Donald Trump Should Be Worried About Ron DeSantis

While the popularity of ex-President Donald Trump has certainly managed to survive his oust from the Oval Office — at least one poll suggested a substantial number of registered Republican voters stated they would leave the party if Trump formed his very own — it seems that other conservatives are beginning to consider other options for the 2024 presidential election. Even if certain members of the GOP might have had their chances potentially damaged for speaking out against Trump throughout (and even after) his presidency, others have managed to evade both the wrath of Trump and his loyal constituents. 

So, if Trump is indeed eligible to run in 2024 — a thing that will most likely depend on possible criminal charges against him, with investigations pending — it seems one recent poll has indicated that he might face a serious contender in the next Republican primary. Not only that, but the politician-in-question has a track record for being one of Trump's biggest supporters. So what does this mean for Republicans? And could Trump end up targeting a possible rival for a potential 2024 candidacy? 

Donald Trump might have a new threat to contend with for 2024

In a straw poll conducted in June and overseen by the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, respondents surveyed ended up answering in a slightly different way than what might have been expected. As The Week noted in their coverage, those surveyed at the actual conference, as well as online, reported back that, out of 31 possible Republicans presented, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won out as their top candidate for 2024, beating out Donald Trump and his one-term experience as the White House's commander-in-chief by a three-point margin. While the hypothetical victory for DeSantis was slim, with the governor emerging with a 74% rate to Trump's 71%, the chasm between the runner-up and the third-place contender was considerably wider, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 43%, followed by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 39%. 

Though DeSantis, Cruz, and Pompeo were all considered some of the staunchest loyalists in Trump's inner circle during the majority of his tenure, The Week noted that DeSantis, in particular, could feasibly avoid backlash from the 45th president; Trump stated earlier this year that, if he were to run in 2024, DeSantis was a strong possibility as a pick to run on his ticket as vice president. Notably, DeSantis was one of Trump's strongest backers after he lost the 2020 election to current President Joe Biden.

What's behind Ron DeSantis' growing popularity?

Key to Ron DeSantis' popularity with Republicans is his handling of COVID-19, according to CNN. In fact, unlike many other states, "Florida is economically booming as vaccines are distributed and focus on the pandemic wanes." Furthermore, Florida — which has acted as a pivotal swing state in previous presidential elections — has "become the cultural center of the Republican Party" ever since ex-President Donald Trump relocated to Mar-A-Lago in the wake of his election loss to Joe Biden. It has not seen a Democratic governor since 1999.

And that's not all! DeSantis seems to have taken a page out of Trump's book when it comes to his speeches, utilizing the former commander-in-chief's trademark tone to appeal to conservative voters. "We have too many people in this party who don't fight back," the Florida governor told the crowd during the Republican National Committee retreat in April 2021 (via USA Today). Clearly, adopting Trump's rhetoric is paying off, as Florida-based fundraiser Nick Iarossi told the outlet that he's "getting calls from people all over the country wanting him [DeSantis] to come to their states and do events for them." So, with the ball in DeSantis' court, what's next for him? Does he have his sights set on running in 2024?

What's next for Ron DeSantis?

Despite his popularity within the Republican party, it may be a long road for Ron DeSantis when it comes to the 2024 presidential election. First, in order to maintain his star power, he will need to win reelection in Florida in 2022, which could be tricky if Florida voters believe him "to be more interested in running for president than in serving the state" (via USA Today). Not to mention, DeSantis' opponents may be gunning for him with all the attention on his possible bid for the presidency. "It could ultimately turn out more Democrats than would normally turn out in a midterm election," political science professor emeritus at the University of South Florida, Susan MacManus, revealed to the outlet.

Indeed, based on the latest poll results, CNN reported in that Democrats are keen to put a stop to DeSantis' dreams of the Oval Office — and the 2022 gubernatorial election provides the perfect opportunity to do so. "It is always easier to stop someone's rise sooner rather than later," David Turner, spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, said. "You don't lose your race for governor and then run for president." In other words, predicting how things will pan out for DeSantis is anyone's guess.