DeSantis calls talk of a 2024 presidential bid 'nonsense'

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TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday brushed aside any talk of running for president in 2024 even though he’s just days away from joining several potential contenders at a Nebraska Republican event.

His comments also come as former President Donald Trump has intensified fundraising and public appearances ahead of a potential 2024 presidential campaign.

“All the speculation about me is purely manufactured,” said DeSantis during a press conference he held to tout a Covid-19 treatment unit in St. Cloud, Fla. “I just do my job and we work hard… I hear all this stuff and honestly it’s nonsense.”

DeSantis has built his brand by linking himself to Trump, who gave him a key endorsement when he was running against then-Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the 2018 GOP primary. Trump hasn’t said if he will seek reelection in 2024, but the former president has engaged in a flurry of activity that signals a renewed interest in reclaiming the White House.

A Trump candidacy would likely derail any talk of a DeSantis bid. Trump in April even suggested he would consider DeSantis as his vice president should be run for the White House again.

DeSantis has become a GOP star due to his antagonism with the press, President Joe Biden and those opposed to his anti-lockdown, anti-mandate positions on battling Covid-19. His political committee has already raised more than $40 million since the beginning of the year for his reelection bid, with more than $4 million of those funds in July coming from donors in every state of the country.

In the last few months DeSantis has traveled to California, Utah, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas. Most of those trips have been confined to fundraising for his political committee, but he has appeared at events designed to raise his profile, including a national police convention, a national legislative conference and headlined a Pittsburgh GOP fundraising dinner.

He’s avoided stepping foot in early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire and scrapped a scheduled trip to Nevada last month due to a tropical storm that was threatening the state.

DeSantis is scheduled to appear this Sunday at Gov. Pete Ricketts' 5th annual Nebraska Steak-Fry along with former Vice President Mike Pence and Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

But the governor’s continued insistence that he is not contemplating a 2024 run — he’s up for re-election next year — hasn’t convinced his critics who see view the ongoing national fundraising effort as evidence of his growing ambitions. Democratic rivals such as Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) are routinely painting DeSantis as someone who is more interested in pleasing potential GOP primary voters than what’s happening in his home state.

Those trips have also come under fire since Florida has seen a massive surge in Covid-19 cases this summer that overwhelmed many hospitals and caused a spike in Covid-19 related deaths. Fried lashed into DeSantis for a late August trip to New Jersey by tweeting out a photo of it and saying: “This is where Florida’s governor is during peak pandemic deaths…Laughing it up at a campaign fundraiser in New Jersey. Remember this in November.”

A recent poll done by Morning Consult Political Intelligence showed that DeSantis’ net approval rating in Florida had dropped 14 points between early July and late August. The poll at the start of the summer showed that 54 percent approved of the job DeSantis was doing while 40 percent disapproved. Now his approval ratings are split evenly with 48 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving of his job performance.

The governor is planning on spending time on in-state political appearances this fall. DeSantis has agreed to headline fundraising dinners hosted by a handful of local GOP executive committees, a move that guarantees a sellout for those county parties. The kickoff event is this Friday in Pasco County, a key GOP stronghold located in the Tampa Bay region.

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