Ron DeSantis: Momentum and plans for 2024 bid take off after big win in Florida

Tampa, FL

In the face of growing discussions about his political future, he has directed him from an increasingly agitated Donald Trump, the governor of Florida, in the face of the latest outburst. Ron DeSantis is rarely involved in speculation or spoilers. He insists a declared victory in the bid for a second term is needed before any discussion of 2024.

That statement came in the form of a 19-point landslide victory over Democrat Charlie Crist on Tuesday night — the most uneven victory for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Florida history. A gap that dwarfs Trump’s own victory in the Sunshine State in 2020. After voting closed within minutes, DeSantis’ Tampa Election Night party suddenly became ecstatic as the wholeness and breadth of his stellar performance began to materialize. DeSantis has turned a once-solid blue county into red, winning over a majority of Latino voters and supporting Republican candidates on the ballot and in every corner of the state.

“We didn’t just win the election, we rewrote the political landscape,” DeSantis declared to his supporters before confetti rained down on him and his family. Some in the crowd urged him to consider the White House by chanting “Two more years!”

The Florida result was a bright spot for Republicans who otherwise waited for a red wave that never came, watching Trump-backed candidates struggle in key battlegrounds. The reaction within the GOP will only further push DeSantis to run for president and go head-to-head with Trump next year.

“DeFuture,” read the front page of the New York Post, owned by conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, on Wednesday.

Republicans were particularly encouraged by the results in Latino-majority Miami-Dade County, where DeSantis won 55% of the vote, as it may demonstrate the governor’s ability to engage and communicate with Latino communities across the country information. The Republican gubernatorial candidate has not won the county in two years. A CNN exit poll showed DeSantis leading Crist by 18 points among Latino voters in Florida, a sharp departure from his first run for governor four years ago.

In Florida, DeSantis’ allies are already debating what’s next. Even before Election Day, there was a strong sense among those around him that DeSantis could launch a presidential campaign whether Trump did or not. DeSantis has privately suggested to donors in recent months that Trump’s differences are an obstacle to setting conservative priorities, multiple sources told CNN, a notable sign of the way the governor discussed his former allies. change.

After Tuesday, more Republicans said publicly that the former president’s influence was weighing on the party. A source close to DeSantis’ political activism told CNN he expects the governor to make a decision “shortly after his inauguration” in January, although he may not make it public.

The source added that DeSantis “must act” and take advantage of Trump’s midterm setback.

Still, the timing of the launch of the 2024 campaign, if it happens, remains up in the air. When reports surfaced that Trump was planning to start his presidential campaign in mid-November, those in DeSantis’ circle braced for the possibility of a swift transition from the midterms to a presidential primary showdown. Now, several advisers in Florida say DeSantis may not officially enter the presidency until state lawmakers hold their annual legislative session. That would put DeSantis on a schedule announced in May or June.

“Build expectations,” said a longtime Republican fundraiser with knowledge of DeSantis’ actions. “I think DeSantis is in control of the time frame. While everyone anticipates things and you want to move fast, he’s calling the shots now.”

Even those with access to DeSantis cautioned that he has yet to make a final decision on his future, saying he has maintained a tight circle as he weighs his options. The governor’s think tank is notoriously small. It consists of himself and his wife Kathy. But the DeSantis family is also well aware that he has a window in 2024 where he can act, and while it expanded after Tuesday, it may not stay open forever, the sources said.

“You have time,” a Republican pollster told CNN ahead of Election Day. “There may be something in a second term that will bring him down.”

Conspiracy surrounding a potential showdown between Trump and DeSantis reached the White House on Wednesday. Asked which of the two Republican rivals will be the stronger rival in 2024, President Joe Biden said: “It will be interesting to watch them play against each other.”

Multiple sources told CNN that DeSantis will schedule a legislative session full of conservative priorities that he can bring into the Republican presidential primary. Republicans won supermajorities in both chambers of the Florida legislature on Tuesday, allowing DeSantis to make good on promises to further restrict abortion and make it easier for the public to carry guns.

The legislative session will be “as red meat as you think,” a Republican adviser said. “Whatever he proposes, they will pass and it will become law.”

“Anything they can find ‘wake up’ in their path, they’ll do it,” the Republican fundraiser said, predicting that financial institutions in particular will be targeted by DeSantis this spring.

