Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis ended speculation about a potential run for president in 2024, saying this week that he’s “not a candidate.”
Or, did he?
Speaking with reporters on Monday while he was traveling to Japan, DeSantis dismissed polling data released recently that showed he was losing substantial ground in a hypothetical 2024 Republican primary against former President Donald Trump.
He made the comment to reporters that, “I’m not a candidate,” which in and of itself would make huge headlines. However, he followed that statement up with another:
“So, we’ll see if and when that changes.”
The Florida governor isn’t lying, but he certainly was playing it cheeky with reporters. It’s true, DeSantis isn’t a candidate, as he hasn’t officially filed paperwork to run for president in 2024. But, even he alluded to the possibility when he said “if and when that changes.”
In other words, he was saying that the polling data really doesn’t mean much to him now, since he’s not officially a candidate … and when he does become an official candidate, he seems to believe that some of that polling data will change.
The Florida governor better hope he’s right on that last point, as recent data has shown that Trump’s lead over DeSantis – his biggest projected challenger in the GOP primary – has widened.
RealClear Politics reported that, at the end of March, Trump had a lead over DeSantis of 45.9% to 30.1%. In the weeks since, Trump has expanded that lead all the way to 52.4% compared to 23.4% for DeSantis.
At one point, DeSantis was considered to be the more “electable” of the two members of the GOP. It’s possible that DeSantis has lost some support, though, due to his ongoing squabble with Disney as well as the fact that he referred to the Ukraine war with Russia as just a “territorial dispute.”
The New York Times reported recently:
“There are growing concerns about Mr. DeSantis’s own ability to win over the independent and suburban voters who delivered the White House to President Biden, and whether the hard-line stances the governor has taken, including on abortion, will repel the very voters he promises to win back.
“His feuding with Disney – including an offhand remark this week suggesting he would put a state prison next to Disney World – has raised alarms, even among would-be allies.”
Even still, DeSantis is considered Trump’s main potential competitor in the GOP primary. Those who have officially filed to run thus far – Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Larry Elder and Asa Hutchinson – aren’t seen as real threats to dethrone Trump.
That leaves DeSantis and others who haven’t announced their candidacy yet – maybe former Vice President Mike Pence – as the main potential challengers to Trump.
As such, if DeSantis wants to become a serious threat to the former president, he’ll need to start building up his national profile real quick, especially among independent voters.