss behind bars? The Constitution establishes only three essential qualifications for someone to become president: being a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old, and having been a U.S. resident for at least 14 years.
Nowhere within the Constitution does it explicitly state that a candidate is prohibited from running for office if they have been charged, convicted of a crime, or found liable in a civil suit. Legal experts unanimously concur that the Constitution’s list of qualifications is comprehensive, and neither Congress nor individual states have the authority to impose additional restrictions.
As CBS’ Kathryn Watson highlighted back in June, there are numerous historical instances of candidates with criminal convictions running for president. For instance, Eugene Debs, who was the Socialist Party nominee in 1920, pursued his presidential campaign from prison. Similarly, Lyndon LaRouche, despite being convicted of tax and mail fraud in 1988, continued to run for president from behind bars.
These historical precedents illustrate that the existence of criminal charges or convictions does not automatically disqualify a candidate from seeking the presidency, opening the door for them to potentially win the highest office in the nation. Still, it is hard to imagine how any serious nominee could survive such a humiliation.
Trump and DeSantis: From Friendship to Feud
Back in April 2021, former President Donald Trump said he would “certainly” consider Ron DeSantis as a VP pick in a future White House race. He even described the Florida Governor as a “friend of mine”.
This was back when DeSantis was still playing coy about his Presidential ambitions, now he has a fully-fledged campaign for the top job.
While DeSantis has consistently ranked second only to Trump among GOP voters, his stat could soon be fading, at least this time around. The Florida politician has been trailing Trump by a considerable margin in polls. This struggle to gain traction has raised concerns among Republicans, with some reconsidering their personal bids for the nomination.
This week the campaign announced plans to scrap more than a third of staff and reorganize financing. This raises big questions about whether DeSantis would offer Trump enough extra support or funding as a VP pick to overlook their previous spats, especially as South Carolina Senator Tim Scott is hot on his heels.
DeSantis’ star has risen over the past few years, with many conservatives praising his approach to Covid-19 which results in fewer lockdown policies in Florida. His anti-woke face-off with Disney has also helped his standing among the Right.
DeSantis has also made it dead clear that he would decline an offer to run for vice president alongside former President Trump, stating that he sees himself as a leader rather than a second-in-command. In an interview on the “Wisconsin Right Now” radio show, DeSantis asserted that the role of vice president lacks authority, and he would prefer to continue serving as Florida’s governor.
The rift between DeSantis and Trump has escalated in recent weeks, with the former president criticizing the DeSantis campaign and labeling it as “total disarray” after a rally in New Hampshire. It seems that Trump continues to hold a strong position both nationally and among Florida voters.
Former Vice President Mike Pence has experienced his own falling out with Trump following the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack. Pence has launched his campaign against his erstwhile executive partner, citing concerns about Trump’s fitness for the presidency.
So while the position of Trump’s would-be running mate is obviously vacant that does not mean DeSantis would be the most suitable candidate.
Walking a Thin Line
On Tuesday DeSantis said charging Trump over Jan. 6 would not “be good for the country.” Yet he has continued to suggest the entire debate over 2020 risks toxifying American politics.
“I don’t think it serves us good to have a presidential election focused on what happened four years ago, in January, and so I want to focus on looking forward, I don’t want to look back”. Even if the various legal issues hanging over Trump’s campaign dissolve prior to Spring 2024, voters will no doubt have already made their minds up on the matter.
DeSantis is obviously trying to tread carefully enough to keep those less enthusiastic about Trump and his diehard base on side. If the backing of both these voter blocs could be combined the GOP would surely stand in good stead for a 2024 victory. Still, the prickly dynamic between DeSantis and Trump, and the latter’s spiraling legal issue mean they are unlikely to be the pair fit to do so.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.