Top Republican donors in Florida are cooling to the idea of Gov. Ron DeSantis running against former President Donald Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination.
During a meeting of 16 prominent Republicans at a March 26 luncheon, party movers and shakers expressed worry that DeSantis’ recent stumbles could be a sign he is not ready to battle Trump in a primary race, according to a report from NBC News.
Some donors who support DeSantis say he needs to announce soon to accelerate his timeline and begin to directly confront Trump if he wants to have any chance at slowing the former president’s momentum, NBC reported. Others said that DeSantis should step aside entirely and wait until 2028 to run.
“They liked him — many of them might even support him,” a person who was at the event and spoke with NBC said of DeSantis. “But they thought on balance that his long-term future was better without him trying to take Trump head on.”
They added: “He will get scarred up” by Trump.
The week of the luncheon, polling data from Real Clear Politics showed Trump averaging a 15-point lead over DeSantis.
If the presidential election were held on Mar. 27, FiveThirtyEight shows Trump would beat Biden by four points, while DeSantis would edge Biden out by three points.
DeSantis and Trump were once polling much closer. But, Trump’s lead has grown after multiple threats of indictments by left-leaning prosecutors increased his popularity. The margin also widened after DeSantis delayed weighing in on Trump’s expected indictment by New York authorities. Then, he characterized the Manhattan District Attorney’s grand jury probe and possible indictment of Trump as a “manufactured crisis.” DeSantis is also being criticized for flip-flopping on the issue of providing military assistance to Ukraine.
“It’s 100% possible that we’ve seen him peak already,” a veteran Republican campaign operative who speaks to donors regularly told NBC.
“DeSantis is doing a book tour. He’s barnstorming the country, and his polls are going down,” a separate strategist told NBC. “Meanwhile, Trump’s potentially under indictment, and Trump’s going up. It’s just not a good look for DeSantis.”