Published June 21, 2021
It’s widely assumed that the 2024 Republican presidential nomination is Donald Trump’s if he wants it. That may be, but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s rapid rise calls that into question.
DeSantis is quickly becoming the first choice among conservatives willing to look beyond Trump. He has impeccable pro-Trump credentials, winning a fierce GOP gubernatorial primary in 2018 in part by receiving Trump’s endorsement and by almost comically running as his acolyte. His leadership during the pandemic, which attracted regular criticism from the media for keeping Florida too open, endeared him to many on the right. His recent effort to regulate social media has kept his name in the limelight and touched a chord among ardent conservatives.
The result is that DeSantis now often leads 2024 polls that don’t include Trump — and sometimes even those that do. A poll of activists at last weekend’s Western Conservative Summit in Denver, for example, placed him marginally ahead of Trump, with other potential competitors such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz far behind. This particular poll merely asked respondents to say who they might consider voting for, so there’s no way to know whom people might choose between DeSantis and Trump if they like both of them. But anecdotal evidence suggests the answer isn’t clear cut. Trump himself has recently recognized DeSantis’s rise, saying that he would consider making the governor his vice-presidential nominee in 2024.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.