Officially, Ron DeSantis is coming to Las Vegas to campaign for Adam Laxalt. But it’s easy to see this as a sneak peek of a potential 2024 presidential campaign.
On Wednesday, the Florida governor is making a rare trip outside of his home state for a rally to support Laxalt’s U.S. Senate bid. The two have a bond that predates their time in politics. They met in Naval officer training almost two decades ago and went through JAG training together.
On the surface, DeSantis is coming to support a longtime friend who just happens to be running in an early presidential primary state. But DeSantis isn’t just any Republican.
He’s the governor who rose to national prominence by rejecting virus alarmism. He focused public health measures on the most vulnerable and kept Florida’s economy humming.
He’s the governor who churns out viral soundbites taking the corporate national media to task for its dishonesty and bias.
He’s the governor who didn’t back down when Disney opposed that bill. He punched back, stripping Disney of special privileges it’s had for decades.
All this makes him the Republican who seems capable of besting Donald Trump for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination.
DeSantis routinely leads other GOP presidential contenders in polls without Trump. That’s impressive, because he didn’t have a national profile four years ago. He even has admirers in the Trump family. Last year, Donald Trump Jr. singled out DeSantis for praise when asked about potential presidential hopefuls, not including his father.
DeSantis’ lead disappears in polls that include Trump. The conventional wisdom is that any candidate would be toast if Trump runs again. If he wins re-election, however, DeSantis should run no matter what Trump does.
For one, moments in the national spotlight are rare and fleeting. DeSantis’ coronavirus courage will be old news in 2028. Even if he continues to excel as governor, he’ll be term-limited-out in 2026.
Just look at former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He should have run in 2012 but didn’t. He was an afterthought in 2016. Even a losing effort can bear fruit. Mitt Romney lost in 2008 before winning the Republican nomination in 2012.
While Trump is ahead, his victory isn’t inevitable. Most Republican voters care right now about inflation, immigration and improving education. Trump is still obsessed with complaining about the 2020 election. I’ve documented concerns about election security in Nevada. But Trump lost, and his bellyaching won’t change that.
If DeSantis continues to engage on today’s issues, while Trump fixates on yesterday’s grievances, he’ll continue to improve his standing with Republicans.
Finally, DeSantis gives Republicans a better chance to win than Trump does. There is four years of evidence that Trump’s policy successes don’t outweigh his personality foibles in the minds of swing voters. Go with a guy who has delivered Trump-like results but has superior message discipline and strategic thinking.
DeSantis still has to win re-election, but after that — run, Ron, run.