Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is reportedly "very wary" that his campaigning could put him at odds with former President Donald Trump once the 2024 election cycle begins, according to Politico.
DeSantis, who won praise from conservatives after he reopened Florida earlier than most states, has made frequent appearances on behalf of Republicans in other states, and a new straw poll from the Western Conservative Summit shows DeSantis beating Trump 74-71. Politico notes that Trump won this survey last year with 95% of the vote.
This could cause the former president to see the governor as a rival for the White House, which "makes it difficult to openly start campaigning as [Trump] at least contemplates running again," according to Saul Anuzis, former chair of the Michigan GOP, adding that it remains "early" in the season.
"It keeps activists on the sidelines," he said.
"Donald Trump was not as strong in his position as he was last year, which is getting a lot of attention and a lot of news organizations covering us," said Jeff Hunt, vice president of Public Policy at Colorado Christian University and one of the organizers of the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. "It's very clear Trump has strong control among grassroots conservatives, but what people are looking for is Trump presidency policies but with a fresh face, and Ron has done a good job doing things like going toe-to-toe with the media, and grassroots conservative appreciate that."
He added, "I think they are looking for that next step and that next generation."
A Republican consultant with close ties to the governor, who spoke to Politico on the condition of anonymity, added that DeSantis is "very wary" of getting on Trump's bad side.
"He will take measures so that Trump won't get mad at him, but believe me, the more successful you are, with Trump, sometimes makes it worse," the consultant said. "It's a weird spot to be in for sure."
Trump implied in a recent interview with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo that DeSantis could serve as his running mate in 2024.
"He's a friend of mine. I endorsed Ron, and after I endorsed him, he took off like a rocket ship," Trump said. "A lot of people like that — you know, I'm just saying what I read and what you read — they love that ticket … certainly, Ron would be considered. He's a great guy."
His former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told the Washington Examiner recently that he doesn't think DeSantis will try to challenge Trump if he does officially announce his bid.
"That being said, Gov. DeSantis won't even — he's asked over and over and over again every time I'm in his presence — he's been asked, 'Are you running in 2024?'" said Meadows, who is currently working for the Conservative Partnership Institute in Washington, D.C., which DeSantis met with last week.
"Ron DeSantis is not focusing on the ups and downs of 2024, he is focused on making the state of Florida successful," added David Bossie, head of Citizens United and a former deputy campaign manager for Trump. "That means solely focusing on his re-election in 2022. He is not getting sidetracked by the chattering class."
But Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini said that "the reality is, right now, everyone has to run these kinds of secret, or indirect, presidential campaigns" to avoid slighting Trump. "Of those trying it, I do think DeSantis has done the best job."
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