GOP Insiders Are Starting to Doubt Ron DeSantis Would Actually Take On Trump

By all accounts, Florida governor Ron DeSantis is on a glide path to win reelection on November 8. Several recent polls have shown DeSantis with a double-digit lead over his Democratic opponent, former representative Charlie Crist. Which means the biggest question about DeSantis’s political future is not whether he’ll secure a second term in Tallahassee, but whether he’ll challenge Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. 

For much of the past year, DeSantis has acted like a presidential candidate-in-waiting, leading many to believe he would take on Trump if the former president, as expected, gets in the race. DeSantis pointedly refused to seek Trump’s endorsement for his reelection. And during a debate against Crist last month, he declined to promise he would serve out his full four-year term as governor. DeSantis is also sitting on a campaign war chest of more than $180 million. In a profile of DeSantis for Vanity Fair’s November issue, I reported that DeSantis privately told donors that if he did run, he would launch a full-frontal assault on Trump’s record and competence. 

But according to four prominent Republicans, DeSantis appears to be reconsidering his plans to run. Sources told me DeSantis recently indicated to donors that he would not challenge Trump for the Republican nomination. “He’s led them to believe he will not run if Trump does,” a Republican briefed on the donor conversations told me. Another source told me DeSantis’s calculus is that, at age 44, he can easily wait until the next presidential cycle, so why risk a brutal primary fight against a pugilist like Trump? “He can walk into the presidency in 2028 without pissing off Trump or Florida,” the source said. “What would you rather do? Be the governor of Florida for certain or go run for president?”

Desantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Whether or not DeSantis ultimately runs in 2024 remains to be seen. And one Republican close to DeSantis insisted he’s ready to launch a presidential campaign after the midterms. “He’s running,” the source said. 

Meanwhile, the rivalry between Trumpworld and DeSantisland continues to play out in petty ways. “They hate each other,” a former Trump adviser said. On Sunday, DeSantis and Trump are scheduled to hold separate rallies in Florida, with the former president headed to Miami to campaign for a onetime rival turned supporter: Senator Marco Rubio. If DeSantis ultimately doesn’t run, Trump would surely welcome him back into the fold. “Trump will be happy he’s not in,” the Republican briefed on donor conversations said.

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