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Can DeSantis or another GOP challenger defeat Trump in 2024?


Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president last week. No one should underestimate the former president’s potential to become the Republican nominee again or win the 2024 general election. Nor should anyone overestimate its strength. Trump begins his third campaign for the weakened and embattled president.

Few Americans are ready for the start of the 2024 presidential campaign. Congressional Republicans, now in tight control of the House, will be on the front lines trying to shape the party’s future. It will be a messy process, as legislators have rarely speak with one voice. An important question will be the extent to which the House majority points to anything different from what Trump has offered, whether it be denials of election results, policies, or grievances and attacks.

Trump is still the party’s towering figure, but his lackluster announcement speech last tuesday evening could not conceal his diminished position. His record as a party leader falls well short of his thoughts on the type of president he was. This record of two disappointing midterms and one losing reelection bid is why many Republicans are looking to others to lead them — and first on that list is Ron DeSantis, who is coming out of reelection. as governor of Florida.

Trump has been a drag on his party since entering the White House. Yes, he won the Electoral College in 2016, but he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. He lost the popular vote by an even bigger margin to Joe Biden in 2020.

On the legislative side, under Trump’s leadership, Republicans lost control of the House in 2018 and the Senate in 2020. And while the GOP won back the House in this year’s election, the party is well behind the expectations and the Democrats will retain control of the Senate.

Republicans also lost a slew of statewide races for positions that could determine the outcome of the 2024 Electoral College. This was largely due to the failures of candidates promoted by Trump and voter fear to give too much power to a party under its domination.

Trump’s re-election announcement on Tuesday last week prompted Attorney General Merrick Garland to announce on Friday the appointment of a special counsel to support the Justice Department’s ongoing investigations into Trump’s retention of classified documents. after leaving the White House and his role in fomenting the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. These investigations will remind some Republicans of the baggage the former president carries. Others will see him as the victim he claims to be and they might come out in force to support his third presidential candidacy.

There are no perfect analogies in presidential campaigns, especially nomination contests. Different personalities, different conditions, different electorates combine to make everyone unique. But at this very early stage, some past contests offer some perspective on what may lie ahead for Trump and his party.

Presidential candidates don’t always have the luxury of deciding when it’s ideal to run. Circumstances often dictate it. When Barack Obama was deciding in late 2006 to run for president in 2008, David Axelrod, his chief strategist, sent him a note that said, “History is full of potential presidential candidates who waited too long rather than examples of people who ran too soon… You will never be hotter than you are right now. Obama gave himself about a 25% chance of winning the nomination. He ran anyway.

In the fall of 1998, as George W. Bush headed for re-election as governor of Texas and then an expected presidential campaign in 2000. Nonetheless, he marveled at the strength of the forces pushing him to make the race. “I feel like a cork in a raging river,” he said.

Both Obama and Bush won those elections and served two terms.

DeSantis finds himself in the position of Obama entering the 2008 cycle, will probably never be in a better position to run for president, even if today’s chances don’t necessarily favor him in winning the nomination, and while the timing isn’t ideal given he has young children and his wife, Casey, recently overcoming a battle with breast cancer.

DeSantis is not in the position Bush was in after his 1998 re-election. Bush, the son of a former president, was the recognized frontrunner for his party’s nomination. DeSantis is the alternative to Trump that many in his party are looking for, but someone who should nonetheless defeat a former president known for his skill and ruthlessness in weeding out potential rivals.

Don’t look to DeSantis to act quickly or engage with Trump, who is likely to keep trying to bait him. He can wait to make a decision or announce his intentions. As Bush was then, he is a sitting governor with an upcoming legislative session. He has real work to do while Trump walks around and plays his greatest hits at rallies, a strategy that could become obsolete. DeSantis can build a contrasting case with Trump.

In the spring of 1999, Bush stayed in Austin and let the world come to him. Republicans continued to arrive daily – elected officials, donors, strategists and political pundits. As other candidates traveled to Iowa, a group of Republicans from Iowa chartered two planes for Austin. Bush used the time to shore up support among fellow governors and other elected officials, build a financial network and delve into briefings.

DeSantis could lead a similar campaign on the porch from Tallahassee in the coming months as his team prepares for a possible candidacy. The governor said last week that people should “chill out” around 2024. During his re-election campaign, he declined to say he would serve out his four-year term.

DeSantis has a team in place. He has proven his ability to raise big bucks and a stack of cash that could be transferred to a super PAC to support a candidacy. His record as governor — often described as a combination of traditional conservatism with a heavy dose of culture wars — is already giving Republican voters something to watch.

He grabbed national attention for resisting covid lockdowns. He hired the Walt Disney Company to teach gender identity issues to young school children. He boasts that Florida is “the place revival will die”. He dealt quickly with Hurricane Ian, earning applause at home. Democrats and Republicans see it as Trumpism without Trump. Democrats see it and back down. A lot of Republicans like him a lot.

While there will likely be plenty of GOP presidential candidates in 2024, Trump and DeSantis could suck all the oxygen out of the room, allowing none of the others to break through.

DeSantis has proven himself to Florida voters. He has not proven himself at the national level in a presidential arena. We wonder about his ability to take the plunge. Does he have the personality and temperament for a long presidential campaign? He is not known for having good people skills and has offended some wealthy donors with what they see as an overbearing style. The video he posted just before his re-election, which read, “On the eighth day…God made a fighter,” suggests pride could be a problem. If he steps in but is unable to step in, Republicans will consider something different, and Trump could be the beneficiary.

There are many others Republicans are eyeing presidential nominations in 2024. Former Vice President Mike Pence has come out with a new book that looks like a soft launch for a candidacy. But he is caught between his loyal service to Trump for four years and the rift that occurred around the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts his roots in the early states.

There are Trump critics who could come forward, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie thinks Trump needs to be confronted directly, not passively, if Republicans hope to deny him the nomination, and he was applauded with that message at the Republican Governors Association meeting, held the same night Trump announced. Christie said anyone running in 2024 owes it to voters to say exactly how they feel about the role Trump has played over the past few years. “I don’t think subtlety works,” he said. “You have to be direct”

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who described Trump as “[expletive] crazy,” said last week that he might be interested. So are the others, including two prominent women in the party, South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The unnamed Gov. DeSantis who other Republicans think might be well placed is Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, whose victory in 2021 put him in the spotlight as someone who successfully kept Trump at bay without offending the public. Trump supporters. He also exploited parental dissatisfaction with school policies, although his critics said he also played the race card in doing so.

Youngkin has spent the past several months campaigning for gubernatorial candidates across the country, though he has shown more losses than victories in those efforts. He handed out his signature red vests and hoped to show he could appeal to Trump loyalists, Never Trumpers and swing voters who helped him win in 2021 but have not been strongly backing Republicans this year. Republicans say his style, less sharp than that of DeSantis, could fall more easily into the retail campaign demanded in early states.

Some Republicans wonder if there’s room for Youngkin and DeSantis to challenge Trump. Those looking for an alternative to Trump worry about the consequences of another large and fractured field. His loyal base could produce enough votes in early primaries to put him in the driver’s seat of the GOP ticket race, just as they did in 2016.

The Republican presidential campaign will begin to take shape partly in the shadow of what House Republicans are doing. They can help the party’s image or hurt it. The presidential candidates will have to seize it. Trump is the known factor, his potential rivals much less so. Whether some are up to the task of brushing him aside is the big question for a party still trapped in Trump’s grip.


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