For many Americans, the 2022 midterms are a secondary story. Sure, there are plenty of tight races and heavy consequences to be had come Tuesday, but it is almost impossible for Americans to not already be looking ahead to the electoral juggernaut coming in 2024.
And in that already-fraught future race, many seem to believe that the most important storyline will be about Donald Trump’s return to the campaign trail, and the status-quo-smashing rhetoric that will come with it.
But now, after a rather impressive fundraising campaign, another GOP lawmaker has allegedly ousted Trump as the “de facto frontrunner” in the race for the Republican nomination.
After personally receiving a $10 million check from real estate mogul Robert Bigelow in Las Vegas in July, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was so astounded by the huge donation that he held onto the check during his long return flight to Florida.
Once he landed, DeSantis told a member of his finance team to drive the check to the Tampa offices of Robert and Nancy Watkins, who serve as chair and treasurer for his political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, according to three people familiar with the story.
In giving DeSantis $10 million, Bigelow, who owns Budget Suites of America, wrote the largest single campaign check in Florida political history — but it’s just a fraction of the overall record-shattering haul DeSantis has raised during the 2022 cycle.
This was only part of the picture.
Between his direct campaign and the aligned political committee, donors big and small have given DeSantis more than $200 million for his reelection bid, a staggering sum that is likely the most raised by any gubernatorial candidate in American history.
DeSantis has used the avalanche of cash to bury Democratic opponent Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor whose $31 million raised would put him in good shape in most competitive governor’s races across the country. But against DeSantis, Crist’s $31 million left him unable to adequately compete.
DeSantis has more than $90 million remaining in the bank after spending about $100 million total this election cycle on his reelection bid via his aligned committee and campaign. That huge sum is fueling speculation that the Florida governor, who cannot run for a third term, will use it to seed the early stages of a potential 2024 bid for the White House.
And then, bluntly:
“If you look at where the money is coming from, it’s indicative of Gov. DeSantis being seen by national donors as the de facto frontrunner for president,” said Slater Bayliss, a longtime Florida Republican lobbyist who supports DeSantis.
DeSantis has been rather coy about his potential plans for a presidential run, but his courting of Republican megadonors, (as well as his rising profile on the national stage), seems to indicate that the Sunshine State superstar is almost certainly going to give 2024’s race a shot.