There’s just one thing standing in Trump’s way

view original post

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ long-awaited presidential announcement may not only be a seminal event in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination. It may determine whether there is much of a race to begin with.

© Logan Cyrus/AFP
Trump and DeSantis – Logan Cyrus/AFP

Former President Donald Trump is a quasi-incumbent. He plans to seek the 2024 nomination much as he ran for renomination in 2020: with a minimal primary competition he could largely ignore, winning by acclamation. He remains the heavy frontrunner, with most of the field incapable of regularly reaching the double digits in polling nationally or in the pivotal early state contests.

Load Error

DeSantis is at present the only man standing in the way of a Trump coronation. The two-term governor won reelection last year by landslide margin in a hard-fought battleground as other Trump-endorsed candidates lost or underperformed. He has compiled a long list of conservative legislative victories on everything from post-Covid economic reopening to the social issues frequently described as the “culture war,” becoming a red-state model of governance in the process.

As a result, DeSantis is the only declared Republican presidential candidate who can rival Trump’s support. Even after hitting a rough patch, he fairly consistently attracts the backing of about a fifth of the Republican primary electorate. In the immediate aftermath of what was for Republicans a disappointing midterm election cycle, he seemed to have a higher ceiling than that as the GOP began casting about for someone new.

DeSantis also has a compelling resume for the general election should he win the nomination. He is a graduate of both Yale University and Harvard Law School, despite his populist stances. From there, he became a decorated military officer, serving as legal advisor to an operational Navy Seal Team in Iraq. DeSantis was elected to Congress three times before winning Florida’s governorship. At 44, he is well positioned to make the argument for generational change in leadership against 80-year-old President Joe Biden.

But it is DeSantis’ combativeness and willingness to adapt to changes in conservative thought that lead him to stand out more than his resume. DeSantis’ fight against Disney World, a top tourist destination in his state, reflects rank-and-file Republicans’ new eagerness to confront “woke capitalism,” not just big government. He is willing to push back against a media the GOP has seen as corrupted by liberal bias at least since the days of Richard Nixon. While other Republicans appear unnerved by the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, DeSantis has embraced it by signing into law a six-week abortion ban.

In many respects, DeSantis isn’t running merely to succeed or replace Trump. He is running as his successor, his true heir. He is offering Republican primary voters a chance to capture everything they like about Trump while avoiding the former president’s foibles. DeSantis is Trump with more discipline, better personnel choices, and a winning track record.

The trouble for DeSantis is that he has to run against the original Trump before he can get to the race against Biden. DeSantis has had to make nuanced arguments for why he is better than Trump, because he is campaigning as a continuation of Trumpism. Trump has no such compunctions about his attacks against DeSantis. Trump is unafraid to make arguments that could come back to haunt the former president or other Republicans later if it helps him secure victory over DeSantis now.

How DeSantis competes with and potentially overcomes this asymmetric political warfare could be the defining issue of the 2024 election.

W. James Antle III is politics editor of the Washington Examiner

Sign up to the Front Page newsletter for free: Your essential guide to the day’s agenda from The Telegraph – direct to your inbox seven days a week.

Continue Reading