Is It Too Late for DeSantis? Fla. Gov Mulls May Announcement as Trump Looks to Wrap Up the Race

AP Photo/File

Word is coming from the camp of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that he may announce a run for the Republican nomination for president as soon as the middle of May.

DeSantis might only announce the formation of an exploratory committee at that time, but that’s just a technicality — a product of candidates being under the thumb of the Federal Election Commission. Besides, it’s no secret DeSantis is running, but the formalities would bring him under the fundraising limits and other rules mandated by the FEC.


But Donald Trump, who has been formally running since shortly after the midterm elections, has been hard at work wrapping up endorsements by party leaders and raising gobs of money. And some observers are asking whether DeSantis waited too long to formally declare his intentions.

Related: Mr. DeSantis Goes to Utah

Timing is just about everything in politics. Trump could have run for president in 2012 but chose to wait until 2016 — a decision that looks brilliant in hindsight. Bill Clinton ran for president in 1988 and was buried by Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. That was poor timing because the Democrats weren’t ready to nominate anyone who wasn’t a far-left liberal. Four years later, after Democrats had been trounced by Republicans in three straight general elections, the party was ready to embrace the perceived moderate from Arkansas.

In 1974, a little-known peanut farmer from Georgia announced for president earlier than almost any other serious candidate. Perhaps Jimmy Carter saw an electorate ready for a soft-spoken, moralizing, born-again Christian after the Nixon years.

In the case of DeSantis, his moment in this campaign may already have come and gone.


Some of his backers are urging him to declare as early as May 11, in an effort to counter the creeping national narrative that former President Donald Trump is the overwhelming front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination. Others in the governor’s orbit, however, have argued that that date would be too soon, according to two of those sources. All emphasized, however, that mid-May is the target.

DeSantis, long viewed as Trump’s strongest Republican challenger in 2024, has traveled far outside Florida in recent weeks to raise his profile. But some of DeSantis’ allies have started to question his readiness as his poll numbers have lagged and he has fell victim of a series of self-inflicted wounds.

An imminent launch would help alleviate the compounding anxiety among supporters over DeSantis taking too long to jump into the fray and risking missing his moment.


For some reason, DeSantis has been reluctant to engage Trump — a move many analysts believe to be a huge mistake. And some political observers question whether the door is already shutting on DeSantis.

“A good politician knows when their moment is and they seize the opportunity; there’s no question that the door is swinging against DeSantis,” said Dennis Lennox, a Michigan-based Republican strategist who wants to support DeSantis in 2024. “Gov. DeSantis is the only Republican who can beat Trump. He is the only Republican who can beat Joe Biden. But he’s starting to look like a Scott Walker in 2015, Newt Gingrich in 2012, and Fred Thompson in 2008 — maybe even a Chris Christie, who ended up not getting into the race.”

DeSantis will get in the race alright, but some anti-Trump Republicans are asking whether there might be another alternative. Meanwhile, Trump, as he did in 2016, is taking all the oxygen out of the room by thrashing Democrats.

“Trump is fighting Democrats, DeSantis is fighting a Mouse,” said a member of the Florida GOP’s state executive committee who supports DeSantis running for president. “Members of Congress and voters are choosing the fight they think is more important.”

It’s not impossible for DeSantis to right the ship. But time is growing short. And Donald Trump certainly isn’t going to slow down for anyone.




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