Biden and DeSantis Already Have a Leg Up for 2024. That's Bad News for Donald Trump.
The 2024 presidential race is taking shape following midterm elections that gave an early boost to President Joe Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
(Bloomberg) -- The 2024 presidential race is taking shape following midterm elections that gave an early boost to President Joe Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, while leaving Donald Trump on the defensive.
Even with ballots still being counted and control of Congress up in the air, the three men quickly took center stage as White House contenders with pressure mounting for each to announce their decisions to run. That could crowd out other potential rivals on both sides.
Biden reiterated Wednesday he intended to seek another term after Democrats fared better than expected in congressional elections, declaring that polls showing most Americans don’t want him to run again will have no bearing on his eventual decision.
Losses by Trump’s hand-picked candidates in key Senate and House races triggered panic and rare public dissent across the GOP, with figures openly suggesting it’s time for Trump to move on and conservative outlets like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, Wall Street Journal and New York Post calling him a drag on the party. Donors and operatives began to suggest the GOP would be better off with DeSantis as its standard-bearer.
Read More: GOP Starts to See DeSantis as More Appealing Than Trump for 2024
The state of the economy and stubbornly high inflation are likely to remain top issues of public concern well into the 2024 campaign cycle, and there were clear signs coming out of Tuesday’s vote that many remain troubled by the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol that Trump instigated through his false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent. Voters rejected election deniers in the presidential battlegrounds of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Democratic strategist Jon Reinish called the results a “repudiation of extremism” that showed voters want “people who work across the aisle and get results.”
Read more: Election Deniers Fall Short in Efforts to Oversee Key 2024 Races
DeSantis’s landslide re-election, at the same time, precipitated an almost overnight realignment within the GOP.
At a Monday night rally in Ohio on the eve of Election Day, Trump confidently teased a third presidential run, telling the crowd he’d make a “big announcement” Nov. 15 at his Palm Beach estate and telling Fox News that “the base would not like it” if DeSantis -- whom he called “Ron De-sanctimonious” -- were to run. And he confirmed the announcement in a statement on Thursday.
Read More: Trump Steps Up Attacks on DeSantis as He Inches Toward 2024 Bid
But the humiliating defeats Trump’s favored candidates suffered Tuesday in crucial House and Senate races are serving as a rallying cry for those looking for an alternative to the former president.
Conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote that if Republicans pick Trump as their nominee, they will be left to “warm themselves in the glow of the fire as he goes down in flames.”
On Thursday, Trump issued twin attacks on Murdoch’s News Corp. and DeSantis on his Truth Social platform, accusing the conservative-leaning media Goliath of being “all in” for DeSantis, while again invoking the derisive play on his name.
Pre-midterm polls already showed DeSantis as the strongest challenger to Trump for the nomination should they both run.
Now some Republicans are trying to convince party members to focus on helping DeSantis, who has not said whether he plans to run for president, according to people familiar with the matter. Those donors and operatives don’t plan to openly criticize Trump, one of the people said. Their hope is Republicans coalesce around DeSantis, avoiding a crowded primary field.
The midterm results are likely to quell public doubts for now from Democrats about Biden’s age and stewardship, even as voters delivered a mixed verdict on both.
Almost eight in 10 voters said they felt the pain of inflation but fewer than a third saw it as the defining issue for Biden and Democrats, according to exit polls.
At the same time, two thirds of Americans -- including three in 10 Democrats -- do not want Biden to run again, the polls show.
Earlier: Inflation-Weary US Voters Put Less of the Blame at Biden’s Feet
Biden, who turns 80 this month and is already the oldest-ever US president, will have to navigate questions about his age and whether Democrats need new leadership, especially if DeSantis, 44, becomes the GOP nominee. Biden told reporters Wednesday he’d likely make a final decision early next year, and that Trump’s early entrance into the race would not affect his timing.
A small group of the president’s aides have recently discussed laying the groundwork for a 2024 run, according to two senior Biden advisers. The decision will hinge in large part on whether Biden believes he can be effective in advancing his agenda and combating what he views as extreme trends in the GOP, one of the advisers said. The advisers asked not to be identified discussing Biden’s thinking.
The Democratic National Committee expects to hire spokespeople next year in early voting states to speak out against Republican candidates entering the race, according to a person familiar with the planning.
That builds on a staff of almost 40 researchers who have been producing materials on possible GOP candidates since 2021, the person said.
The party also plans to activate grassroots supporters, including more than 200,000 trained volunteers -- along with small-dollar donors, who have contributed $155 million since the 2020 cycle, according to a DNC memo.
No mainstream Democrats have said they plan to run if Biden enters the race, though he could face little-known challengers. Vice President Kamala Harris, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg could be waiting in the wings if Biden bows out or falters.
Trump, 76, faces similar scrutiny regarding his age and health, and polls show he’s even less popular than Biden.
Trump’s plan to declare early is an attempt to dissuade other candidates lacking his built-in base of support. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton was the first GOP aspirant to forgo a presidential run. Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has said she won’t run if Trump does.
Some Republicans urged Trump to delay his announcement, at least until after next month’s Senate runoff in Georgia, which could determine control of the chamber.
“No one’s going to be surprised by this announcement. Nobody’s going to care. It’s not going to clear the field,” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said Wednesday on Fox News.
DeSantis has raised $164 million this cycle while building a national following and has carefully positioning himself to the right of the former president on a handful of issues, including pandemic-era public health measures and LGBTQ rights.
On Friday, Trump took aim Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin on his Truth Social platform, saying Youngkin would not have won without Trump’s help and manipulating the White governor’s name to make it sound Chinese, echoing anti-Asian rhetoric the former president has used in the past.
The former Carlyle Group Inc. co-chief executive officer traversed the country to boost candidates during the midterm cycle, fueling speculation about his potential 2024 ambitions.
Other potential Trump challengers who have laid some groundwork for a run include former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; Texas Senator Ted Cruz; and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.
Republican strategist and pollster Frank Luntz said Trump’s midterm rebuke will embolden potential challengers. Pence, for example, is beginning a book tour on Tuesday -- the day Trump could announce his White House bid -- including a town hall Wednesday on CNN.
“There aren’t going to be three or four people running against him, there’s going to be a whole lot more,” Luntz said.
--With assistance from .
(Adds Trump’s attack on Youngkin in 28th paragraph.)
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