Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis – challenger to Donald J. Trump for the GOP nomination in 2024 – is having a good week. First, he received the endorsement of the popular Republican governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds. Then, DeSantis decisively won the third Republican Party presidential debate. The Reynolds endorsement comes at a perfect time in the ongoing primary season. DeSantis has been laser-focused on winning Iowa, the first primary state, as a means of generating momentum for his campaign.
Plus, former President Donald Trump, despite being in a double-digit lead over DeSantis, is having some problems. Not only is Trump facing 91 felony indictments, he’s also blowing through his sizable campaign war chest to pay for attorney’s legal fees. Further, Trump is facing an embarrassing civil fraud lawsuit in New York that could end his family’s ability to do business in New York and cost him upwards of $250 million.
Meanwhile, Trump refuses to debate any of his Republican challengers and he keeps walking back some of his strongest campaign promises – such as getting Mexico to pay for the construction of a border wall or his previous, unequivocal support for the Pro-Life movement.
Trump-backed candidates keep losing elections, too. It happened in 2022 when we were promised a “Red Wave.” It happened again this year, during a spate of special elections, which likely serve as a portent of what fate awaits Trump if he again becomes the Republican nominee in 2024, facing off against President Joe Biden.
Trump’s Victory Mirage
Presently, Trump is leading over Biden in seven of the key swing states. But the election is far away from today. It is a year from now. Trump and his team assume that, because they are dominating in the polls, they have already won the primary.
Maybe they have.
Trump certainly has a cult-like following among a segment of Republican Party voters. And he is a compelling, dynamic candidate. Although, like Biden, Trump has a massive disapproval rating. In fact, most voters polled earlier this year wanted neither Biden nor Trump to seek reelection.
Besides, most voters are not going to start paying attention to the election until just a few short weeks before the Iowa primary. And Trump has a history of losing Iowa to other, more conservative primary challengers – though, as 2016 proved, after Trump lost Iowa to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, he went on to win the whole election.
DeSantis has put in the leg work to earn the trust and support of many Iowans—even as some polls show Trump trouncing his Republican challengers in the state.
Kim Reynolds is a popular governor in her state, and she is an influential, rising star in the Republican Party. Like DeSantis, she is a no-frills, straight-laced, tough-as-nails conservative. She has governed her state effectively and she and DeSantis share many similarities in terms of their governing style—and success rate in executing a conservative agenda. Her endorsement of DeSantis may be just what the Florida governor needs to defeat Trump in Iowa and generate massive momentum going forward.
What Trump Really Fears
It is obvious that the Trump team fears the Reynolds endorsement and what it could mean to Trump’s long-term electoral prospects, even if they’re unwilling to fully acknowledge the threat. It is also clear that the Trump team is only scared of one candidate challenging Trump from the Right.
That’s not Nikki Haley or Chris Christie. That’s Ron DeSantis – even though Haley is tied with DeSantis in many of these polls.
The election is still a long time off. Trump, the candidate who made poll denial a staple of his previous presidential campaigns, is now using the positive polling he’s receiving from the “mainstream” media as a safety blanket to shield himself from DeSantis’ necessary criticisms.
But no votes have been cast and DeSantis grows stronger with each day while Trump is pulled deeper into the morass that is his own legal woes and mistakes.
DeSantis is going to win. He might not win New Hampshire, though. But that’s okay because he’ll still have the Iowa primary win in his back pocket. But he will need to obsessively focus on South Carolina in order to deprive Trump of three key early wins in 2024.
And that’s where things will get very dicey for the Florida governor.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (Republic Book Publishers). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon. The opinions expressed are the author’s own.