Meanwhile, DeSantis will continue to build a political operation that has proven to raise funds at breakneck speed. According to state campaign finance reports, his reelection effort has brought in more than $200 million between his two political committees, raising money from deep-pocketed donors and grassroots Republicans in a bid to break down the national gubernatorial race. Fundraising records. As of November 3, the committees had $66 million in unspent cash. CNN previously reported that DeSantis’ political team had explored how to divert unused funds into a federal committee that could support the presidential bid. Sources confirmed that this is still the plan.

He is also expected to continue his out-of-state political travel to raise money and grow his brand. DeSantis, who eschewed public engagement outside Florida for much of his first term, took a well-planned gamble in August to run for governor and the U.S. Senate in some of the most competitive gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in the country. A rally in support of the Republican candidate was held. He continued to travel until 10 days before the election.

DeSantis, however, has largely stuck to the midterm battleground and avoided early nominations for states that could cause a presidential buzz. New Hampshire GOP chairman Stephen Stepanek said DeSantis’ political activism has rejected multiple requests to speak to voters there, and the state GOP has “little contact with the governor.” Despite the hype surrounding DeSantis, Stepanek predicts that the Florida governor will struggle to beat Trump in the nation’s first primary in New Hampshire. Trump’s victory in the 2016 New Hampshire primary was the starting point for his Republican nomination.

“People still have not only the 2020 logo, but the 2024 logo,” Stepanek said. “It’s still New Hampshire’s Trump state.”

Despite the tailwind from Tuesday, DeSantis still faces a tough climb to win over Republican primary voters whose loyalty to Trump has not wavered.

At home, Republicans are divided but appear to lean more toward DeSantis. While 33 percent of Florida voters want to see Trump re-elected in 2024, 45 percent think DeSantis Should take the plunge.

Polk County Republican Party Chairman JC Martin said it would be a waste for DeSantis to confront Trump because he “still has a lot of work to do in Florida and he’s a 2028 member.”

“I don’t want a full-blown partisan war in the next primary,” Martin said.

But Pasco County Republican state Assemblyman Sean Foster said the GOP “needs a fresh face,” and he wants DeSantis.

“I think the party needs it, and I think independents will be looking for it more,” Foster said.

Nationally, DeSantis must avoid the perception that he peaked too quickly, a trap for countless GOP stars before him.

“When people bring up DeSantis today, I bring up Scott Walker,” Bob Vanderplatz, an influential conservative leader in Iowa, an early nominee, told CNN earlier this year. , he compared it to the former Wisconsin governor, an early favorite. In 2016, his campaign stalled.

Like Walker, DeSantis’ agenda has won support from a conservative editorial board and the Beltway think tank. He likes to confront reporters, showing off a brash style akin to New Jersey’s Chris Christie’s fondness for many Republican voters. He built a fundraising machine that rivaled Florida’s Jeb Bush.

Those past governors acted on the president’s ambitions; Trump shattered their dreams.

“If in fact you’re in the presidential primary with Donald Trump and think you’re going to kick his ass, then you’ve got another thing going,” a Florida Republican adviser told CNN.

Trump publicly lashed out at DeSantis in the final days of the midterm cycle, while privately resenting the infidelity of a former political protege. He nicknamed DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious” at an event in Pennsylvania on Saturday and held a rally in Miami two days before the election without inviting the home governor.

DeSantis refused to participate and instead held a competitive rally on the coast opposite Florida.

In an interview before Election Day, Trump warned DeSantis not to challenge.

“I don’t know if he’s running. I think if he was running, he could seriously injure himself,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Digital. “I think he’s going to make mistakes. I don’t think the base is going to like it — I don’t think it’s good for the party…I’ll tell you a few things about him that aren’t going to be very flattering.”

Trump later played down Tuesday’s election results, noting that he received “more” votes than DeSantis in Florida in 2020. Turnout in presidential races is typically much higher than in midterm elections, with Trump holding a roughly 3-point advantage over Biden.

It will only get harder for DeSantis to avoid talking about Trump and 2024 in the coming weeks, although he may still try. DeSantis, hoarse over the demanding closing campaign schedule and election night celebrations, held a news conference Wednesday morning to introduce Tropical Storm Nicole to Floridians.

DeSantis did not mention the election results. He left without answering the question.

This story has been updated with additional responses.

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