A collection of “DeSantis 2024” bumper stickers stood out among the “TRUMP WON!” T-shirts, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” caps, and “LET’S GO BRANDON” flags for sale at former President Donald Trump’s recent Texas event.
The goods promoting her state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, “is a very, very sought-after item,” according to Nikki Rye, who resides in Florida and has been selling Trump stuff at his rallies since 2015. A life-size cutout of DeSantis stood on one side of the business, flanked by Trump, while a life-size cutout of Trump stood on the other.
The DeSantis memorabilia marked a change among the MAGA believers as Trump seeks a political comeback. While the great majority of the more than two dozen individuals questioned at his event at a Texas fairground were enthusiastic about the thought of another Trump presidential run, some began to admit that there could be other possibilities.
DeSantis topped the list for everyone considering a Trump replacement.
They included folks like Kim Mitchell, 62, of Canyon Lake, Texas, who was ecstatic to finally meet Trump. She and her husband have been Trump fans for a long time, and a Trump flag flies proudly in his garage. They both said they’ll back Trump if he runs for president again.
Mitchell, on the other hand, said she could see the advantages of a less divisive choice.
“You know, there appear to be a lot of individuals out there that have the same ideas as he does.” And people don’t despise them,” she added, pinning Biden’s triumph on a mix of electoral fraud — which election officials and courts have dismissed — and Trump’s visceral loathing. “I hate saying it because it makes me feel like I’m betraying you.”
She isn’t, however, alone.
According to a recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-Center for Public Affairs Research, while 71% of Republicans approve of Trump, just 56% want him to run for president again in 2024. According to the study, 44% of Republicans oppose Trump running for president.
Meanwhile, according to a recent NBC survey, Republicans now identify as supporters of the Republican Party rather than followers of Trump by a 20-point majority, a shift from the view before to the 2020 election.
Republicans have fractured into three distinct blocs, according to longtime GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who has conducted voter opinion focus groups: those who have moved on from Trump, those who “will follow him off a cliff,” and those who “really appreciate him, follow him, are still strongly favorable toward him,” but are looking for another option.
“He still has a core of somewhere between one-third and 40% of the electorate who will vote for him regardless of what happens,” Luntz said. “However, it is now in the minority. Until six months ago, it was the majority. However, it is presently in the minority.”
Trump’s support is eroding as he appears to be more concerned with re-litigating the 2020 race than with issues that touch voters’ everyday lives, such as inflation. That might open the door for someone like DeSantis, who has branded himself in Trump’s image but lacks Trump’s national political baggage.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about that DeSantis man.” “He’d be a terrific next one to run,” Kathy Miguez, 58, a grocery store employee in Dayton, Texas, said. “From what I’ve heard, he reminds me a lot of Trump.”
DeSantis has skillfully leveraged the COVID-19 outbreak as a catapult to GOP fame by presenting Florida as a symbol of liberty for the last two years, even as public health professionals have criticized his resistance to fundamental public health protections as foolish and hazardous.
As he campaigned for reelection, he pledged to create a law enforcement agency to investigate suspected election violations and pushed a measure that would make it illegal for schools and companies to make white people feel “discomfort” when teaching children or training staff about prejudice.
Trump and DeSantis’ representatives did not reply to calls for comment for this article. However, sources close to the former president claim that he has been keeping a careful check on the governor, despite the fact that both men have rejected reports of conflict as fabricated by the media.
According to those familiar with Trump’s thinking, DeSantis’ unwillingness to rule out a 2024 run if Trump pushes forward has irritated Trump, who credits himself with DeSantis’ governorship.
The gamesmanship was recently exposed, with Trump calling lawmakers like DeSantis “gutless” for refusing to reveal if they had gotten COVID-19 booster injections. In response, DeSantis said one of his greatest regrets as governor was not speaking out more forcefully against the COVID-19 measures Trump advocated in the early days of the pandemic. Trump has mostly avoided addressing vaccines since then, instead raging against requirements.
Trump is the clear choice among Republican voters, and all indications are that he will win the nomination in 2024 if he so desires. After raising more than $50 million in the second half of last year, his campaign committee stated Monday that it now has more than $122 million in cash on hand. And, more than a year after leaving government, he still manages to pull throngs of tens of thousands to far-flung fairs.
However, Trump has had a vise-like grasp on the party’s base up until now, making any breaches in support noticeable. The willingness to consider other candidates demonstrates how Trumpism has evolved into a bigger movement that includes politicians like Georgia’s conspiracy-mongering Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who have embraced Trump’s legislative stances and adopted his attention-getting techniques.
For the time being, it includes DeSantis, who many consider as a possible Trump running mate in 2024 and a presidential candidate in 2028.
“I believe Trump is laying the path for DeSantis to run in 2028,” El Paso resident Thor Pearson, 32, said. “And I’d be overjoyed because DeSantis is a fantastic Republican.” I believe he is doing everything correctly.”
Others, like a lady who said Trump will be reinstated as president “imminently,” are on the edges. Others claim that he is now the president of the United States, despite the fact that this is not the case.
However, most people still believe Trump will win in 2024.
“We’re hoping,” says the narrator. Janice Shelton, 55, of Austin, said Trump is the greatest option because “he’s been tried and true,” and she hopes he runs in 2024.
“DeSantis will never be able to draw a throng like this.” “He’ll never do it,” she declared.
“It’s a foregone conclusion. Jonathan Riches, 45, of Tampa, Florida, who was attending his 41st Trump rally after sleeping in his rented car overnight, mirrored this sentiment. Riches said he would back any future candidate who wins Trump’s support, but that DeSantis “will be president one day, without a doubt.”
“I believe Trump will give the baton over to him,” he added, adding that this “may be feasible in 2024.”
Many people believe Trump is the greatest choice for the job.
“Ron DeSantis is someone we like….” But I think we need Trump to run again to pull us out of this hole,” said Susan Roland, 63, of Sugarland, Texas, who was one of hundreds of Trump supporters who rallied outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurgency.
Perry, 62, said, “I believe he’s the only one with the intestinal fortitude to restore our country.”
“I believe Donald Trump will do what is best for our country,” Mitchell of Canyon Lake stated. And if he isn’t running for president, he will be heavily involved in whatever occurs.”
“It needs to be someone who genuinely believes in Trump and will listen to him, even if he’s just whispering in their ear and telling them,” she continued. “I prefer to think of Trump as the guy in the back, pushing everyone forward.”