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VICTOR JOECKS: How DeSantis could beat Trump in 2024

The conventional wisdom is that Donald Trump will run for president in 2024 and that challenging him for the Republican nomination would be political suicide. Not if you’re Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Last month, an NBC News poll found that 56 percent of Republicans consider themselves more a supporter of their party than the former president. Thirty-six percent prioritized Trump.

Shortly before the past election, those numbers were 54-38, in favor of Trump. That’s still an impressive number, but it’s falling.

The person best- positioned to challenge Trump, assuming he runs, is DeSantis. In a YouGov poll from last week, Trump led DeSantis by a 46-21 margin. Former VP Mike Pence earned just 6 percent. The Cook Political Report reported that a GOP organization has polled a potential Trump and DeSantis matchup. Trump has a big lead in the South. DeSantis, however, is down by “single digits in the Midwest, with a tie among GOP voters familiar with both.”

Florida Republicans know DeSantis best. On Tuesday, USA Today released a poll of likely Florida voters. In a potential primary matchup, Republicans favored Trump over DeSantis by only a 47-40 margin.

Trump is clearly in the lead, but DeSantis’ momentum shows he has a path to victory. Unlike other potential candidates such as Nikki Haley, DeSantis hasn’t said he wouldn’t run against Trump.

That’s a smart decision. What’s important isn’t that Trump is ahead in the polls two years before the primaries. What’s important is the trend. More and more Republican voters are willing to consider another candidate.

The first thing DeSantis needs to do is win re-election as governor later this year. A blowout victory would help his case.

Next, DeSantis needs to keep exposing the national mainstream media’s hypocrisy and keep defending himself from reporters’ attacks. No one — including Trump — goes after the corporate media backed up by facts better than DeSantis. For instance, here’s what he said after the killings in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

“For corporate press, they’re more apt to characterize a parent who goes to a school board meeting to protest bad policies as a domestic terrorist than somebody who intentionally rams an SUV into a crowd of innocent people,” he said.

Finally, DeSantis needs to continue leading on hot-button issues, such as election integrity, CRT and standing up to China.

If he does those things, his star will continue to rise. Without elected office or his Twitter account, Republican attachment to Trump personally is likely to continue its natural decline.

It would be even better for DeSantis if Trump scared out other major GOP candidates. Remember that in 2016, Trump initially prevailed because the rest of the field was large and splintered. DeSantis would have a much better chance in a two-man race.

Undoubtedly, Trump would rhetorically hit DeSantis with both barrels. But DeSantis would be able to land some jabs of his own, like pointing out how Republicans should nominate someone who hasn’t lost to Joe Biden.

If DeSantis jumps in the race, he has a path to winning the nomination regardless of what Trump does.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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