More Republicans are 'stepping up attacks' on Ron DeSantis as he surges in 2024 GOP presidential polls
The 2022 midterms were a disappointment for many Donald Trump-backed MAGA Republicans, who lost statewide gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan and other swing states. More traditional establishment Republican conservatives fared well in gubernatorial races, including Georgia’s Brian Kemp, Ohio’s Mike DeWine and New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu, but hyper-MAGA, QAnon-friendly conspiracy theorists lost a lot of statewide races in key swing states.
One MAGA Republican who bucked that trend, however, was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who campaigned as a far-right culture warrior and defeated his Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, by 19 percent. Florida was the one state where the major red wave that Fox News and Newsmax pundits were predicting in 2022 really did materialize. And some right-wing pundits, including firebrand author Ann Coulter, are encouraging fellow Republicans to rally around DeSantis in the 2024 GOP presidential primary even though DeSantis hasn’t actually said that he is running.
Many polls are showing, among Republican voters, a preference for DeSantis over Trump for 2024. But journalist Max Greenwood, in an article published by The Hill on January 12, reports that DeSantis’ popularity with those voters is bringing him more scrutiny and more criticism within the GOP.
Criticism of DeSantis among Never Trump conservatives is nothing new. Never Trumpers, from Washington Post columnist Max Boot to former GOP strategist Tim Miller and others at The Bulwark, have long been vehement critics of the Florida governor. But the criticism that Greenwood discusses in his article isn’t necessarily coming from long-time Never Trumpers. Some of it, according to Greenwood, is coming from GOP insiders who want to see someone other than DeSantis as the 2024 Republican presidential nominee.
“Potential Republican presidential candidates and their allies are stepping up attacks on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as he emerges as the early frontrunner for the GOP’s 2024 nomination,” Greenwood reports. “In recent days, DeSantis has found himself on the receiving end of criticism from fellow GOP heavy hitters, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. He’s also rankled former President Trump, who’s running for the White House once again and sees DeSantis as perhaps his biggest obstacle to securing the GOP nod.”
Greenwood adds, “DeSantis hasn’t yet decided on a presidential bid and is still likely months away from making any kind of announcement about his intentions, but the recent criticism underscores the extent to which the Florida governor’s profile has risen and foreshadows a potentially bitter 2024 primary season for the party.”
But Republican strategist Keith Naughton notes that the criticism may not “slow down” DeSantis’ momentum.
Naughton told The Hill, “They’re searching for something, just testing things out to see if they can get some traction. They want to slow down DeSantis a little bit so that they have a chance. The thing is, I don’t think that’s going to be easy to do.”
During an early January interview with Fox News, Sununu made it clear that he wants the GOP to “move on” from Trump. But Sununu criticized DeSantis for his campaign against “woke” private businesses, which is also something that former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, criticized DeSantis for.
“Look, I come from the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, and private businesses can and should act like private businesses without the fear of being punished by people that might disagree with them,” Sununu told Fox News. “I agree with a lot of those issues that Ron brings to the table — I think he’s right — but to necessarily punish private businesses because they don’t agree with the policy or whatever it might be, those types of culture wars pushing their way into the private sector, that’s definitely not, I don’t think, where we want to be as Americans.”
Some of Sununu’s supporters would like to see him run for president in 2024. The New Hampshire governor is conservative but not far-right, and he is a Republican who enjoyed a landslide reelection victory in a New England state. In November, Sununu defeated Democratic challenger Tom Sherman by around 16 percent.
DeSantis is anti-abortion, and he signed a 15-week abortion ban into law. But Noem spokesman Ian Fury is attacking him for not being anti-abortion enough.
Fury told the National Review, “Where was Gov. DeSantis? Hiding behind a 15-week ban. Does he believe that 14-week-old babies don’t have a right to live?”
A GOP strategist interviewed by The Hill and quoted anonymously stressed that the GOP presidential field for 2024 doesn’t have to come down to Trump versus DeSantis.
The strategist argued, “I think there is a sense that DeSantis isn’t bulletproof and that there’s still room for other people. The polling kind of reflects that, you know, sure, if it’s DeSantis and Trump, DeSantis looks really good. But with a bigger field, there’s no guarantees.”
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