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The Reality of Ron DeSantis – The New York Times

The political fortunes of Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have reversed in the past six months. Following his re-election as governor of Florida, DeSantis looked like a strong potential presidential candidate as Trump grappled with legal and personal challenges. Now Trump is leading the opinion polls, DeSantis has struggled to cement his star status and, in some corners, there is a growing sense that Trump’s nomination for president is inevitable.

I would caution against that sentiment no matter what it looks like for Trump right now. After months of reporting on the early stages of the 2024 presidential race, I’ve seen how stories can miss important factors shaping the race. And this is how conventional wisdom begins to take shape in a way that is separate from evidence or data. (See: Expectations of a Republican wave in last year’s midterm elections.)

DeSantis is expected to officially enter the race tomorrow. Here are two stories about his candidacy that could be revised.

Story 1: DeSantis is toast.

Reality: There is an opening for an alternative to Trump, whether it’s DeSantis or someone else.

Trump’s hold on the Republican electorate has always been tenuous. He never won a majority of voters in a disputed Republican primary. At the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in California this year, a delegate told me that party insiders estimated that about 30-35% of Republican voters were unwaveringly with Trump, while another group more petit was comfortable with him as a candidate while considering other options. .

For other candidates, those numbers are a road map to victory: solidifying the majority of Republicans who would prefer a different candidate. This group includes factions like the Tea Party conservatives who backed Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the 2016 primary and the business-minded moderates who backed candidates like Governor John Kasich of Ohio in 2016.

Calling on them is a difficult task. These groups have historically opposed Trump for different reasons and no candidate has successfully brought them together, but the conditions for an anti-Trump coalition are there.

One path for a candidate like DeSantis or Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who joined the Republican field yesterday, is to win the nomination without running into Trump. As my colleague Nate Cohn has written, one strategy for defeating Trump might be to embody his political message without confronting him directly. For some Republicans, that’s a welcome direction. My reporting made it clear that given the criminal investigations Trump faces, some rivals have bet on him to implode on his own.

However, this strategy is passive, which could play into Trump’s hands. Outside the Manhattan courthouse on the day Trump was arraigned on fraud charges related to his 2016 campaign, conservative media provocateur Jack Posobiec said people close to Trump’s campaign predicted more indictments would embolden his candidacy, not jeopardize it. He said they believed Trump would have the opportunity to galvanize voters by portraying law enforcement as politically motivated and ready to stifle his candidacy.

Posobiec pointed to the media attention, increased fundraising and surge in polls Trump received after his indictment.

Narrative 2: DeSantis’ biggest problem is Donald Trump.

Reality: Yes, but he has another problem to deal with first.

DeSantis no longer scares off contestants who were once respectful of his front-runner status in the Trump-alternative contest. Last week, several Republican governors took notable steps: Doug Burgum of North Dakota – a former Microsoft executive – made overtures to join the 2024 field, and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia published an ad linking to Ronald Reagan . Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire also said he was considering joining the race, days after a report that former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey may also join the race.

These actions show a party unintimidated by DeSantis’ candidacy and are further proof that his campaign’s first task is not to overtake Trump, but to persuade core voters and opponents that he is Trump’s strongest rival. Trump. At the RNC meeting, an adviser to Trump told me his campaign would like the field to come up with 10 candidates. “More is better for us,” the adviser said, citing the logic that multiple candidates voting in single digits would hurt DeSantis’ ability to build a coalition.

DeSantis’ delicate task was on display two months ago, when he announced an isolationist view of the war in Ukraine, a clear game for Trump supporters. DeSantis’ statement drew backlash from Republican commentators and donors, and two other presidential hopefuls — former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and former Vice President Mike Pence — have it. used to attack him.

Such is the danger of DeSantis’ unique electoral position: as he enters the race as an established alternative to Trump, he incurs the ire of other rivals seeking to elevate himself.

When DeSantis announces his candidacy this week, he’ll be an underdog, but he’s not far behind. No one who has raised more than $110 million is.

Wirecutter Tips: Pack better with compression bags.

Lives Lived: C. Boyden Gray was a White House attorney under President George HW Bush and it was said he could walk around the Oval Office whenever he wanted. He died at age 80.

Carmelo Anthony retires: He announced his exit from the NBA after 19 seasons. One of the all-time top scorers, he’s had a limited role recently.

NBA playoffs: The Denver Nuggets head to the NBA Finals for the first time after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers.

Real Madrid: Four people have been arrested in Madrid after an effigy of Real Madrid superstar Vinicius Jr. was hung from a bridge. Racist chants could push him to leave the club.

This year’s edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale, the world’s architecture exhibition, tackles difficult topics – race, colonialism, climate change – through the lens of Africa and its diaspora. The result is the most ambitious and decidedly political Biennale in years, writes critic Christopher Hawthorne in The Times.

More: At the American pavilion, the architects are thinking about how to coexist with plastic.

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangrams were direct line And neolith. Here is today’s puzzle and the Bee Buddy, which helps you find the remaining words.

nytimes Gt

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