Ron DeSantis will never be president unless he runs in 2024

Ron DeSantis
Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis gestures as he debates. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, Pool)

Ron DeSantis will never be president unless he runs in 2024

With the last elections finally decided and the last fundraising reports for 2022 already being compiled, we have well and truly entered the 2024 presidential cycle.

The hottest question right now is whom the Republicans will nominate. In recent months, the likelihood that it will not be Donald Trump has increased significantly, although it may still be greater than 50%.

There is a misconception among many Republican Trump supporters, who naively would like to have their cake and eat it too. They want to see Trump given the nomination in 2024, but they don’t want to see an end to the career of the GOP’s rising star, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. And so they talk as if it’s just not DeSantis’s time yet. He should just defer to Trump in 2024, they say, and wait his turn until 2028.

This is completely wrong if you look at it from the Florida governor’s perspective.

To be perfectly clear, if he waits until 2028, DeSantis will be term-limited out of office and with no job prospects in any relevant political role. One inferior option to running as a sitting governor (from a presidential race perspective) would be to run as a sitting senator. But DeSantis will not have the option of seeking an open U.S. Senate seat to stay relevant, as there is no Senate election in Florida in 2026. He’s not going to go back and run for his old House seat, obviously. So, what can he do?

By the way, what happens to out-of-office Republican governors in presidential races? Ask Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, or Jim Gilmore if you’re interested. (By the way, none of those guys won when they ran for president.)

Even worse than DeSantis’s loss of relevance will be the loss of relevance of what he did as governor. The issues that have made DeSantis’s governorship memorable and successful may not even be on the table anymore in five years. His battles against the cultural Left will be a thing of the past, a mere footnote in political history. So will his brave decision to keep his state open, as well as all the other work that people might find appealing — say, to preserve the Everglades and end special favors for the Walt Disney Corporation.

At this moment, DeSantis finds himself more popular and better liked than Trump, and even leading Trump in head-to-head matchups, although he trails if the GOP field gets more crowded. And equally important, DeSantis leads Joe Biden in head-to-head polls. Democrats almost appear to be stuck with Biden, who is already deeply unpopular and likely will remain so in 2024. In 2028, they might have someone much more likely to win a general election.

So, in short, the conditions may never be this good for a run by DeSantis again. In fact, they are very likely never to be this good again.

Meanwhile, Trump is not entitled to the nomination. If he wants it, he has to win it. And setting all other merits about the candidates aside, Republican voters will be weighing the merits of working so hard to elect someone who can serve one term at most. Wouldn’t it be better to elect someone with a leg up for eight years of selecting conservative judges and rolling back Biden-era rules? In 2024, this argument weighs in his favor. In 2028, it won’t give him any special advantage over his chief rivals.

So, there’s only one thing for DeSantis to do if he ever wants to become president, and that is to run in 2024.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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