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Tipsheet

Why DeSantis Is Reportedly Nixing an Exploratory Committee Before Taking on Trump Next Month

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is reportedly jumping into the 2024 wrestling cage next month. He’s bypassing the exploratory committee to prepare for his national bid for the White House, according to sources who spoke to ABC News. The Florida Republican, who won re-election in a landslide in 2022, was seen as the heir apparent to the Trump moment in the GOP. It’s devolved into a nasty ad war, with the Trump camp hitting DeSantis for wanting to raise the retirement age and ensuring our entitlement system doesn’t collapse. Since 2016, Trump has vowed to protect Social Security and Medicare, so the ads aren’t entirely shocking. 

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Trump’s crew must hit DeSantis hard to scare aware potential big-money donors who view the governor as a more stable and less belligerent alternative to the former president. DeSantis’ sails got much wind during this so-called invisible primary stage. Trump faces many investigations, adding to the issues about his character, which adds some urgency for his team. They have to work fast to make DeSantis unpalatable to base voters. Most right now aren’t gung-ho about the 2024 race, so they don’t see Trump as the frontrunner for the nomination. He is by a long shot, and more GOP voters have flocked to his banner following Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s decision to indict Trump on his hush-money scheme with Stormy Daniels. 

Since his re-election, DeSantis has been trying to help rebuild his state's west coast, which Hurricane Ian ravaged in late 2022. He’s been pushing a solid agenda and spearheaded an economic program that yielded multi-billion dollar surpluses while helming a book tour, primarily seen as part of his 2024 play. And that agenda is why he’s forgoing the exploratory committee. His record speaks for itself; his profile is national, thanks to obsessive liberal media attention. Mr. DeSantis reportedly feels ready to try for the crown (via ABC News): 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is moving more aggressively toward making his 2024 presidential campaign official, with sources telling ABC News the governor's team is leaning toward skipping the launch of an exploratory committee altogether and is instead expected to launch a full presidential campaign next month. 

The decision to skip the exploratory committee comes as DeSantis caps off an aggressive legislative session that saw him push a hard-line conservative agenda and dive head-first into numerous culture wars, while facing increasing attacks from his likely opponent, former President Donald Trump. 

Sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News the decision to skip the exploratory committee comes as the governor is itching to start making his argument to voters by touting his accomplishments and to start pushing back against Trump's numerous attacks. 

Since March, the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc. has spent nearly $10 million on attack ads targeting the governor. 

DeSantis will enter the race with just months to go until the first Republican primary debate -- and although he has yet to formally announce, his team has already quietly begun debate prep, sources familiar with the preparations have told ABC News, including reviewing past debate performances. 

[…] 

Still, sources said the governor's strategy heading into the debates will be more focused on introducing the governor on a national stage rather than getting into a sparring match with the former president. However, the team has been paying close attention to how to help manage the governor's facial reactions in the upcoming debate, sources said. 

[…] 

Former DeSantis challenger Heather Beaven is one of the few candidates who have faced the former governor on a debate stage. Beaven, a Democrat who lost the 2012 congressional race to DeSantis, described him as someone who was very well rehearsed and knew his information well -- but appeared unable to pivot in unscripted moments.

"He goes right to anger. There's no humor punch-back," Beaven told ABC News. "There was him in control, and then flashes of fiery temper." 

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First, I couldn’t care less about what a Democrat says about his debate performance during a congressional re-election campaign. The election is now for the presidency, a different animal. It’s not the regular season—it’s the playoffs. 

And because the stakes are high, DeSantis is risking going the way of Scott Walker in 2016, who peaked too soon, got demolished by Trump, and has never been seen as a viable national candidate since despite a solidly conservative record as governor of Wisconsin. His successful defeat of a 2012 recall effort gave him a national platform, which he mishandled. Will DeSantis go the same route? Trump is the Afghanistan of many aspiring Republican presidential candidates: he’s the graveyard.

It's very early, but Trump’s lead could make for an equally persuasive argument for DeSantis to wait. You know what happens when you run against Trump and lose. He’s a young man who can run after Trump’s 2024 bid. The downside is that the nation will be destroyed if Biden wins again. 

I have no dog in this fight, as I can easily see myself voting for either of these men. Still, there is a risk that a DeSantis-Trump duel would be bloody, nasty, and so destructive that reconciliation among the base after the dust settled would be rendered virtually impossible. It’s already heinous between the two camps, and we’re not even in the thick of the 2024 season.

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 We’ll see if the fireworks go off next month.

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