If DeSantis doesn’t get his timing right for 2024 decisions, he risks peaking too early like Scott Walker or wasting his big moment like Chris Christie


Republican governments. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker (left), Florida’s Ron DeSantis, and New Jersey’s Chris Christie are shown at key moments in their careers. Walker is shown ending his 2016 presidential campaign, DeSantis is shown after easily winning re-election in 2022, and Christie is pictured at a town hall in 2011, months before ruling out a 2012 presidential campaign.Insider composite from TBEN and Getty Images

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen as Trump’s biggest potential challenger in 2024.

  • He will have to decide whether to run for president in 2024 or wait it out.

  • Both approaches carry risks that could torpedo his chance at the White House, top GOP political strategists told Insider.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is often compared to ex-President Donald Trump. But as he faces a decision on whether to run for president in 2024, DeSantis shares many more similarities with two other ex-GOP frontrunners: former Govs. Scott Walker from Wisconsin and Chris Christie from New Jersey.

Like DeSantis, Walker and Christie once seemed inevitable frontrunners for the White House.

The two men made vastly different choices when it came to actually running for president. Walker seized the moment, while Christie let his moment pass.

They both lost.

Their stories provide a glimpse into what could happen to DeSantis if he decides to run for GOP nomination in 2024 — or if he decides to wait until 2028.

“Timing is important,” Mike DuHaime, CEO of MAD Global and advisor to Christie’s 2016 presidential campaign, told Insider. “He is currently at a peak. Running when you are at a peak is a good thing. Timing is in many ways the most important and least controllable part of politics.”

Walker emerged as a darling of the right when Barack Obama was president. Like DeSantis, he skyrocketed to national prominence by seeking fights with key Democratic allies.

But Walker’s campaign crashed so badly that he didn’t even make it to the vote. He would also fail to secure a third term in Wisconsin in 2018.

As for Christie, he was brash, populist and had a big personality. As it turned out, these were traits that 2016 voters really wanted in a president. But a certain reality TV star had those qualities too, just in much greater amounts.

If Christie had run in 2012, when he had a moment, he might have been in the Oval Office instead of Trump. Instead, he turned down influential Iowa Republicans who literally flew to New Jersey to beg him to run.

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DeSantis could stumble early in a ’24 game. During his second term in office, a scandal may arise that he will not be able to get rid of. Someone could steal the spotlight if he delays his run until 2028. Or waiting might be the right move to secure an eventual White House victory — he could have a strong second term in Florida with even higher approval ratings.

“Those are certainly calculations and considerations that smart people in DeSantisworld would put there,” said a GOP strategist not affiliated with DeSantis, who asked not to be named in order to speak candidly. “And they would probably consider some of these past candidacies as a case study. There’s such a thing as an observable moment and then sometimes the shine dims a little bit.”

Then-President Donald Trump speaks as then-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (L) and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou look on at groundbreaking work for the Foxconn Technology Group computer display factory on June 28, 2018 in Mt Pleasant, Wisconsin.

Then-President Donald Trump speaks as then-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (L) and Foxconn CEO Terry Gou look on at groundbreaking work for the Foxconn Technology Group computer display factory on June 28, 2018 in Mt Pleasant, Wisconsin.Andy Manis/Getty Images

‘We were a big problem’

Walker was the one everyone was talking about in 2016.

In 2010, he had turned over the Wisconsin governor’s mansion, just two years after Obama took over the state. He then took on public sector unions to the delight of the Conservatives and the Koch brothers.

Liberals tried to recall him. Then the Democrats turned to his re-election campaign. By the end of 2014, Walker had won three times in four years. The following summer, he held a court of wealthy donors in Madison. Neighboring Iowans clamored for his presence and a presidential campaign, while pollsters saw his fortunes soar.

It all came crashing down just two months after Walker made his presidential run official.

“We were a big deal, before we even had a campaign, because of what we were doing,” Walker told Insider in an interview. “But we really didn’t have the infrastructure or the national-level experience to deal with that.”

In addition, the day-to-day questions a candidate for governor faces are vastly different from what might arise during the campaign trail, a top aide from Walker’s Iowa team told Insider.

