I had no idea there was a “Draft DeSantis” group out there until this morning, when I read this Axios piece. And that piece isn’t even about the group so much as it is about the group’s novel attempt to get around campaign finance laws. “Ready for Ron” is what they’re called, and they want to help DeSantis get a jump on the 2024 primaries by going out and collecting signatures for him to run for president while he’s focused on winning reelection in Florida. The novel part is that they’re hoping to get a million names and then simply hand those names over, free of charge, to DeSantis’s presidential campaign if and when one eventually exists. The FEC treats mailing lists as a “thing of value,” which means DeSantis’s campaign would have to pay for the list. Ready for Ron is arguing that it’s free speech — or, if it’s not, that each individual signatory is making a tiny contribution to DeSantis’s campaign by signing the petition rather than the group itself making a large contribution by sharing the list with the campaign.
All of which is interesting in an academic way. What’s interesting in a political way is that a well-known GOP consultant is behind the group (Ed Rollins, campaign manager for Reagan ’84) and is trying to drum up grassroots support for DeSantis at a moment when Trump is reportedly close to announcing his candidacy.
I’m half-convinced it’s a dirty trick by one of DeSantis’s rivals designed to antagonize you-know-who. What better way to bait Trump into attacking DeSantis early by making him fear a groundswell of Republican support for the new guy?
It’s probably Mike Pence who’s behind it. You know how devious he is.
That video’s been on YouTube for more than a month and had a total of 2,500 views this morning when I watched. Evidently I’m not the only who had no idea there was a “Draft DeSantis” effort in motion.
The most meaningful “Draft DeSantis” push isn’t happening at the grassroots level, though. Not yet. It’s happening at the donor level, as rich Republicans quietly consider their options for 2024. And of course one name among potential Trump successors stands apart.
“Donors are very concerned that Trump is the one Republican who can lose in 2024,” Eric Levine, an attorney and longtime GOP fundraiser, said after the hearing Tuesday featuring testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. “I think donors were already moving away from Trump,” he noted…
A person close to some of the biggest real estate executives in New York who backed Trump during both of his runs for the White House said this time is different. Their view is he’s taken “major hits” during the Jan. 6 hearings. None from that group are coming to defend him, at least for now…
A Republican fundraiser, who actively raised money for Trump and the Republican National Committee in 2020, told CNBC after Tuesday’s hearing, “I don’t think any major donor with business interests would support a Trump presidential run after today’s hearing.” That person said they wouldn’t feel comfortable, based on these findings, working for Trump’s campaign again or raising money for another presidential run.
It’s extremely weird, maybe even unprecedented, that the GOP has two presumptive nominees at the moment. Trump is the presumptive nominee if he runs, although he’s no longer a prohibitive favorite thanks to DeSantis’s rising popularity. But if Trump doesn’t run, DeSantis himself would then become something close to a prohibitive favorite for the nomination. A new poll from Harvard/Harris has him leading a Trump-less field 36/17 over Mike Pence, with no other candidates in double digits. (If Trump is included in the field, he leads DeSantis 56/16. Yikes.) It’s remarkable for a governor to be doubling up someone with the name recognition of a former vice president, a testament to how much Republicans like DeSantis and how much many of them dislike Pence because of January 6.
It’s hard to imagine any truly competitive Republican primary scenario in 2024 besides Trump vs. DeSantis. If one of them, but not both, sits out the race then the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden is inadvertently doing what he can to elevate DeSantis’s profile by engaging with him on culture-war issues. Politico writes today about the White House dinging DeSantis recently, criticizing him for not pre-ordering pediatric COVID vaccines and issuing an executive order blocking federal funds for conversion therapy in response to one of DeSantis’s initiatives in Florida. The more “Biden vs. DeSantis” battles there are in the media, the easier it is for Republican primary voters to imagine a Biden vs. DeSantis election. The president is implicitly anointing the new guy as the right’s champion.
He should take care in doing so, as DeSantis is now a modest favorite to be the next president according to one betting site. He’s at 22 percent at Smarkets, with Trump at 20 percent and Biden at 14.
Here’s Trump being asked about the prospect of a Trump/DeSantis ticket, which he seized as an opportunity to remind viewers yet again that he’s responsible for DeSantis’s 2018 gubernatorial victory. Which is true — Trump’s endorsement ignited DeSantis in that year’s GOP primary. But I bet the governor’s pretty tired of being reminded.
— Newsmax (@newsmax) June 30, 2022