DeSantis' bad week shows beating Trump will be a difficult task

Nancy Cook, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

Ron DeSantis isn’t officially running for president yet, but he just suffered through the kind of week a candidate for the highest office in the U.S. would love to forget.

The Florida governor has been seen as the most formidable potential challenger to former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. Yet DeSantis’ early advantage has eroded following miscues over Ukraine policy and as Trump pushed himself back into the spotlight by calling for protests against his potential indictment in New York.

DeSantis’ recent struggles highlight two major vulnerabilities as he sizes up a 2024 run. The first is his lack of experience in foreign policy, a common stumbling block for governors who set their sights on the White House. The second is Trump’s ability to seize national attention and reset the agenda by whipping up his still-fervent backers among the GOP faithful.

On Monday, DeSantis infuriated Trump and his supporters when he called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecution politically motivated — but then chided the former president for paying “hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”

Then, after angering top Republican lawmakers by downplaying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” DeSantis backtracked on Wednesday, earning a rebuke from Fox News’s Tucker Carlson.

In private conversations around Tallahassee, just blocks from the governor’s office in Florida’s capital, DeSantis’ allies and advisers acknowledged he’d had a tough week. But they maintained that the Republican primary remains a two-man race between Trump and the 44-year-old governor.


Other observers said the tough stretch shows enthusiasm for DeSantis is fading.

“DeSantis is not ready for prime time. We saw this with Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016,” said Garrett Ventry, a senior adviser to Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Trump ally. “Rubio had this little surge in 2016 and then he imploded. What DeSantis is doing is clearly not working.”

Careful campaign

DeSantis has built a strong base of support in Florida – the state Trump also calls home – by pumping out conservative policy on guns and tort reform with the help of a Republican-led state Legislature. Nationally, he’s won admirers by decrying “wokeness” in schools, culture and business.


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