“The national press attention and the presidential issues are very different from being governor,” said Eric Woolson, Walker’s director of communications in Iowa. “It’s one thing to talk about state issues, and it’s quite another to suddenly talk about foreign policy and federal policy.”

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Subsequently, Walker’s debate performance cemented his position as a candidate unprepared for primetime. He was jostled onstage by well-known national Republican leaders in heated debates.

“It was almost like they were trying out for a track team, and it was like, ‘Oh, wow, everybody’s a lot faster than me,'” said Duhaime. “He wasn’t as good as when you put in Trump and Christie and Ted Cruz and Marco [Rubio]. They were all A-level debaters, A-level thinkers about this sort of thing. Walker was just kind of a junior varsity on that stage.”

DeSantis may face a similar situation. He has more national and foreign policy experience because he served in the US House. But while he’s getting significant national coverage, he hasn’t made it to the national stage yet. He did not face a serious challenge for governor this year, he is not known as a gifted orator or debater, and rumors circulate about his lack of social skills.

But DuHaime said DeSantis was “stronger than Walker ever was” and had “substantial experience” after dealing with hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You don’t have to be the best — you have to be good enough,” Duhaime said of DeSantis stepping onto a debate stage. “And I suspect he’s good enough at that point.”

Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis smiles as confetti falls after being declared the winner on Election Night 2022.Getty Images

DeSantis could run into a pile

DeSantis is Trump’s most formidable potential rival for the 2024 nomination. A total of 33% of potential GOP primary voters said they would vote for DeSantis today, according to a Morning Consult/Politico tracking poll released Nov. 15. published. But he is still 14 percentage points behind Trump, who made his presidential run official last week.

Florida’s governor has so far been goofy about his future plans, but he hasn’t committed to serving all four years as governor.

He’s not the only one who could jump into the 2024 race. Other possible candidates include former Vice President Mike Pence, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Dakota Governor Kristi L. Noem, former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas, and former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. .

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Should DeSantis not run, it is possible that one of these other candidates could defeat both Trump and President Joe Biden, denying DeSantis the opportunity to seek a White House nomination until 2032.

Entering a large field would make DeSantis vulnerable to attacks not only from Trump, but from all other candidates who see him as a threat. DuHaime said presidential races were a “drag” unlike any other candidacy.

“Millions and millions of dollars will turn against you in the blink of an eye,” he said. “It happens to everyone. Only one person survives.”

Hogan told reporters last weekend at a Republican Jewish Coalition event, a high-profile rally in Las Vegas, that he knew the media was “focused” on DeSantis, but warned that a lot could change in the next six months.

“I can tell you that in almost every race I’ve ever seen, the guy who comes out of the box first, where everyone is talking about two years from now, is almost never the nominee,” he said.

Chris Christie

Former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.TBEN Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

DeSantis is in a stronger position than Christie

When Democratic strategist David Axelrod wrote a now-famous presidential memo to Obama, then a U.S. Senator from Illinois, he emphasized the importance of timing in politics.

“History is full of potential presidential candidates who waited too long rather than examples of people who ran too fast,” he wrote.

Many in the donor class, the GOP leadership, and the media tried to teach the same lesson about Christie in 2011.

But there are some key differences between Christie and DeSantis, even in terms of timing, Duhaime said. When Christie had his moment, he was an early governor and Republican Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, received a lot of backing from donors.

“He rightly didn’t feel he was ready — not necessarily to run, but ready to do the job” of president after serving as governor for a short time, Duhaime said of Christie. By contrast, DeSantis would be in his fifth year as governor if he chooses to run for office next year.

“That’s a huge difference in terms of that moment, in my opinion,” said DuHaime.

Moreover, he added, Obama’s re-election seemed a surer bet, while New York Times polls show that most voters do not want President Joe Biden, 80, to run again — largely because of his age. DeSantis, on the other hand, is 44.

DeSantis’ age gives him other options to stay relevant, even if he loses the throne of the governor’s mansion. He could run for the Senate or – should a Republican win the White House in 2024 – serve in government.

The GOP strategist, who concluded DeSantis should run in 2024, said “the country” needs the governor because of his ability and leadership in Florida.

“There are times,” they said. “There was a moment for Christie in 2012 and there’s a moment for Ron DeSantis in 2024. So if I were to advise him, I’d say it’s less about the personal journey and more about answering the call for your country. .”

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