Will Ron DeSantis run for president in 2024?

Speculation about the 2024 presidential election began the minute President Biden stepped foot in the White House, and Ron DeSantis has consistently topped the list of likely Republican contenders (depending, of course, on what former President Donald Trump decides to do). But the Florida governor has otherwise played coy regarding his presidential ambitions, forcing voters and pundits to read between the political lines: Will he, or won’t he? Here’s everything you need to know:

What has DeSantis said about running for president?

As recently as August, DeSantis dismissed reports of a presidential run as “the media just speculating.” “I mean, I’ve got a lot on my plate here, and we’re doing a lot of stuff, so I would not indulge in some of the stuff and be very careful about what you hear,” he told reporters during a press conference, per FloridaPolitics.com. In June, he told Fox News he only thinks about the 2024 race “when people bring up my name.” 

“The interesting thing about me is people will always inject my name into it, just based off what I’m doing in Florida,” he went on. “It’s a little bit different for me. I think there’s obviously people that, the minute 2020 ended, have been basically running, and they’re going around doing all that stuff. That’s just not what I’ve been doing. I’ve just been focusing on the task at hand.”

Further, at a small, recent donor get-together in Arizona, “everyone asked [DeSantis] about 2024,” donor Don Tapia told The Washington Post. His alleged response? “I’m governor of Florida, and I’m running for re-election in Florida.”

Do Republican voters want him to run?

It seems so. DeSantis has performed well in 2024 straw polls both with and without Trump — the presumed Republican nominee, should he decide to run — and the Florida politician has continued to make gains as time has passed. A YouGov poll from Aug. 18-22, 2022, for instance, showed him almost neck and neck with Biden — 35 percent to 36 percent, respectively — in a hypothetical 2024 match-up held that day (Biden beat Trump 39 percent to 36 percent under the same parameters, per the poll). 

DeSantis’ support also appears stronger within the Sunshine State. Per a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Sept. 21, DeSantis led Trump 48 percent to 40 percent in a hypothetical 2024 primary in Florida. That’s compared to January, when Trump led DeSantis by 7 points, per Axios and USA Today. “This doesn’t necessarily mean DeSantis would lead in any other GOP primary state,” David Paleologos of the Suffolk University Political Research Center told USA Today. “But it is one data point suggesting a shift in preferences from GOP voters away from Trump and toward DeSantis from Republicans who know both potential combatants quite well.” All that said, Axios notes that 52 percent of respondents in a national Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted between Sept. 16-18 opted to vote for Trump in a GOP primary if it were held that day; 19 percent said they would back DeSantis.

Outside of his poll numbers, Republican voters like that DeSantis is somewhat of a “mini-Trump,” but with a more “palatable” personality and a strong degree of electability, notes The Guardian. DeSantis is “still outspoken against the media or perceived foes when he wants to be,” but is “less prone to explosions of temper, and with a less turbulent past.” He also possesses a strong ability to “appeal to both the Trump and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] wings of the party,” which “affords him room for maneuver in a Republican Party divided between two mutually hostile camps,” adds The New York Times‘ Blake Hounshell.

Yes, he’s dismissed the speculation. But is there anything DeSantis is doing that might hint at a run?

Even with Florida’s bitter gubernatorial election just weeks away, DeSantis “appears focused on building his national profile,” having traveled to battleground states across the country to rally for GOP candidates in key races, ABC News reports. According to Stephan Lawson, a former DeSantis campaign official, such cross-country efforts could “be a way to win over Trump voters without taking on Trump directly,” ABC News summarizes. “He’s in no hurry. He doesn’t have to be in a hurry … What he’s doing is continuing to elevate his stature and his name ID, his conservative credentials to a larger audience,” Lawson said. “I think he’s doing it in a way that’s like, ‘I’m gonna go court and talk to this base of our party in a way that could potentially have broader appeal based on my record of results in Florida.'”

Further, ABC News notes, the governor has also recently “pitched his state-level experience more broadly — often swapping his mentions of ‘Floridians’ for ‘Americans.'” And in September, he shattered an “all-time gubernatorial fundraising record,” an achievement Forbes frames as just further evidence of a 2024 run.

What about Trump?

Trump has repeatedly taken credit for the governor’s popularity, having told Newsmax in June that he’s “very responsible” for getting DeSantis elected. And that theory holds water in many ways — DeSantis was initially a floundering candidate for governor before aligning himself with Trump and subsequently rising to superstar status within the Republican party. But the pair’s once genial relationship has soured as time has passed; not only is Trump unlikely to openly endorse DeSantis for a second term as Florida governor, the two haven’t talked since early in the summer, the Post reports, per individuals familiar with the matter. “Those days are gone,” one Trump adviser said of the pair’s once-regular conversations.

At this point, the former president is expecting DeSantis to run against him (DeSantis hasn’t explicitly ruled it out) but has decided against open animosity lest it cost Republicans the governorship in Florida. As the Post reports: “One Trump adviser said it is not in anyone’s interest for the two sides to be fighting right now.” And even if DeSantis does go for it, as is his “prerogative,” Trump told The New Yorker in June, “I think I would win.” (He also said repeatedly that he and the governor still have a “very good relationship.”)

Are there any other challenges to a possible DeSantis bid?

Speaking of Trump, several Republican strategists and donors interviewed by Hounshell said “they expected the former president to avoid announcing a re-election run as long as possible — freezing the potential GOP field in place and, possibly, crippling any nascent campaign organizations they hope to build.” A hypothetical DeSantis bid would hardly be immune to such effects, especially since he “currently lacks the sort of national political operation necessary to win a presidential nomination,” Hounshell writes. And “just because donors gave to his re-election campaign does not mean they would necessarily finance a presidential run.”

Further, DeSantis must also maintain momentum until any race officially begins, which could prove difficult depending on what happens between now and then.