The Florida governor began traveling the country to cut Trump's lead among Republicans. The three great reasons that play in his favor.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis visited Texas, headlining Republican annual fundraising events in the Lone Star State's two most populous counties, Harris and Dallas. Harris County has a population greater than that of 26 states while Dallas County's population is greater than that of 15 states.
The visits represent another stage in DeSantis 2024 presidential campaign, focusing his energies on a state which will send more delegates (to be elected a year from now on "Super Tuesday", March 5, 2024) to the 2024 Republican National Convention (where the party's 2024 nominee will be selected) than any state other than California.
While in Texas, DeSantis underscored the pivotal role he views his home state of Florida (under his leadership) and the state of Texas (under the leadership of Republican Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick) play nationally in pushing back against Democratic efforts to pull the country to the left across a variety of issues ranging from education and traditional values to taxes and immigration.
Using the bully pulpit and constitutional powers provided by his position as governor of the country's third most populous state, DeSantis has developed a reputation as one of the country's most high profile, vocal and effective conservative leaders, advancing conservative policy priorities in Florida and pushing back against the Biden Administration's at times progressive agenda nationally. In doing so, DeSantis has positioned himself as someone who simultaneously possesses impeccable conservative credentials, but also as someone who represents both a viable challenger to former President Donald Trump in the Republican primary as well as a much more viable challenger to President Joe Biden in the general election than Trump.
In sum, DeSantis's appeal to Republican primary voters is three-fold. First, he is a strong and principled conservative who will pursue conservative policies if elected president. Second, he lacks the legal and ethical baggage that Trump carries with him, and rarely undermines his own goals via gaffes, offensive rhetoric or impulsive acts that so frequently plagued Trump during his four years in the Oval Office. Third, DeSantis provides Republicans with a much better chance than Trump of preventing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from being re-elected in 2024, with Republicans especially nervous about Harris assuming the presidency during a second Biden presidency, during which time Biden's age would be between 82 and 86 years.
Trump's star within the Republican Party has fallen from the unrivaled heights where it was located during his presidency. He still however represents a formidable foe within the Republican Party, where a substantial proportion of primary voters continue to idolize Trump with a level of enthusiasm and attachment that is more commonly associated with populist presidents outside of the United States than with the United States' generally more sedate chief executives.
At the present time, the Republican presidential primary is squarely a two-horse affair, with Trump and DeSantis taking up most of the oxygen in the room. Trump enjoys a modest advantage in support over DeSantis, which is why DeSantis has begun to travel more widely across the country, this weekend in Texas, to introduce himself to Republican primary voters who do not know him nearly as well as they know Trump. As long as Trump and DeSantis remain in the race, there simply is not any room for other viable candidates.
While former South Carolina governor and Trump United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley and former vice president and Indiana governor Mike Pence are actively campaigning, neither has a realistic hope of winning the GOP nomination in competition against Trump and DeSantis. They are running either with ulterior goals (e.g., a vice presidential candidacy, a cabinet position, rehabilitating their image, enhancing their brand), or with the hope that at the end of the day Trump will decline to run for president and the field will open up to allow them to pivot to become DeSantis's principal rival.
If Haley and Pence are on the ballot and still competing at this time next year in a contest with DeSantis and Trump, their presence will bolster the prospects of Trump of capturing the Republican nomination and undermine those of DeSantis, since while they would only be winning 10% to 15% of the vote, the votes they would be receiving would in large part be anti-Trump votes that would have otherwise gone to DeSantis.
The first Republican presidential caucus (Iowa, January 8) and primary (New Hampshire, January 16) will be held (tentatively) in nine months. It now is increasingly clear that the Democratic Party will not have a competitive primary given President Biden's intention to seek re-election, with the spotlight over the next 15 months focused primarily on the battle to capture the 2024 Republican nomination. And, while Trump began the contest with an advantage over DeSantis, the more DeSantis travels the country and attends Republican events like those this weekend in Texas, the narrower the gap separating him and Trump will become. The end goal of DeSantis is clear: surpassing the Trump in the polls or convincing the former president that the best decision for his ego and legacy would be to end his candidacy for president.
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