Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has a lot going for him before his re-election in November. Over $100 million in the bank. An increasing statewide advantage for Republican voters. Overwhelming popularity with the conservative base.
What DeSantis doesn’t need or want: the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.
According to four people with ties to the governor and former president, DeSantis has not sought a formal endorsement from Trump and has no plans to do so. It’s a strong sign that DeSantis, who was more than four years ago a little-known Northeast Florida congressman, has climbed high into the GOP stratosphere.
DeSantis’ reluctance to pursue the endorsement of the former president publicly comes as the Florida governor prepares for a likely White House bid in 2024, even if Trump also runs in 2024 – creating a potential confrontation between two powerful GOP figures.
Trump has been using his endorsement as a stick against Republicans who voted to unseat him after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, including Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), who ended up losing his primary to Trump-backed state Rep. Russell Fry.
However, an endorsement from Trump would probably not change DeSantis’ standing as the frontrunner in Florida among his Florida supporters. Polls have repeatedly shown him leading his Democratic rivals. In straw polls in Wisconsin, Nevada and the annual Western Conservative Summit survey, DeSantis has even surpassed Trump.
Trump has already delivered endorsements to many Florida Republicans on the ballot this year, including Senator Marco Rubio.
DeSantis’ decision to renounce an endorsement from Trump is a stark contrast to four years ago. In 2018, DeSantis was considered a longtime challenger, running against then-Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Putnam had the support of the Republican establishment and a financial advantage. But DeSantis shocked the foundation of the race when he won a crucial endorsement from Trump before the primary.
The strategy worked, and DeSantis crushed Putnam as Florida Trump supporters flowed to his support. Trump also often claims credit for Desantis’ victory, once saying, “He ran, I endorsed him, his numbers went through the roof.”
Much has changed in four years. DeSantis is now a well-known Republican figure nationally who was highly regarded by conservatives during the pandemic for fighting closures and mandates related to Covid-19. He has also very publicly “fought against liberals on education, race relations and LGBTQ issues,” and received donations from individuals and millions in cash from large GOP donors like Kelcy Warren, who donated before to Trump.
Although there have been published articles about the emerging rivalry between DeSantis and Trump, they have not stopped talking to each other.
Yet DeSantis has avoided questions about his plans for 2024 and whether he would not run for president if Trump sought another term.
Still, Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said any intrigue about whether Trump would endorse DeSantis was part of “false narratives” setting the two Republicans against each other.
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