The possibility that the next GOP presidential nominee being from Florida is growing because of speculation that as many as four Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — are eyeing the White House in 2024, and because of the state's growing influence as a center of the party's politics.
Trump, who was a New York resident during his first run for the White House, has since moved to Florida, and while he hasn't officially announced his candidacy, he's made repeated hints he'll try for a comeback, reports The Hill.
Three other Florida Republicans, however, may challenge him for the nomination, with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott being seen as potential candidates, showing the extent to which the state has become a conservative epicenter in the past few years.
"You’re almost guaranteed that a Floridian is going to be the nominee in 2024," Florida-based GOP strategist and former congressional candidate Ford O’Connell commented. "Until Donald Trump became a Florida resident, Florida had never had a presidential nominee or VP nominee in the history of the state. It’s gone from being an important battleground to literally the center of the universe for the Republican Party."
Both Scott and DeSantis have said they have other plans, with Scott saying he is running for reelection to the Senate in 2024 and DeSantis insisting he is keeping his focus on winning a second term in office in this year's elections.
Rubio and Scott, however, have both said they'll support Trump if he decides to seek reelection, but DeSantis, who has called speculation about a presidential campaign "nonsense," has also not said publicly if he'll seek the nomination if Trump runs.
Trump has been taking fire at DeSantis in recent months, insisting that the governor won't run for the White House if he decides to mount a comeback.
He also slammed politicians who refuse to say if they've gotten a COVID-19 booster shot, without mentioning DeSantis by name, after the governor has refused to say whether he's gotten the third jab.
Several other Florida Republicans have run for the White House in the past, including in 2016, when Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also ran against Trump. Bush dropped out after losing in the South Carolina primary and Rubio withdrew after Trump beat him in Florida, his home state.
Meanwhile, even though Trump hasn't officially announced his candidacy, he's already seen as the favorite. In December, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the former president ahead of other potential rivals by double digits, with 54% of Republican voters saying they would support him. The nearest other potential candidate was DeSantis, with 11% support. Just 2% said they would support Rubio, and Scott was not included in the poll.
Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, commented that while there are four potential candidates from Florida, "in reality, there's Trump and then there's the other three."
Florida's swing-state status has it a breeding ground for potential candidates, he added, but the state's current importance in conservative politics is being spurred by "partly the issues, partly demographics and partly party organization, and of course, partly what’s happened at the national level," said Jewett.
Florida's registered Republicans have surpassed the number of Democrats for the first time in the state's history. When former President Barack Obama won the state for the first time, there were still almost 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.
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