Bracing for 2024: Trump vs. DeSantis
As dust from US midterm elections begins to settle, the focus is shifting to tension brewing within the GOP. Former President Donald Trump looks poised to announce his 2024 presidential bid, and many expect Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to throw his hat in the ring. Trump is publicly discouraging DeSantis from running – threatening him even. With the race for 2024 set to begin, we asked Eurasia Group’s lead US political analyst Jon Lieber for his insights on the DeSantis-Trump feud and the likely 2024 presidential tickets.
Do you believe both Trump and DeSantis will run for 2024? When will they throw their hats in the ring?
Yes. Trump has hinted he's going to go for it next week at a big rally, but I think the Georgia runoff complicates that. He has the opportunity to take credit for a win, but he also faces the downside risk of taking the blame for a loss. I think that it's a pretty risky move for him to continue to go ahead with this plan. He could end up delaying, but I'd be shocked if we got to Christmas Eve and he hadn't figured out some way to get all the attention on him by announcing.
If Trump launches but DeSantis waits until after the next legislative session, would that give Trump the upper hand?
No, it’s a formality. Everybody knows he's doing this. The thing is that Trump and DeSantis, while they may have to play in the same pool of voters to win the nomination, they're not going to play in the same pool of donors. Trump's full money-making operation is the small donors he gets from online and then a couple of large benefactors. DeSantis is going to draw a huge chunk of change the day he announces from deep-pocketed, anti-Trump Republican donors desperate to consolidate the field and have a party led by somebody other than Trump.
How would the GOP change under DeSantis?
The Republican Party wants to be a multiethnic, populist conservative coalition, so pro-border security, anti-trade, anti-big business, anti-woke agenda, pro-life. So all the similar themes you're seeing right now, without all the chaos that Trump brings.
How would you characterize the matchup between DeSantis and Trump?
Trump has proven quite good at destroying his opponents. DeSantis hasn't gone through that gauntlet yet. In 2016, Trump came out of nowhere to just humiliate Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, and all the other people running, by saying some nasty, sometimes untrue, sometimes true things. DeSantis is going to have to face that. That's the biggest risk for him.
Are Republicans blaming Trump, and what did you make of the New York Post likening Trump to Humpty Dumpty?
Trump is 100% getting blamed for this. His candidates did horribly in statewide elections in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and TBD Arizona. As for Murdoch, his empire has turned against Trump and made a kind of conscious decision to turn against him over the last six months. I think that reflects sort of a broadly held view among the Republican elite that hitching your wagon to the Trump train in 2024 is a mistake.
Do you think DeSantis has the charisma needed for a presidential bid?
Ron DeSantis is an extremely talented political actor. I don't expect he's going to attract a lot of crossover Democratic voters, but I think that when you win Florida by 20 percentage points, you don't do that just with Republicans. So I think he's clearly doing something right. I think he'll be a formidable presidential candidate should he run -- and the biggest threat to him being president in 2024 is probably the threat of Trump running as an independent and cleaving off 30% of the Republican voting base in the general election.
The risk in '24 for the Republicans is that Trump loses the primary and then takes his ball and goes home because he needs to keep his kind of political money-making operation going. He needs to be in the limelight, and that means running as a political candidate so you can do the kind of small-dollar fundraising he's good at. So the risk to DeSantis running, the biggest risk to the Republican Party in 2024, is that Trump loses in the primary, runs as an independent, and splits the Republican vote in the general, giving the election to the Democrats no matter what the state of the economy is.
Biden is saying he plans to run. How are Dems looking at 2024?
Independents broke for Democrats this election cycle. They broke strongly for Democrats in the key swing states where MAGA Republicans were up top of the ticket. Abortion referendums won basically everywhere. Pro-access referendums won basically everywhere they were on the ticket. Michigan Democrats had a very strong night, and they had a pro-choice, pro-access, female governor at the top of the ticket and a pro-access ballot referendum, and they had a very good night.
Democrats had a really good night across the Midwest, which I think shows a path forward for Democrats in 2024. Some of these Midwestern governors could be viable candidates should Joe Biden decide not to run. Biden's got to make a choice about his age. The good thing for him is that kind of having a good night here helps him within the party because it minimizes the narrative of this blowback against him, but it also gives him an opportunity to gracefully step down.
Which Dems do you believe could become viable candidates in 2024?
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and California Governor Gavin Newsom for sure. Whitmer and DeSantis had the two best nights on Tuesday. I think North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper will probably compete. Someone like Colorado Governor Jared Polis could be a candidate. So I think the Dems actually have a pretty good bench.
And the GOP ticket?
I think it's going to be DeSantis. DeSantis has the advantage of there being a lot of anti-Trump Republicans who are looking to consolidate the field quickly, and I think it's going to be hard for people like Mike Pompeo or Mike Pence to raise enough money to be competitive if DeSantis decides to get in the race.