While Ron DeSantis might be staying quiet about his plans for 2024 (despite some political maneuvering that may or may not be seen as an attack from Trump’s right), there are efforts underway to recruit him and stand ready to defend him should the need arise.
One of those efforts comes in the form of a super PAC in Florida that sees DeSantis as the future of the GOP and wants to both recruit him to run and defend him from the likes of Trump, among others.
“Ron to the Rescue,” founded by Republican strategist John Thomas, emerged just after the midterms with an ad declaring that “America needs Ron DeSantis” and pitching his success as Joe Biden’s failure to keep a good state down. But they’re also preparing to go on offense with ads and coordinated media campaigns if the cold war between Ron and Don turns into a hot one.
“We’re not afraid to take the gloves off,” Thomas told Semafor. “If the former president decides to get nasty with DeSantis, the governor has shown a level of discipline I admire and not responding to those kinds of things, but somebody needs to and so we will defend the governor and not be afraid to do it.”
He added that “it doesn’t matter if it’s Democrats unfairly attacking him, if it’s Mike Pompeo or Mike Pence, it literally doesn’t matter.”
According to the profile at Semafor (linked above), Thomas, the guy behind the group, isn’t a NeverTrumper or anything like that. In fact, he was apparently pretty sure the Mar-a-Lago raid would bring the party back to Trump. But, that didn’t last long. The midterms have apparently convinced him that Trump’s time is over and DeSantis’ time is now.
When news of the PAC originally broke in November, it made it seem like the Florida governor and the PAC were working together, forcing the PAC to come out and clarify that DeSantis is not affiliated with the group.
CONFUSION CLARIFIED: A legal counsel for DeSantis says the Florida governor and “his team are not affiliated with the ‘Ron to the Rescue’ PAC” in any capacity. https://t.co/801XFyTqNK pic.twitter.com/qg3iH8dkYB
— Fox News (@FoxNews) November 20, 2022
However, Thomas is going to use that conviction that Trump’s time is over and use it to recruit and build up a list of activists should DeSantis decide to run and had that organization over.
Beyond coordinating on-air fights with Trump, Thomas is working to build up a volunteer grassroots list that can be given to DeSantis should he decide to run and plans to scoop up operatives who could become part of an official campaign later on.
“We’re going to basically put them all on retainer and have them start organizing, but more importantly, we’re taking them off the table so they don’t go to work for Trump,” Thomas said. “And then if the governor chooses, when he’s a candidate for president, we will release the organizers from their contracts and they can then go work directly for the governor.”
Republican strategist John Feehery told Semafor the group’s strategy seemed “pretty smart” on paper — governors, in particular, have struggled with the early phases of campaigns in recent elections as state obligations often make it hard for them to enter the fray. It could be months before DeSantis officially launches a campaign, leaving Trump to operate without pushback.
This does a couple of things for DeSantis. First, it can be used to build up the kind of operation he would need for a national run, should he decide to run (and, let’s face it, it seems pretty obvious that’s coming next). But it also allows someone to fight against Trump for him without DeSantis getting himself muddy in the process. That kind of help is huge, because Trump will absolutely be on the attack against anyone who runs against him, and DeSantis has done a good job so far of staying out of the mud.
But, there will come a time when someone has to fight back, and it seems like this gives the opportunity for someone to fight back for him while he focuses on the things that have him trending so high in the party right now – governance, being locked-in on the issues, etc. – keeping him free of the mud-slinging Trump.
That is actually strategically smart, and it could pay off.
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