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Tipsheet

Ron DeSantis’ 2024 Ambitions Rests With Beating One Number

AP Photo/John Raoux

I can vote for Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis in 2024. I’d be happy to vote for either man. Just wanted to make that clear. Recent straw polls have given us some gauge as to where the base rests with these two men. It’s close. They both garner significant shares of the conservative vote. That’s a two-edged sword, especially if both men decide to run. It could get bloody. DeSantis has time on his side, so maybe he decides to sit 2024 out, finish out his final term as Florida’s governor, and then run in 2028. Who knows? This is Trump’s last time running for president again. It’s 'ride or die' time. The former president has hundreds of millions tucked away among pro-Trump PACs. His string of endorsements has done well. His candidates he’s backed have mostly won, except for a half-dozen or so. 

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Both men are the face of the GOP. Both men have their strengths and weaknesses. For DeSantis, one benchmark will be a deciding factor in whether he runs in 2024. It’s how he does in his re-election bid, specifically if he can best Trump’s 2020 margin of victory. The so-called shadow primary is up and running, with some pollsters and operatives saying that Trump no longer has the power to clear the field, though early polling shows him handily beating his potential primary opponents in some of the early states. For DeSantis 2024 watch, it’s all about beating three percentage points (via WaPo):

One day last month, Mike Pence secretly huddled with some of Michigan’s top donors, including the kingmaking DeVos family, as he pitched his vision for the Republican Party before flying to Georgia to campaign against former president Donald Trump’s choice for governor.

Tom Cotton, the Republican senator from Arkansas, has developed a long PowerPoint presentation about how previous candidacies for president failed — and has shown it to donors and others during meetings on how he would run a successful campaign.

Advisers and allies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, have discussed the margins for his 2022 reelection that would help put him in position to run for president in 2024 — aiming to beat the three percentage point margin that separated Trump and President Biden in the state in 2020.

[…]

DeSantis has been quietly building his fundraising networks while grabbing national headlines for his challenges to the Biden administration and for his focus on culture war issues. Without mentioning Trump, he has told donors, “No one’s nomination is inevitable,” according to a person to whom his comments have been relayed.

Beating Trump’s 2020 margin of three percentage points in Florida has become a key campaign goal, according to three people familiar with the conversations. They said DeSantis’s wife, Casey, a former television host and among a small circle of confidants, wants him to run for president. The couple believes that the governor’s skills are uniquely matched to the current political climate, and are wary of waiting six years, by which time the tides may have shifted. DeSantis has not indicated if he would defer a campaign if Trump runs.

A spokesman for DeSantis’s reelection campaign, David Abrams, said the governor is “focused on winning a resounding reelection this fall in Florida because that’s what’s best for the future of Florida.” He called suggestions of other motives “nonsense.”

Behind the scenes, DeSantis and his team think they’ve overtaken Trump with the party’s major donors, according to an ally in touch with the governor. A former aide said DeSantis has spoken about wanting to expand his dominance in that realm, including by getting a contribution from Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who backed Trump in 2016 and has put nearly $30 million behind a pair of Republican Senate candidates this year. The two have spoken, according to two people familiar with their interactions.

[…]

“I think DeSantis is the only one besides Trump who has a chance in hell. And I would bet a lot of money on that,” said Darren Blanton, a Dallas-based venture capitalist who served as an adviser to Trump’s transition. “At first I thought DeSantis had no chance because he seemed more like an introvert and strategist, but not a charismatic celebrity, and I pretty much told him that to his face. But he has really impressed me by how much better he has gotten.”

Blanton said potential candidates have to show they can turn blue-collar Democrats into Republicans. “And I just don’t think a pasty, old-school, dignified Republican is ever going to do that again,” he said.

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Everyone is gathering arms. This campaign is long, tedious, and only for the totally insane. DeSantis can do it—the only question is will he take the plunge. Everything says go. I think he can have the infrastructure to take on Trump in a primary and execute a successful national campaign, especially against an old, senile, and fragile Joe Biden. All will depend on election night 2022. 

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