The question isn’t whether he’s going to trump Trump’s margin. The question, I think, is how close he’ll get to a double-digit victory. You know he wants it — bad.
I’ve made this point in at least a dozen posts about 2024: The only Republican in America with a nonzero chance of beating Trump is DeSantis, but that’s if and only if he runs up the score in November. In a sane party, the fact that DeSantis has notched so many policy wins in Florida would alone make him a favorite against Trump. But in the GOP of 2022, that’s not enough. To win a primary against Trump, you need some sort of argument that you can own the libs harder than he can. And Trump, who ended the Clinton dynasty before it began and did it by vowing to build a wall to keep illegals out, is almost insuperable in that regard.
But there is a way DeSantis could own the libs harder. He could convince Republican voters that he’s more likely to beat the Democrats than Trump is, which he certainly is. He’d have to message that carefully since Trump has two-thirds of the party convinced that he won in 2020 and had his victory stolen from him, but DeSantis wouldn’t have to argue (strictly speaking) that Trump lost two years ago. All he’d have to argue is that he can get more votes in a national election than Trump could, a tally “outside the margin of cheating” or whatever.
If he hangs a 10-point victory on the Dems this fall in Florida, many Republican voters who are desperate to take back Washington will consider that. And Team DeSantis knows it, according to NBC:
“My goal would be, if we win the election really big, people like you who analyze these things are going to say: ‘The days of Florida being a swing state are over. Florida is a red state.’ And I think that’s because of a lot of what we’ve done,” DeSantis said when [Lisa Marie] Boothe, a Fox News contributor, specifically pressed him about his White House ambitions. Boothe didn’t ask whether he would want to run in two years if Trump runs or wait for six years.
DeSantis didn’t specify what a “really big” win would look like. But in battleground Florida — where he won his office by less than half a percentage point in 2018 — even a few points can look like a landslide. And two sources in DeSantis’ orbit say he would like to best Trump’s unexpectedly high margin of 3.3 percentage points from two years ago.
If DeSantis can’t top 3.3 points in a Republican wave year, with a gigantic war chest, facing far weaker opposition than Trump faced, he should quit.
In all likelihood he’ll be running against Charlie Crist, who has the benefit of high name recognition since he’s a former governor. But Crist is stuck with a contested primary and is apt to be weakened in the process. And since he used to be a Republican who conveniently became a Democrat only after Marco Rubio ousted him in the 2010 GOP Senate primary, blocking his path to Washington, it’s anyone’s guess how enthusiastically Democrats would turn out for him. Lefties will turn out because they hate DeSantis, but what about the centrist Democrats who are relieved that DeSantis kept public schools open during the pandemic while parents in bluer states went through hell?
For cripes sake, Charlie, read the room:
Charlie Crist says he’s ‘open’ to mask mandate, setting up COVID as key issue in race against DeSantishttps://t.co/wkzJ9lIw76
— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 29, 2022
DeSantis will easily top Trump’s 2020 margin. In fact, the prospect of him springboarding from a shocking landslide gubernatorial win to an early declaration of a presidential run reportedly has Team Trump adjusting their own timetable:
Trump advisers don’t think DeSantis would challenge Trump in 2024, although they’re eying DeSantis’ sizable war chest as a possible source of super PAC money if he handily wins re-election and banks tens of millions of dollars afterward. Trump insiders have been discussing plans to have Trump announce his White House plans in early January, making it more difficult for a newly re-elected governor like DeSantis to announce a presidential bid without coming into direct confrontation with Trump.
“Trump made Ron, and if Ron ran against Trump there would be hell to pay,” said a Republican who has discussed DeSantis’ and Trump’s presidential plans with the former president.
If DeSantis jumps into the 2024 race before Trump does, he might try to spin it as something other than a challenge to Trump. “How can I be challenging someone who isn’t running yet and might not run?” Trump would be furious at his presumptuousness, though. He’s made his 2024 intentions clear and expects all other Republicans to acknowledge his stature as leader of the party by giving him a right of first refusal for the nomination. DeSantis jumping in first would be a brash signal that he doesn’t acknowledge that stature. And brash is DeSantis’s brand these days:
Ron could benefit from a little more happy warrior. https://t.co/Eyuq7zabLy
— Foster (@foster_type) May 2, 2022
The hard truth for Republicans who love Trump and DeSantis is that it’s in Trump’s interest at this point to start picking fights with him to diminish him. If he can sour some MAGA fans in Florida on the governor, that might hold down DeSantis’s margin of victory against Crist. And an underwhelming DeSantis performance in November would weaken his 2024 argument that he’s the most electable Republican in the field.
Then again, if Trump’s rocking a lead like this, how much does he really have to worry?
2024 National Republican Primary Poll
T. Scott 1%
R. Scott 0%@tippinsights1/@InsightsIssues ~ 4/4-4/6https://t.co/dxBfn68USy
— PollTracker (@PollTrackerUSA) May 2, 2022
DeSantis might scare Mickey Mouse but he’s never asked the secretary of defense to shoot peaceful protesters, has he? In today’s GOP, you prove your willingness to “fight” by maxing out on repulsive authoritarianism. And the bar to clear to beat the top dog is very, very high.
I’ll leave you with this, a reminder that not all Republicans have abandoned what they used to claim to believe. I think Hutchinson’s going to run for president in 2024, by the way — as will Chris Christie, Mike Pence, probably Liz Cheney and several others, even if none of the top-tier Trump “heirs apparent” like DeSantis jump in. Although I’m all but certain he will.
GOP Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson opposes Ron DeSantis’ handling of Disney over its criticism of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“I disagree with it. I disagree with a punitive approach to businesses… we should not be punishing them for their private actions.” pic.twitter.com/9iy8gHyeW7
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) May 1, 2022