Joe Henderson: Ron DeSantis stays cool while Donald Trump fires warning shots
Image via AP.

Donald Trump
Trump seems sure DeSantis will bow out if he jumps into the presidential race, but that's not certain.

It is fascinating to watch Donald Trump trying to head off Gov. Ron DeSantis at the pass before 2024 arrives.

It’s the presidential soap opera before the storm, so to speak. While DeSantis’ mouth hasn’t announced intentions to seek the presidency, his actions seem to scream that he wants to give it a shot.

He has flown around the country to high-profile Republican gatherings and is meeting with potential donors, all while basking in the warmth of polls that say conservatives love him. He also gets as much free air time on Fox as he wants to say how great things are in Florida.

However, the squire of Mar-a-Lago continues to hold a hammerlock on many Republicans, seduced into a suspension of disbelief by his fable of a stolen election.

If Trump told his flock that up is down and the moon is made of cheese, they would believe him. He did tell them the coronavirus would magically go POOF a few months after the pandemic began, and when it didn’t, the same people blamed the media.

Even with that, it wouldn’t surprise me if more than a few GOP kingmakers told DeSantis to stay cool while they work behind the scenes to ensure their Frankenstein creation doesn’t run again. However, we should have learned by now that no one tells Trump what to do, especially the Florida Governor, who Trump believes owes his political success to the former President.

Trump has mentioned that a few times already, and he did it again during a recent interview with South Florida radio host Brian Mudd.

“I do think if I run, he won’t,” Trump said. “I know they try and create friction that I don’t think exists at all. It might, you know, you never know. If he wanted to run, that’s OK with me. I think we’d win by a lot. But he’s good. And he’s done a good job as Governor.”

Let’s be clear about one thing. If DeSantis were to run for the nomination against Trump, the big guy definitely would not be OK with that.

DeSantis has played this smartly, though, letting others fan the presidential flames while staying above the fray himself. Before he can seriously think about 2024, DeSantis needs to win re-election next year to Governor, which he is favored to do. However, COVID-19 and emerging variants could have a lot to say about that.

There are other factors, too.

Trump’s age could catch up with him — he’ll be 78 by the time inauguration day rolls around in 2024. He is not a picture of fitness, either. And, who knows how the legal investigation into his taxes will go? He might face an indictment for something by then.

Meanwhile, DeSantis keeps stockpiling goodwill and cash.

Could Trump be right that if he runs in 2024, DeSantis will stay on the sideline? Today’s easy answer is yes, but clearly Trump keeps a wary eye on his protégé.

“It’s way down the road. It’s not anything that I’m planning for,” DeSantis said during a Fox News Channel appearance.

That’s what they call a non-denial denial. Supposedly, Trump wants a public pledge from DeSantis that he won’t run if the big guy gets in the race.

DeSantis’ response: crickets.

Read into that what you will.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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