Here it comes: DeSantis advisers begin 2024 planning; Update: Not so fast?

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Get ready for the, ah … least surprising development in the 2024 Republican steeple chase. When Ron DeSantis took the podium to deliver his victory speech after his landslide re-election over former governor Charlie Crist, the crowd at DeSantis HQ chanted, “Two more years! Two more years!”


Still, DeSantis had been widely expected to wait for the end of the Florida legislative session on May 5 before making any moves toward a presidential run. According to the Washington Post, DeSantis 2024 has already started gaming out the campaign, including drawing up lists of staff in key primary states:

Advisers to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are actively preparing for a possible presidential run, according to two Republicans with knowledge of the conversations who described meetings and preliminary staffing moves — the latest indication that DeSantis is laying a foundation for a national campaign.

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

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

DeSantis just got sworn into office on January 3. He has barely settled into a new term before progressing this far into a presidential-run launch, which under other circumstances might look a bit … opportunistic. These circumstances are different, however, in part because of Donald Trump’s decision to launch his campaign before Thanksgiving. The game is afoot whether DeSantis likes it or not, and that means so are competitions for staff, advisers, fundraisers, vendors, and so on.


Besides, it’s not as if Floridians thought DeSantis would eschew a run now for 2028 instead. DeSantis is still approaching his political apex even while becoming one of the leading Republican figures on the national stage (Trump being one of the few others, along with Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell). The media hangs over every speech DeSantis makes and every issue he takes, often to try to kneecap his momentum … and fail at it, thus far. Waiting another four years, at which point he’d be out of office and likely a lot less visible, never made any sense at all.

The 2024 is his best cycle in which to pursue the White House, especially with a bumbling Democrat incumbent in place. In 2028, the situation would be much different, with three potential scenarios:

  • Biden wins re-election in 2024 against Trump or a lesser GOP nominee. That means Democrats will run a fresher candidate on their ticket; it wouldn’t be Kamala Harris unless for some reason she had to succeed Biden in the second term, at which point sympathy would likely build for her.
  • Trump beats Biden for a second and final term, which creates the same fresh candidate in 2028 from Democrats and leaves DeSantis fighting it out among other Republicans for the nomination from a weaker position than in 2024.
  • Democrats force Biden to retire in 2024 and run their fresher candidate in this cycle, winning against Trump in the general election. That would force DeSantis to run against a tougher incumbent in 2028, again from a weaker position within the GOP.

None of those scenarios look as good for DeSantis as 2024 does, even with the fight it sets up against Trump — assuming Trump can sustain his campaign. As Nick Reynolds observed on Thursday at Newsweek, DeSantis has already begun to undermine Trump on his own populist turf within the Right, and particularly on COVID-19 issues but also on his judgment:

Several key candidates he endorsed who closely mirrored his brand—Arizona candidates Blake Masters and Kari Lake, Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz—all lost races they stood likely to win in the midterm elections this past fall, while the GOP candidates who proved most successful in competitive districts during the general election were more moderate.

Trump was publicly rebuked by some of his most ardent supporters in Congress amid a recent fight for speaker of the House after his endorsement of California Congressman Kevin McCarthy went largely ignored by allies like Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert and Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz.

He has also faced attacks from the anti-vaccination crowd within his own party after his public efforts to take credit for the speed of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, saying in a recent interview that vaccines helped save “tens of millions of lives.”

While some have sought to defend Trump, others are beginning to question whether he was being steered by establishment figures around him or why he wants to take credit for the vaccines at all.


DeSantis even managed to do that in the recent RNC chair election. Trump backed three-term incumbent Ronna McDaniel to the frustration of populists within the party; DeSantis came out late in favor of Harmeet Dhillon, a MAGA favorite who promised to shake up the GOP establishment. “We need some fresh thinking,” DeSantis said on Thursday:

“Fresh thinking” will likely be a major theme for a DeSantis campaign, too. His argument will be that only DeSantis has the potential to get two terms in office for a pro-MAGA agenda, and without the baggage and old repartée of a term-limited Trump.

At any rate, the only surprising aspect about this is that it’s happening now rather than in April. DeSantis and his team may have decided to start sending the signals sooner rather than later in hopes of discouraging other Republicans from jumping into the race. The closer this gets to a head-to-head contest against Trump, the better DeSantis’ chances are in the primary.

Be sure to read Tom Jackson’s VIP column from last night to see how DeSantis has already begun his 2024 campaign. And check out my VIP shows with Adam Baldwin, The Amiable Skeptics, to find out why I’m already mulling over my choice of steak dinners.


Update: After this went out on Twitter, a well-connected insider in Florida reached out to me to say this is mainly an illusion — for now. He has high-level contacts in the DeSantis org, and they say nothing like this is happening. He suspects that this is an effort by outsiders to push a narrative, albeit one that likely will end up true, and using questionable anonymous sources to justify it. For now, though, he insists that the DeSantis team is not adding personnel or even planning on any expansion soon, according to the people with whom he talks. And if they were, he notes, you’d likely see those reports coming from Florida rather than Washington DC.

So keep all that in mind as this ricochets through social media, in other words.

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