As Trump's Absence Looms, DeSantis Takes Center Stage as Primary Focus in 2024 Debate
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Faces High-Stakes Moment in First 2024 Republican Debate
The initial Republican debate for the 2024 US presidential campaign is poised to be a pivotal juncture for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, who seeks to build momentum in his challenge against former President Donald Trump for the party's nomination, confronts a complex situation.
Adding to DeSantis's challenge is Trump's dominant position as the leading contender in the race to oppose Democratic President Joe Biden. However, Trump has signaled his intent to skip the debate scheduled for August 23rd in Milwaukee. Should this come to pass, DeSantis would likely find himself at the center of attention, becoming the prime target of fellow candidates aiming to outmaneuver him and position themselves as the primary alternative to Trump. Insights gathered from rival campaigns, Republican strategists, and a former presidential candidate all indicate that DeSantis, positioned in the central spot on the debate stage, could face intensified scrutiny.
A close Republican strategist aligned with Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations who is also vying for the nomination, indicated that while Trump is likely to be handled with caution, DeSantis might be subject to more pointed critiques due to his prime spot on the stage.
The strategist, speaking anonymously and offering insights on the broader Republican field rather than Haley's specific strategy, noted, "The individual in the top spot on the stage will likely bear the brunt of the scrutiny."
DeSantis finds himself in a precarious position as opponents sense vulnerability, given questions surrounding his campaign's spending practices and his preparedness for a national campaign. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed Trump commanding 47% of the Republican vote nationally, while DeSantis experienced a 6-percentage-point drop since July, dwindling to a mere 13%. Other debate attendees have yet to make significant breakthroughs beyond single-digit support.
Prominent hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, a major contributor to a group backing DeSantis's presidential bid, expressed his stance that further financial support would be contingent upon DeSantis attracting new major donors and adopting a more moderate approach.
Drawing from lessons learned, former US Senator and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum emphasized the necessity for DeSantis to brace for a potential "onslaught" of attacks. Santorum reflected on his own experience during the early primaries, recounting the challenge of defending his congressional record under heightened scrutiny.
Santorum commented, "I wasn't prepared to be at the forefront. I hadn't adequately anticipated the attacks or their sources. And it ended up costing me."