DeSantis Continues to Check the Waters of 2024 — and Supporters Are Getting Stressed

When Peggy Nichols heard Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida was coming to this rural stretch of Wisconsin for an area Republican Social gathering fund-raiser, she pulled out her button-making machine and crafted 10 purple “Ron DeSantis 2024” pins.

“He ought to hurry up and soar within the race,” mentioned Ms. Nichols, who was sporting one in all her creations whereas ready for Mr. DeSantis to handle a crowd of greater than 570 folks. “I made them to encourage him.”

However the governor, who simply wrapped up Florida’s two-month legislative session and nonetheless should cope with the state funds, is taking his time on saying a proper bid.

For now, Mr. DeSantis’s reluctance to declare his candidacy underscores the problem he’ll face if he does be part of the race in opposition to a former president who retains the help of his social gathering’s base. Mr. DeSantis should work out how one can set himself aside from former President Donald J. Trump with out alienating his supporters — a sophisticated political maneuver given how carefully he tied himself to Mr. Trump throughout his first run for governor in 2018.

On the Saturday occasion, a sold-out dinner for the Republican Social gathering of Marathon County, Mr. DeSantis continued to concentrate on his report as Florida’s governor, reasonably than making a direct case for why he ought to be president.

“In Florida, we ship large victories each single day,” Mr. DeSantis mentioned, including that he put conservative ideas forward of political expediency. “A pacesetter just isn’t captive to polls. A pacesetter will get forward of polls. A pacesetter units a imaginative and prescient, executes on that imaginative and prescient and delivers outcomes.”

Mr. DeSantis performed all his best hits. He acquired a standing ovation when he criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, who led the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and mentioned that Florida had chosen “freedom over Fauci-ism.”

Mr. DeSantis is predicted to announce his bid for the Republican nomination for president within the subsequent few weeks and has been constructing a sturdy political operation in Tallahassee, Fla., hiring marketing campaign workers and assembly with donors.

On Saturday in Wisconsin, Mr. DeSantis engaged within the kind of retail politics that he generally avoids, shaking palms, signing autographs and taking selfies. However he left instantly after his remarks.

“He was very personable,” mentioned Cindy Werner, a Republican from Milwaukee who ran for lieutenant governor in 2022 and spoke briefly with the governor as he made his manner by way of the group. “I don’t perceive the media narrative in any respect.”

Consultant Tom Tiffany, who represents Wisconsin’s Seventh Congressional District and is seen as an ally of Mr. Trump, launched Mr. DeSantis, praising his landslide re-election in November.

The governor, Mr. Tiffany mentioned, “is exhibiting the way it’s executed to the remainder of america of America.”

However as Mr. DeSantis stays on the sidelines of the presidential race, even a few of his backers have grown anxious and publicly urged him to declare. An announcement, they are saying, would enable Mr. DeSantis to make a extra forceful case for himself because the Republican with one of the best case for beating President Biden, and to defend himself extra vigorously in opposition to Mr. Trump.

Supporters of Mr. Trump had promised to push again in opposition to Mr. DeSantis’s look in Rothschild, a village roughly two hours north of Madison. However solely a handful of individuals confirmed up at a rally in help of Mr. Trump exterior the conference heart the place Mr. DeSantis spoke. Those that attended on a chilly and drizzly night mentioned Mr. DeSantis would pay a worth with the social gathering’s grass roots for difficult the previous president.

“We need to ship a message to DeSantis that that is Trump Nation,” mentioned Deb Allen, a Republican who drove 90 minutes from Oshkosh to Rothschild. “He ought to concentrate on Florida. He ought to wait one other 4 years.”

The agricultural northern and central Wisconsin counties surrounding the realm the place Mr. DeSantis spoke are also known as Trump Nation. Mr. Trump carried Marathon County with 56 p.c of the vote in 2016, when he gained Wisconsin, and 58 p.c in 2020, when the state flipped to Mr. Biden.

However Wisconsin has not at all times been in Mr. Trump’s nook. Within the 2016 Republican major, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas gained the state, suggesting voters and donors right here might be open to a substitute for Mr. Trump.

Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the State Meeting, who has clashed with Mr. Trump, mentioned in a cellphone interview that Mr. DeSantis could be “a terrific addition to the race.”

“He’s acquired a superb report,” mentioned Mr. Vos, who didn’t attend the dinner on Saturday and who mentioned he believed it was too early to make an endorsement. “He’s aggressive and assertive in his beliefs.”

By the top of the night, Ms. Nichols had given away all of her buttons, together with the one she had been sporting, to others on the dinner who mentioned Mr. DeSantis’s speech had gained them over.

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