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DeSantis eyes big Florida win in November as a White House springboard

DeSantis eyes big Florida win in November as a White House springboard

Florida Gov.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won’t say whether he’ll run for president, but he’s starting to acknowledge that his road to the White House might hinge on a big re-election win this year.

For months, Florida Capitol insiders and Republicans familiar with the governor's thinking have speculated that a resounding victory in November would strengthen his national bona fides as a top GOP presidential contender — even if his political benefactor, former President Donald Trump, decides to run again.

DeSantis has steadfastly refused to cross Trump in public or suggest he would challenge him in a primary, but in a new interview on the conservative podcast "The Truth with Lisa Boothe" that aired Monday morning, DeSantis made it clear he’s eying his re-election bid as a springboard for something bigger.

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“My goal would be, if we win the election really big, people like you who analyze these things are going to say: ‘The days of Florida being a swing state are over. Florida is a red state.’ And I think that’s because of a lot of what we’ve done,” DeSantis said when Boothe, a Fox News contributor, specifically pressed him about his White House ambitions. Boothe didn't ask whether he would want to run in two years if Trump runs or wait for six years.

DeSantis didn’t specify what a “really big” win would look like. But in battleground Florida — where he won his office by less than half a percentage point in 2018 — even a few points can look like a landslide. And two sources in DeSantis’ orbit say he would like to best Trump’s unexpectedly high margin of 3.3 percentage points from two years ago.

“You’re never going to hear the governor challenge the [former] president,” one of the Republicans said. “But there’s definitely a marker Trump laid down, and he definitely wants to beat it.”

For his part, Trump hasn’t spoken ill of DeSantis in public. But he has privately pointed out that his endorsement of DeSantis, once a little-known member of Congress, in 2018 helped him win the GOP primary for governor against Adam Putnam, a better-known and better-funded rival who was the state's agriculture commissioner.

Since then, DeSantis has become a magnet for controversy and national headlines, starting with his staunch opposition to Covid mandates and restrictions. He remained relevant through the just-ended legislative session, when he engaged in a political feud with LGBTQ activists and the Walt Disney Co., one of the state’s largest employers.

DeSantis, who is likely to remain in the headlines as a top Republican culture warrior, told Boothe he would be interested in banning transgender children from receiving hormones or surgery as part of "gender affirming care," which the state Health Department is examining.

Trump advisers don’t think DeSantis would challenge Trump in 2024, although they’re eying DeSantis’ sizable war chest as a possible source of super PAC money if he handily wins re-election and banks tens of millions of dollars afterward. Trump insiders have been discussing plans to have Trump announce his White House plans in early January, making it more difficult for a newly re-elected governor like DeSantis to announce a presidential bid without coming into direct confrontation with Trump.

“Trump made Ron, and if Ron ran against Trump there would be hell to pay,” said a Republican who has discussed DeSantis’ and Trump’s presidential plans with the former president.