Briefing

Will Ron DeSantis run for president in 2024?

All eyes are on Florida's 'mini-Trump' governor

Speculation about the 2024 presidential election began the minute President Biden stepped foot in the White House, and Ron DeSantis has consistently topped the list of likely Republican contenders. But the Florida governor has otherwise played coy regarding his presidential ambitions, forcing voters and pundits to read between the political lines: Will he, or won't he? Here's everything you need to know:

What has DeSantis said about running for president?

As recently as August, DeSantis dismissed reports of a presidential run as "the media just speculating." "I mean, I've got a lot on my plate here, and we're doing a lot of stuff, so I would not indulge in some of the stuff and be very careful about what you hear," he told reporters during a press conference, per FloridaPolitics.com. In June, he told Fox News he only thinks about the 2024 race "when people bring up my name." 

"The interesting thing about me is people will always inject my name into it, just based off what I'm doing in Florida," he went on. "It's a little bit different for me. I think there's obviously people that, the minute 2020 ended, have been basically running, and they're going around doing all that stuff. That's just not what I've been doing. I've just been focusing on the task at hand."

In the recent debate against his newly-defeated midterms challenger Charlie Crist, however, DeSantis notably refused to commit to serving a full term as governor, despite Crist's attempts to make him say otherwise.

Do Republican voters want him to run?

It seems so. DeSantis has performed well in 2024 straw polls both with and without Trump — the presumed Republican nominee — and the Florida politician has continued to make gains as time has passed. For instance, a mid-November poll from the influential and conservative Club for Growth, an economy-focused group, found that DeSantis would squarely beat Trump in four key primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, and Georgia. That's a huge reversal since August, at which point Trump began losing support in all four states and DeSantis began to gain, writes U.S. News & World Report. Further, when it comes to 2024, Republicans now prefer DeSantis to Trump as their nominee 46 percent to 39 percent, according to a YouGov poll published Nov. 16.  

DeSantis' support also appears stronger within the Sunshine State, where he cruised to re-election in early November by more than 19 points (not for nothing, supporters were chanting "two more years" during his victory speech, thus "signaling their support for a presidential run in 2024," writes NBC News). Per a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Sept. 21, DeSantis led Trump 48 percent to 40 percent in a hypothetical 2024 primary in Florida. That's compared to January 2022, when Trump led DeSantis by 7 points, per Axios and USA Today. "This doesn't necessarily mean DeSantis would lead in any other GOP primary state," David Paleologos of the Suffolk University Political Research Center told USA Today at the time. "But it is one data point suggesting a shift in preferences from GOP voters away from Trump and toward DeSantis from Republicans who know both potential combatants quite well." But to that end, November polling from Morning Consult indicates Trump nonetheless still commands the largest share of potential GOP primary voters (47 percent) if the 2024 primary were held today; after the midterms, support for DeSantis, meanwhile, climbed from 26 percent to 33.

Outside of his poll numbers, Republican voters like that DeSantis is somewhat of a "mini-Trump," but with a more "palatable" personality and a strong degree of electability, notes The Guardian. DeSantis is "still outspoken against the media or perceived foes when he wants to be," but is "less prone to explosions of temper, and with a less turbulent past." He also possesses a strong ability to "appeal to both the Trump and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] wings of the party," which "affords him room for maneuver in a Republican Party divided between two mutually hostile camps," adds The New York Times' Blake Hounshell.

Yes, he's dismissed the speculation. But is there anything DeSantis is doing that might hint at a run?

Prior to Florida's bitter gubernatorial election, DeSantis appeared "focused on building his national profile," having traveled to battleground states across the country to rally for GOP candidates in key races, ABC News reports. According to Stephan Lawson, a former DeSantis campaign official, such cross-country efforts may represent "a way to win over Trump voters without taking on Trump directly," ABC News summarizes. "He's in no hurry. He doesn't have to be in a hurry ... What he's doing is continuing to elevate his stature and his name ID, his conservative credentials to a larger audience," Lawson said. "I think he's doing it in a way that's like, 'I'm gonna go court and talk to this base of our party in a way that could potentially have broader appeal based on my record of results in Florida.'"

Further, ABC News notes, the governor has also as of late "pitched his state-level experience more broadly — often swapping his mentions of 'Floridians' for 'Americans.'" And in September, he shattered an "all-time gubernatorial fundraising record," an achievement Forbes frames as just further evidence of a 2024 run. 

Moreover, now that he's successfully secured re-election (and doesn't have to pretend he wouldn't be interested in a truncated term if it meant moving to the White House), DeSantis' attention will almost certainly turn toward one thing: 2024. According to CNBC, the governor has already begun to implement the fundraising and campaign infrastructure necessary to investigate a bid.

What about Trump?

Trump has repeatedly taken credit for the governor's popularity, having told Newsmax in June that he's "very responsible" for getting DeSantis elected. And that theory holds water in many ways — DeSantis was initially a floundering candidate for governor before aligning himself with Trump and subsequently rising to superstar status within the Republican party. But the pair's once genial relationship has soured as time has passed; the two haven't talked since early in the summer, the Post reports, per individuals familiar with the matter. "Those days are gone," one Trump adviser said of their once-regular conversations.

The pair's rumored rift also recently broke into the open, after Trump dubbed the governor "Ron De-Sanctimonious" at a pre-midterms rally in Florida (in another sign of acrimony between the two, DeSantis and Trump headlined separate election events on the same day). At this point, the former president is expecting DeSantis to run against him, and DeSantis — once a stalwart acolyte — is trying to simply ignore Trump's ire and carry on (better than openly attacking him and risk alienating some of his supporters). But who knows how long that might last, considering Trump just before the midterms threatened to expose things about DeSantis that "won't be very flattering" should he make a run at the White House. "If he runs, he runs," Trump told reporters on Nov. 8. "If he did run, I will tell you things about him that won't be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign." 

Trump announced his third consecutive bid at the White House on Tuesday, Nov. 15. And even with Republicans' midterm losses and the somewhat-wavering pro-Trump sentiment inside the GOP, The Bulwark's Bill Kristol thinks 45 might still pull it off. "Do not underestimate Trump," Kristol tweeted the morning after the announcement. "He could win the presidency again."

Are there any other challenges to a possible DeSantis bid?

Though some analysts are interpreting it as a sign of weakness, the former president's unusually-early 2024 announcement is likely intended, at least in part, to "spook" any possible rivals — DeSantis included. We'll see, of course,if that actually pays off. (Per Politico's reporting, Desantis world really couldn't care less).

Further, DeSantis must also maintain any of this momentum until any 2024 race officially begins, which could prove difficult depending on what happens between now and then. For one thing, he's become what The Washington Post's Dan Zak describes as an "Inevitable," a bittersweet accolade that might come back to haunt him down the line, much like it did for Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

As far as a possible DeSantis announcement, an early November report from CNN suggested a timeline of May or June, after Florida lawmakers "meet for their annual legislative session." "Build anticipation," one GOP fundraiser with insight into the governor's operation told CNN. "I think DeSantis controls the time frame. As much as everyone anticipates things and you want to move quickly, he calls the shots now."

Update Nov. 17, 2022: This piece has been updated throughout to reflect updated polling and analysis, as well as Trump's 2024 announcement. 

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