For well over a year now, there has been much gossip about a 2024 GOP primary battle between Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). The only declared candidate so far is Donald Trump, and Ron DeSantis has brushed off any talk about running for president.
But that may be changing soon.
According to a report, DeSantis is “laying a foundation for a national campaign” and is preparing his staff for his 2024 White House bid.
“DeSantis’s political team has already identified multiple potential hires in early primary states such as New Hampshire and Iowa, according to one of the Republicans, who said experienced operatives have expressed interest,” the Washington Post reports. “This Republican also said that Phil Cox and Generra Peck — two key members of DeSantis’s 2022 reelection team — are involved in ongoing talks about 2024.”
Polls have shown that DeSantis is easily the most-favored alternative to Trump and has outperformed Trump in several state polls. Last year, DeSantis edged out Trump in the 2024 straw poll at the Wisconsin GOP convention, 38% to 32%, and beat Trump in the multiple-choice 2024 straw poll at the Western Conservative Summit. DeSantis has also led Trump in hypothetical primary match-ups in Georgia and Ohio.
Related: Trump’s Petty Feud With Ron DeSantis Is Bad for the GOP
Trump clearly sees DeSantis as his biggest threat to getting the GOP nomination in 2024—which Trump clearly thinks he’s entitled to, and so he’s been firing warning shots at DeSantis to stay out. Trump is known for giving people pejorative nicknames when he sees them as enemies or threats, and he referred to DeSantis as Ron DeSanctimonious at a rally in Pennsylvania last November. On Saturday, Trump told reporters that he thinks DeSantis is being “disloyal” for considering a White House bid.
“When I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal,” Trump said. He also accused DeSantis of trying to “rewrite history” regarding his COVID pandemic response. Trump has long credited himself for DeSantis’s victory in 2018 when he narrowly won his election as governor. DeSantis went on to win reelection in 2022 by a 19-point landslide with virtually no help from Trump.
So, if you’re looking to move past Trump in 2024, the news that DeSantis appears to be mobilizing for a national campaign is good news. Unfortunately, that also means a bitter showdown is approaching, and the potential Trump/DeSantis primary rivalry threatens to split the GOP and possibly undermine the party’s chances of retaking the White House in 2024.
I have been struggling with the prospect of Trump and DeSantis going from allies to political foes in 2024, and as much as Trump clearly proved to be an effective leader who did a lot of good for this country, he has also burned so many bridges, especially since leaving office. His ego-driven attacks have transformed devoted allies into opponents and tainted his most productive alliances.
Despite successfully depoliticizing the Department of Justice after eight years of Obama, Jeff Sessions became persona non grata to Trump for failing to end the bogus Trump/Russia investigation. Despite having confirmed a record number of conservative judges, Trump has repeatedly criticized former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since he left office because of his statements and actions regarding the 2020 election. Trump’s cooperation with General “Mad Dog” Mattis revitalized our military and scored a series of foreign policy wins, but disagreements over Syria led to Trump dismissing Mattis as an “overrated” general. Trump struggled to fill positions in his administration during his first term, and I suspect those problems will be amplified many times over if he won a second term, which poses a significant problem for him.
DeSantis, on the contrary, has been an extremely successful conservative leader in Florida, unafraid to fight the tough battles, be it against the transgender cult, woke Disney, or left-wing teacher’s unions. His leadership during Hurricane Ian was widely praised, and nothing the left has done to try to knock him down has worked. He’s turned Florida from a bellwether swing state to a bona fide red state. DeSantis appeals to many conservatives because he’s all the great things about Trumpism with the added bonus of political savvy without the baggage.
More often than not, even hard-fought primaries end with political parties coalescing behind the eventual nominee. But, as DeSantis’s stock rises and Trump’s ticket to the nomination becomes less of a sure thing, my biggest concern is that Trump, in the event he doesn’t get the GOP nomination, would refuse to support DeSantis and divide the GOP at a time where they can’t afford that division.