For months now, Donald Trump has been itching to jump into the next presidential campaign. He finally scratched that itch on Tuesday night, formally declaring his candidacy for the 2024 race.
And no one should be happier about it than Ron DeSantis.
The Florida governor is widely expected to run for the Republican presidential nomination. But, at least on Wednesday, he showed no signs of urgency to enter the race now that Trump is in.
“I mean, seriously. We just ran an election,” DeSantis said, as CNN’s Steve Contorno reported. “We have this Georgia runoff coming, which is very important for Republicans to win that Georgia runoff.”
Which is a perfect strategy for DeSantis to take – and one that makes Trump look a) needy and b) more focused on himself than the Republican Party.
Think about all of this from DeSantis’ perspective. He just cruised to a second term as governor of Florida, winning by a stunning 19 points. It was, without question, the best moment for Republicans in an election that was, as a whole, disappointing for the party.
“It was not so bright in many other parts of the country,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “It was a substandard performance, given the dynamics that are at play.”
DeSantis is already well-known nationally and his victory last Tuesday only raised that profile.
In short: DeSantis is right where he wants to be. And he wants to revel in it for a while.
Trump, on the other hand, looks a bit desperate. Despite some of his allies advising him to wait to launch his presidential campaign until after the December 6 runoff in Georgia, Trump decided he needed to get in the race immediately. Which, candidly, looks somewhat weak – especially when you consider that Trump has already faced much of the blame for Republicans falling short of expectations in the midterms.
Even before Trump formally entered the race, he was clearly very aware of – and nervous about – the prospect of a DeSantis candidacy.
“I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering – I know more about him than anybody – other than, perhaps, his wife,” Trump said on Election Day. He has also taken to referring to the governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
Which is, of course, vintage Trump.
But the more DeSantis looks to be above the fray, the more magnanimous he looks. He looks more like the front-runner, making decisions on his own terms rather than reacting to every move that Trump makes.
That would mark a major departure from the 2016 Republican presidential primary, when candidates allowed Trump to dictate the terms and pace, constantly reacting to his latest attack.
DeSantis has clearly learned a lesson from that race. On Tuesday, he dismissed Trump’s attacks as “noise,” urging people to “check out the scoreboard last Tuesday night.”
What this early maneuvering suggests is that DeSantis is going to run a far different campaign than those waged by Republicans who fought and lost to Trump in the 2016 election. He won’t be rushed into the race by Trump and will do his best to avoid getting down in the mud – at least at the start – with the former president.
Given how little success past candidates had in trying to out-Trump Trump, it’s a worthwhile strategy.