DeSantis advisers prepare for possible presidential race, explore staffing options


Advisors to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are actively preparing for a possible presidential race, according to two Republicans familiar with the conversations that described meetings and preliminary staffing moves — the latest indication that DeSantis is laying the groundwork for a national campaign.

DeSantis’ political team has already identified several potential hires in early primary states such as New Hampshire and Iowa, according to one of the Republicans, who said experienced agents have expressed interest. This Republican also said Phil Cox and Generra Peck — two key members of DeSantis’ 2022 re-election team — are involved in ongoing 2024 talks.

Another Republican familiar with the conversations said DeSantis advisers met recently to discuss the 2024 election. The Republicans spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private talks.

Some in DeSantis’ orbit expect Cox and Peck to play roles in a DeSantis run, if that happens. Cox, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did Peck, who was the campaign manager for DeSantis’ decisive midterm victory over Democrat Charlie Crist.

DeSantis spokespersons did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

DeSantis is widely seen as a formidable potential challenger to former President Donald Trump, who takes to the track for the first time this weekend since announcing his November campaign, with stops scheduled for Saturday in New Hampshire and La Caroline from the south. Some recent polls have shown DeSantis ahead of Trump, including a survey released this week that had the governor leading the ex-president among likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire.

Bill Bowen, a New Hampshire GOP delegate, said enthusiasm for a DeSantis campaign was high in his state. “I’m confident there’s a good network of establishment party people in New Hampshire who will quickly have a very effective DeSantis campaign,” Bowen said.

But DeSantis said little about his ambitions for 2024 and dodged questions about his plans. His 19-point re-election margin in Florida last fall cemented his status as the party’s rising star, just as many Republicans began to doubt Trump’s ability to pull off conservative victories after many of his endorsed candidates have lost key races mid-term.

DeSantis is one of many Republicans taking steps to enter the 2024 presidential race. Other possible candidates include members of the Trump administration, such as former Vice President Mike Pence, and a host of other governors — some of them aligned with Trump, and others who were highly critical of the former president.

DeSantis, a former congressman, narrowly won his first term as governor in 2018 after portraying himself as a staunch Trump ally and winning the former president’s endorsement. He quickly gained national notoriety for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, moving to lift restrictions sooner than many other governors and opposing mask and vaccine mandates.

He has portrayed himself as an enemy of the ‘woke’ left and embraced fights over divisive social issues, working with Florida’s Republican-led Legislature to curtail school discussions of sexual orientation and identity. of gender and the feuds with Disney after its executives criticized the policy.

In his second term, DeSantis leaned more into fights that galvanize the GOP base. Within weeks, he sought to remodel a public liberal arts college with conservative board members; faced backlash from civil rights leaders and Democrats following his administration’s decision to ban an advanced high school course in African American studies; and announced action against what his office called the “biomedical security state” while featuring a doctor who has baseless claims that coronavirus vaccines caused the death of Elvis Presley’s daughter.

GOP supermajorities in the state legislature give DeSantis additional power to implement his agenda this term, and Republicans expect to tackle issues like abortion, data privacy, the “constitutional carry” for firearms and the use of “environmental, social and governance” (ESG) investment criteria, which some conservatives have criticized.

Even though DeSantis has built a reputation beyond his state’s borders, he has never campaigned nationally and some Republicans wonder if his success will hold up. the biggest political scene.

A measure of his ability to persuade political insiders came this week when he praised Harmeet Dhillon, the Republican National Committee presidential candidate, in an interview with conservative activist Charlie Kirk, saying: “I think we we need a change.” On Friday, Dhillon was beaten by starter Ronna McDaniel.


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