Devotion to Trump could hurt DeSantis’ hopes for a 2nd term; he’ll likely face tough women challengers

November 13, 2020 7:00 am

Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a pro-Trump rally on Oct. 12, 2020, in Sanford. Earlier, he’d high-fived members of the largely maskless crowd while foregoing a mask’s protections himself. Source: Screenshot

If you are wondering how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will deal with President Donald Trump’s apparent reelection defeat, and how it could impact the governor’s own ambitions, we have a few suggestions.

“He’s in a bit of a box,’’ notes Republican political consultant Rick Wilson.  “He really wants to run for president himself. I don’t know if he can, but he really really wants it.’’

Wilson is a member of a select group of Republicans who formed The Lincoln Project to oppose Trump’s reelection this year.

Wilson predicts that DeSantis, in about 71 days, will say “Donald Who?  I think I remember him.”

Trump has refused to concede the election despite the fact that former Vice President Joe Biden leads the race by more than 5-million popular votes and more than enough Electoral votes.

His campaign and lawyers have filed lawsuits in several states and suggested he’s a victim of election fraud.

Since last week’s election, DeSantis has been extremely supportive of Trump, and critical of those who suggest he has been defeated.

The White House. Credit: Wikipedia.

DeSantis is expected to seek reelection as governor in 2022 and reportedly wants to seek the presidency in 2024.

“He’ll have a Trump stink on him if he runs,’’ Wilson adds.  “There is a declining value to worshipping Trump.’’

If Donald Trump Jr. or Fox News star Tucker Carlson decide to run for President in 2024, DeSantis is unlikely to try, Wilson believes. (Trump himself has begun talking about a 2024 run.)

DeSantis may face some stiff opposition in the governor’s race. Gwen Graham, daughter of former U.S. Senator and Governor Bob Graham is among the potential Democratic challengers, as is Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Gwen Graham, former congresswoman. Credit: U.S. House of Representatives.

Graham, discussing the race with a reporter earlier this week, was quick to accuse DeSantis of being one of the many Republicans “selling out to Donald Trump after being unable to say that what Trump does is often wrong.’’

“We need good people in office,’’ Graham said. “If ever there was a time where the Republicans could have stood up to Trump, now would be that time.’’

Wilson believes there is little credit in forthcoming elections for those who support Trump, but lots of hate from the Trump lovers if you’re against him. But as time goes on, Donald Trump won’t improve with age, Wilson speculates.

To get out of the box he’s in, DeSantis needs to change course and do a better job dealing with the coronavirus that is infecting about 5,000 Floridians a day, on average.

If there is a safe COVID-19 vaccine released in the next few months, the one thing the governor should really take on is the role of becoming the best vaccine area in the country, Wilson suggests.

Mac Stipanovich, who supported Biden, but has historically been a Republican strategist and lobbyist, thinks DeSantis will be better off with Trump out of the picture.

“On balance, it helps him, ‘’ Stipanovich says.

Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed reporters about the 2020 election returns on Nov. 4, 2020. Source: Screenshot

DeSantis will be running for reelection in an off year election of a first term president which historically favors the other political party.

“He has been sufficiently slavish to Trump to retain his support and that of his base, but he won’t be tarred by and have to defend some daily outrage,’’ Stipanovich said.  “This will enable him to drift back toward the center and repair the damage.’’

Up until now, DeSantis has been a staunch defender of Trump’s reelection, leading the charge on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show last week to call on Americans to urge their state lawmakers to ignore laws that require Electors to cast their ballots for Trump instead of voting for the candidates who won each state.

Such a move could create a Constitutional crisis in the country and lead to even further political and legal problems.

DeSantis was also among the Republican governors critical of Fox News for its early call of the race in Arizona for President-elect Joe Biden, an act that greatly angered Trump.  DeSantis has been praised for speaking out when many others remained silent.

But some Florida political experts question whether his devotion to Trump could hurt DeSantis in future elections, especially if officials in New York charge Trump with tax-related crimes once he is no longer president.

Trump is likely to retain some political power and could return to being a television star, Wilson believes.

Trump is not likely to follow in the footsteps of former President Jimmy Carter and others who have turned to charitable work in retirement.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Lucy Morgan
Lucy Morgan

Pulitzer Prize-winner Lucy Morgan was chief of the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times capital bureau in Tallahassee for 20 years, retiring in 2006 and serving as senior correspondent until 2013. She was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. The Florida Senate named its press gallery after Morgan, in honor of her two decades covering the Legislature.