DeSantis eyes 2024 from afar as GOP rivals move toward runs
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be months away from publicly declaring his presidential intentions, but his potential rivals aren’t holding back.
No fewer than a half dozen Republicans eyeing the White House have begun actively courting top political operatives in states like New Hampshire and Iowa, which traditionally host the opening presidential primary contests. At the same time, former President Donald Trump, the only announced candidate in the race, is launching regular attacks against DeSantis — and others — while locking down key staff and endorsements in early voting South Carolina.
For now, DeSantis is plowing forward with a fiery “anti-woke” agenda in the legislature before a presidential announcement in late spring or early summer. His team is beginning to hold informal conversations with a handful of prospective campaign staff in key states, according to those involved in the discussions. But compared with would-be rivals, the Florida governor, famous for crafting his own political strategy, appears to be stepping into the 2024 presidential primary season much more deliberately.
“They understand they are in kind of a sweet spot now. They can feel the demand building and they don’t really have to show any leg yet,” said David Kochel, a veteran Republican operative who has been in touch with DeSantis’ team to relay interest from activists. “I just don’t think there’s any urgency yet to start putting things in place.”
For voters, it may seem early in the 2024 presidential election season. But by historical standards, it is not. The GOP’s opening presidential primary debates are just six months away, expected in late July or early August when the Republican National Committee holds its summer meeting in Milwaukee.
Already, Trump has been in the race for more than two months. The former president on Saturday released a list of high-profile supporters in South Carolina, including Gov. Henry McMaster and Sen. Lindsay Graham. And on Feb. 15, Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is set to launch her own White House bid in South Carolina, followed by immediate appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Haley is among a half dozen Republican prospects in various levels of conversations with political operatives in New Hampshire and Iowa about job openings, according to people involved with the discussions who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. Beyond Haley, they include former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Hogan, a term-limited governor who left office only two weeks ago, talked up his executive experience in multiple New Hampshire radio interviews on Thursday. He told The Associated Press he was launching a multi-day fundraising tour beginning this weekend in DeSantis’ Florida.