A significant number of Michigan Republicans are urging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president in 2024 – setting up a confrontation with the only declared candidate in the race: former President Donald Trump.
Bryan Posthumus, the GOP floor leader in the Michigan state House, traveled to Florida last month to hand deliver to DeSantis a letter encouraging him to run for president, the lawmaker confirmed to Fox News. The letter was signed by 18 members of the Republican caucus in the state House. It called the Florida governor “uniquely and exceptionally qualified to provide the leadership and competence that is, unfortunately, missing” right now in the White House under President Biden.
The signers state they “stand ready and willing to help [DeSantis] win Michigan in 2024.” Together, they represent about a quarter of the state House Republican caucus.
The news was first reported earlier Wednesday morning by Politico.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a press conference at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Florida, on April 22, 2022. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump arrives at a rally on April 2, 2022, near Washington, Michigan. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
“I was looking at what the potential candidacies were for president and Republicans are going to have a lot of really good options coming up this cycle and I wanted to make sure to encourage that DeSantis was going to be one of them,” Posthumus told Fox News on Wednesday.
Posthumus said that when he met with DeSantis, “he was very appreciative. I sat down with him for just a couple of minutes and had the opportunity to talk a little bit about what the landscape was in Michigan for a potential DeSantis run and he was very engaged in the conversation, just trying to see if Michigan is a state he could win in a primary, and it absolutely is. I was trying to convey that message to him and I think that got across.”
DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Michigan is a prized target for Republicans and was key to Trump’s victory in 2016. He won the state’s Republican presidential primary that year and went on to defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election, becoming the first Republican to win the state since 1988. But he narrowly lost the state in 2020 to now-President Biden.
Posthumus argued that “this wasn’t about President Trump at all…We need a Republican running for president that can serve eight years and in my view we also need somebody from the next generation. And in my view, DeSantis is the guy that can lead the next generation.”
Michigan based GOP consultant Dennis Lennox emphasized in a statement to Fox News that Republicans in his state “want to win and Florida’s governor is a winner. Without Ron DeSantis as the party’s standard-bearer in 2024, Michigan isn’t a competitive battleground state.”
“Not only can he put the Wolverine State back into play, but he puts Michigan Republicans in a position to take back the majority in the lower house of the Legislature,” Lennox argued. “That’s critical as the state GOP finds itself in its worst position in the modern era.”
DeSantis has not publicly said he is running for president, but his political stock is soaring after winning re-election by a landslide 19-point margin in November. Already popular among Republicans across the country for rejecting COVID-19 pandemic-related mandates and shut-downs, he has won fans among conservatives with hard-line opposition to critical race theory and teaching sexual orientation and gender identity concepts in elementary schools, battling what he terms is “wokeness” in major corporations, and confrontations with the Biden administration over immigration.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks after being sworn in to begin his second term on Jan. 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Prominent Republicans, including mega GOP donor Ken Griffin, the CEO of Citadel, have called for DeSantis to run for president. Not coincidentally, other prospective 2024 candidates have tested lines of attack against the Florida governor, with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury criticizing DeSantis’ record on abortion recently, and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu taking a swipe at how he’s pressured private businesses who adopt “woke” positions on cultural issues in an interview with Fox News Digital.
Then of course, there is Trump, who launched unprovoked attacks on DeSantis last November, labeling him “Ron DeSanctimonious” and calling him an “average REPUBLICAN Governor with great Public Relations,” all the while boasting that DeSantis’ margin of victory in the midterm election was not as big as Trump’s win in Florida during the 2020 presidential election. Those attacks came as many pundits and commentators observed that Trump-backed candidates underperformed in the midterms, in contrast to DeSantis’ huge win.
While DeSantis has downplayed 2024 speculation and refrained from responding to attacks, he is set to release an autobiography next month – as first reported by Fox News – and has spent nearly $90,000 on ads nationwide or that were targeted toward early voting states, according to spending tracker FWIW. His second inaugural address called Florida the “promised land of sanity” and the place where “woke goes to die,” and many observers thought it sounded like a presidential campaign speech.
If DeSantis decides to launch a 2024 campaign, don’t expect an announcement anytime soon. A source in the governor’s wider political circle told Fox News earlier this month that any announcement wouldn’t happen until after Florida’s legislative session ends in May.
Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire.