On Nov. 15, former President Donald Trump announced from his Mar-a-Lago residence that he would be running for president for the third time.
Trump cannot be allowed to escape the consequences of his presidency. He denied the results of the 2020 election and incited violence at the Capitol in January of 2021. This anti-democracy rhetoric is clearly unpopular, as demonstrated by the fairly widespread trend of election deniers losing in the 2022 midterm elections.
However, Trump has continued to mention his lack of faith in the U.S. election system, going so far as comparing the U.S. elections to that of “third world countries” in his announcement speech.
While Trump has announced and plans to run his presidential campaign from Florida, Republicans are anticipating the recently re-elected Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, to challenge Trump in the primaries. DeSantis emerged as a national figure during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he often challenged Dr. Anthony Fauci and ignored Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
DeSantis recently proclaimed in his gubernatorial victory speech that “Florida is where woke goes to die.” According to Scott Jennings, a former adviser to former President George W. Bush and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “DeSantis made a convincing case that he, rather than Trump, gives Republicans the best chance to defeat Biden (or some other Democrat) in 2024.”
DeSantis is viewed by many Republicans as clearly a better option than Trump. Unlike many Trump-backed election-denier candidates, like Doug Mastriano, Kari Lake and Tudor Dixon, who lost in the 2022 midterms and were seen by many as a rejection of Trump himself, DeSantis won big last month. He flipped traditionally Democratic Miami-Dade County Republican and won Florida by almost 20 points, demonstrating his potentially broad appeal and his ability to form a national coalition.
However, DeSantis’ policies are still fueling debate and seen as hateful by many, with examples being his “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the banning of many math textbooks in the state and his focus on banning critical race theory in K-12 schools.
Ultimately, with DeSantis, Republicans will find a more polished and more controlled Trump.
If the Republican party is to persist, Trump must not be the nominee. Former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan recently echoed this point by stating that Trump is a “drag” on the Republican ticket and brings the party down. Trump lost resoundingly in 2020, and in 2022 — after he has doubled down on his election lies, dined with antisemite Kanye West and white supremacist Nick Fuentes and has turned on members of his own party — the odds he will succeed in his candidacy are slim.
Concerningly, if DeSantis wins the Republican nomination, Trump is not unlikely to seek a third-party candidacy. Trump has a dedicated political base, with recent polling in October showing that 41% of Republicans have “very warm” feelings toward him. If these voters choose him over the Republican candidate, the Republican coalition could fall apart and a victory could be spoiled.
Trump as the Republican candidate will likely drive the party toward a massive electoral failure, as well as permanently smear the GOP as a party that is anti-democracy and accepts authoritarians as leaders.
Samhi Boppana is a sophomore from Dublin, Ohio majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Political Science.