Govs. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, and Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., have been in the news a lot lately, resulting in the impression they could be positioning themselves for national office.
Strong supporters of former President Donald Trump, Abbott and DeSantis have signed state laws supporting conservative and populist stances, and have led their states' reopening following the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don’t think they are out-Trumping each other," GOP strategist John Feehery said to the Washington Examiner of the two governors. "I think they are racing to align themselves better with the heart and soul of the Republican base, which is emerging post-COVID pissed off at the sharp leftward shift of the Biden administration and desperate to reclaim freedoms that were taken from them by the healthcare bureaucracy.
"And the reason I say that is I don’t think Trump has made himself all that relevant to the discussion since [the Capitol attack on] Jan. 6."
Trump has not said whether he’ll run for president in 2024. If he does, DeSantis and Abbott potentially might be candidates for second position on the Republican ticket. If the former president does not run, the governors could be contenders for the top spot.
Both Florida and Texas have been models for economic reopening as the country moves past the pandemic. Once attacked by Democrats for being reckless, Abbott and DeSantis have been praised widely for their actions.
Abbott has taken on building the southern border wall after President Joe Biden stopped the federal government from doing so. He also signed a "trigger law" enacting an abortion ban if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the Examiner said.
DeSantis has extended help to Texas by offering Florida officers to help secure the southwest border. He also signed legislation keeping transgender athletes from competing in female sports.
DeSantis has attempted to crack down on Big Tech, and Abbott on "vaccine passports," the Examiner said.
Trump’s emergence and support the past eight years has shown the party's base has little confidence in its long-term leadership. But with the former president 75 years old, new leaders are needed, if not immediately then in the near future.
"Will Trump have so much weight still that his support will make a difference?" a Republican strategist in New Hampshire asked, the Examiner said. "That's the biggest question."
Trump has said DeSantis, 42, is part of a strong Republican bench. Abbott, 63, hasn’t been mentioned for national office as much as his Florida colleague, but a Texas operative told the Examiner, "He’s ambitious."
Both Abbott and DeSantis are up for reelection next year, and each is favored heavily to win a second term.
Republicans also will be trying to regain control of the U.S. House and Senate. Florida is a battleground state where the GOP has won consistently by small margins, and Texas is a state in which Democrats have made gains.
Abbott received nearly 56% of the vote in 2018, when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won just 51%. Trump’s margins in 2016 and 2020 were down from former presidential nominees late-Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
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