politico – DeSantis “very suspicious” of upset Trump

“It is difficult to start campaigning openly because [Trump] at least considering running again, ”said Saul Anuzis, former Michigan Republican Party chairman, warning that he is still“ at the start ”of the electoral cycle. “This keeps the activists on the sidelines. “

DeSantis, who has the advantage of claiming he is running just for re-election, continues to receive praise for opening Florida during the coronavirus pandemic earlier than most major states. His frequent appearances on Fox News put him in the national spotlight almost every night. Last weekend, DeSantis beat Trump 74-71 in the annual Western Conservative Summit poll in Denver – results that surprised even summit organizers. Last year, Trump won the same straw poll with almost 95% support.

Supporters of the governor say he is aware of the dangers of appearing too quickly. A Republican consultant close to the governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about DeSantis and Trump, said the governor was “very suspicious” of angering the former president.

“He will take steps so that Trump does not get angry with him, but trust me, the more success you have, with Trump it sometimes makes things worse,” the consultant said. “It’s a strange place, for sure. “

Trump is due to hold a campaign-style rally on July 3 in Sarasota, Florida, one of a series of public events aimed at strengthening the former president’s position ahead of a possible 2024 presidential bid. Trump planning the rally in Florida told POLITICO that the DeSantis team had been contacted about the rally, but the governor’s office did not return a request for comment on whether or not he attended.

Trump remains the leader of the Republican Party, commanding member loyalty and remaining active in congressional and statewide races as he contemplates a return in 2024. But at 42, DeSantis represents a young face and Fresh who supports similar conservative policies but with arguably more discipline than the former president. DeSantis even began enlisting help from well-known Trumpworld figures, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who joined the governor on a West Coast fundraising campaign that included stops in Las Vegas and Southern California.

But the bigger question remains whether DeSantis will eclipse the former president, and if that in turn provokes Trump. The former president in April took credit for DeSantis’ political rise and appeared to stifle the governor’s dreams in 2024 when he told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo that he viewed DeSantis as his running mate in 2024.

“He’s a friend of mine. I supported Ron, and after supporting him he took off like a rocket, ”Trump said. “A lot of people like that – you know I’m just saying what I’ve read and what you read – they love this post… sure, Ron would be considered.” He’s a great guy.

Meadows told the Washington Examiner in an interview published earlier this week that he didn’t expect DeSantis to challenge Trump if the former president officially entered the race.

“That being said, Governor DeSantis won’t even do it – he’s asked over and over whenever I’m in his presence – he’s asked, ‘Are you running in 2024? “said Meadows, who now works for the Washington-based Conservative Partnership Institute, a group DeSantis met on Wednesday afternoon, according to a schedule released by his office.

Others in Trump’s orbit are also downplaying DeSantis’ national ambitions, saying he is focused on his re-election in 2022 as governor.

“Ron DeSantis is not focusing on the ups and downs of 2024, he is focusing on the success of the state of Florida,” said David Bossie, head of Citizens United and former deputy campaign manager for Trump. “This means focusing only on his re-election in 2022. He doesn’t get distracted by the chatty class.”

Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini, one of Trump’s biggest supporters in the GOP-led legislature, said the former president’s influence on the maneuvers in early 2024 highlighted sets up an underground presidential campaign process.

“The reality right now is that everyone has to run these kinds of secret or indirect presidential campaigns,” Sabatini said. “Of those who have tried it, I think DeSantis did the best job.”

Many Florida politicians point out the irony of the situation. Trump is largely responsible for raising DeSantis’ profile and helping him secure the governorship three years ago. Trump’s main endorsement in 2018 helped DeSantis defeat former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, himself a former congressman who was backed by the entire Florida Republican political establishment and a big favorite at the start of the race. As governor, DeSantis has consistently pushed for legislation that appeals to the conservative base and Trump, including a move to rule Big Tech and a bill that restricts some voting access in the state.

The two men, however, couldn’t be more different. Trump, a billionaire, has been a staple of reality TV and tabloids for years and touts himself as one of the most successful businessmen in the world while DeSantis is a public servant whose only source of income is his $ 134,000 annually. salary funded by taxpayers.

Others, however, see Trump’s position weakening as much of the nation overtakes his presidency.

“Donald Trump was not as strong in his position as he was last year, which is getting a lot of attention and a lot of news agencies are covering us,” said Jeff Hunt, vice president of policy public at Colorado Christian University, which also helped organize last week’s Western Conservative Summit in Denver – which featured the straw poll won by DeSantis. “It’s very clear that Trump has strong control over the grassroots conservatives, but what people are looking for are the policies of Trump’s presidency but with a new face, and Ron has done a good job in making things like confronting the media and the grassroots. the Conservatives appreciate that.

“I think they’re looking for that next step and that next generation,” he added.

Meridith McGraw contributed to this story.

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