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DeSantis’s big night fuels prospect of 2024 face-off with Trump

As hopes for a sweeping red wave faded, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) emerged as a clear winner among Republicans on Tuesday night, fueling talk of a 2024 presidential bid with his landslide reelection victory.

DeSantis has in recent months established himself as a darling of the conservative movement, with many in the GOP ready to move on from former President Trump and citing the Florida governor as their preferred alternative.

On Tuesday, DeSantis made a strong case that he could be a viable candidate by defeating former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) by roughly 1.5 million votes and nearly 20 points, and even winning Miami-Dade County, a long-time Democratic stronghold.

While DeSantis used his victory speech to tout the outcome as a validation of his agenda and the conservative movement, his supporters had something else on their minds.

“Two more years!” the crowd chanted as DeSantis smiled, a nod to the possibility he could leave the governor’s mansion to pursue a White House bid.

Beyond his own commanding victory, DeSantis helped deliver Republican wins in House races in the state by rejecting an initial redrawn congressional map from state lawmakers and later approving one that favored Republicans more.

As a result, Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.) was forced to run in a district that was handily carried in 2020 by Trump. Lawson lost on Tuesday to Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.). Florida Republicans also flipped the seats vacated by Crist and retiring Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.).

“Thanks to the overwhelming support of the people of Florida, we not only won an election, we have rewritten the political map,” DeSantis said at a rally with supporters on Tuesday. “Thank you for honoring us with a win for the ages.”

DeSantis’s win over Crist was a far cry from 2018, when he narrowly eked out a win over Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. DeSantis has seen his star rise since, thanks in part to his close relationship with Trump, and later as he became the face of opposition to the Biden administration’s coronavirus measures and policies on immigration.

Tuesday’s results are likely to turbo-charge talk of a potential DeSantis vs. Trump showdown in a 2024 presidential primary. The former president has already all-but declared he plans to seek another term in the White House, scheduling an announcement for next Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Trump has also in recent days turned his fire on DeSantis, taking credit for the governor’s political rise and suggesting DeSantis would personally and politically take a hit if he tried to challenge Trump in a primary.

“I don’t know if he is running. I think if he runs, he could hurt himself very badly. I really believe he could hurt himself badly,” Trump told Fox News in an interview on Monday night. “I think he would be making a mistake, I think the base would not like it — I don’t think it would be good for the party.”

Trump also suggested he could share damaging information about DeSantis if he jumped into the race.

“I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering — I know more about him than anybody — other than, perhaps, his wife,” Trump said.

Trump’s attacks, though, have not landed with conservative commentators, including some who backed the former president in 2016 and 2020.

“Trump has 0 shot at 2024 general. After tonight, this isn’t up for debate. I was around in 2015 when he had ‘no chance,’ and accurately said he’d win. Threw biggest inauguration event in 2017,” tweeted Mike Cernovich, a right-wing commentator who backed Trump’s previous White House runs. “Times change or he changed or whatever. DeSantis in 2024 or accept total defeat.”

While many strategists felt Trump would try to take credit for big Republican wins on Tuesday and parlay it into an early presidential announcement, the jury is still out on how the former president’s effect on Tuesday’s elections will be viewed.

His hand-picked candidate in Ohio, J.D. Vance, was poised to win his race, but the Trump-backed Senate candidate Mehmet Oz was projected to lose to Democrat John Fetterman in Pennsylvania.

Dan Bolduc, a New Hampshire Senate candidate who initially backed Trump’s conspiracies that the 2020 election was stolen before reversing his stance, lost his race.

In Arizona, Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Senate candidate Blake Masters were both trailing. Republican Herschel Walker, another candidate closely tied to Trump, was locked in a tight race with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia.

“Well, I think if they win, I should get all the credit,” Trump said earlier Tuesday in an interview with NewsNation. “And if they lose, I should not be blamed at all. OK? But it’ll probably be just the opposite.”

Tags Charlie Crist Charllie Crist Donald Trump Florida Miami-Dade County Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis
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