The Florida Republican governor, a clear favorite for a second term in November, continues to rise in the eyes of GOP voters looking ahead to the 2024 presidential race.
The events of this week did nothing to slow that momentum.
Start with the bombshell testimony of former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson to the 1/6 committee on Tuesday.
While we can — and will — debate whether Hutchinson’s testimony puts Trump in legal jeopardy, it’s already clear that what she said has damaged him in some corners of the conservative world.
“Trump is a disgrace,” wrote the editorial board of the conservative Washington Examiner after Hutchinson’s testimony. “Republicans have far better options to lead the party in 2024. No one should think otherwise, much less support him, ever again.”
After a “stunning” two hours of testimony from Hutchinson, former Trump White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney declared
, “That is a very, very bad day for Trump.”
Trump’s loss is, undoubtedly, DeSantis’ gain. Poll after poll — both nationally and in swing states — shows the Florida governor as the only potential candidate running anywhere close to even with Trump. (A recent New Hampshire poll
pegged DeSantis at 39% to 37% for Trump.)
Much of DeSantis’ rising popularity is due to a sort of hybrid Trumpism — all of the war against wokeness without the, um distractions presented by the former President.
DeSantis has spent the better part of the last year in a culture war against the likes of Disney, critical race theory, math textbooks and the LGBT community — among other targets.
As part of that effort, he signed a law in April that would ban abortion after 15 weeks. On Thursday, a Florida judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional
Which, at first blush, you might think is bad news for DeSantis. But the image of the Florida governor battling for life in the face of an out-of-control judiciary, which is the story he will tell of the decision, is a clear winner for him with Republicans energized nationally over the recent Roe v. Wade ruling.
“We reject this interpretation because the Florida Constitution does not include — and has never included — a right to kill an innocent unborn child,” DeSantis’ office said in a statement after Thursday’s ruling. “We will appeal today’s ruling and ask the Florida Supreme Court to reverse its existing precedent regarding Florida’s right to privacy. The struggle for life is not over.”
The Point: DeSantis has emerged as a legitimate contender for the Republican nomination — even if Trump decides to run for a third time in 2024. Which is a remarkable statement.