Former President Donald Trump is still the only, (and presumptive), GOP nominee in the 2024 race so far, but it appears unlikely that this will remain the case.
Trump is facing a number of legal and political burdens currently, ranging from concerns over his storage of maybe-classified documents in Mar-a-Lago to a potential for the DOJ to indict him on charges stemming from his alleged culpability on January 6th, 2021.
And so it seems quite certain that others potential candidates are simply waiting in the wings to see where the chips fall. This includes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been polling at or above Trump’s level in hypothetical surveys.
Now, with a number of prominent Republicans attacking DeSantis en masse, he may just very well have become the 2024 frontrunner.
In recent days, DeSantis has found himself on the receiving end of criticism from fellow GOP heavy hitters, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. He’s also rankled former President Trump, who’s running for the White House once again and sees DeSantis as perhaps his biggest obstacle to securing the GOP nod.
DeSantis hasn’t yet decided on a presidential bid and is still likely months away from making any kind of announcement about his intentions. But the recent criticism underscores the extent to which the Florida governor’s profile has risen and foreshadows a potentially bitter 2024 primary season for the party.
Sununu took a swipe at DeSantis last week in an interview with Fox News, saying that while he ultimately agreed with the Florida governor’s effort to target “woke” policies — a term that has become an inseparable part of DeSantis’s political brand — DeSantis’s posture against private businesses that disagree with him crosses a line.
“Look, I come from the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, and private businesses can and should act like private businesses without the fear of being punished by people that might disagree with them,” Sununu, who’s fresh off a successful reelection campaign, told Fox News.
“I agree with a lot of those issues that Ron brings to the table — I think he’s right — but to necessarily punish private businesses because they don’t agree with the policy or whatever it might be, those types of culture wars pushing their way into the private sector, that’s definitely not, I don’t think, where we want to be as Americans.”
In another attack that drew headlines, a spokesperson for Noem, another 2024 prospect, let loose on DeSantis last week over the Florida governor’s record on abortion.
In a statement to the conservative National Review, the spokesperson, Ian Fury, accused DeSantis of doing little to crack down on abortion in Florida despite the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case.
“Where was Gov. DeSantis? Hiding behind a 15-week ban,” Fury said. “Does he believe that 14-week-old babies don’t have a right to live?”
While DeSantis has been playing rather coy regarding his plans for 2024 in public, he has privately been meeting with GOP megadonors in an effort to secure funding for his bid.