DeSantis rounded up top national donors and GOP governors for ‘drinks and cigars’ as he


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held an informal gathering among his top national donors as well as fellow GOP governors and candidates to ‘get to know one another’ over drinks and cigars as his gubernatorial re-election bid nears – and as he positions himself for a potential presidential run in 2024. 

The event in Fort Lauderdale, which sources described to Politico as ‘the most significant assembly of Republican governors outside of the RGA so far this year,’ featured a number of notable GOP luminaries.

Governors Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Bill Lee of Tennessee were all said to be present, along with Arkansas gubernatorial candidate and former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former Maine Governor and current gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage and Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt.

The presence of loyal Trump lieutenant Huckabee Sanders at a confab for the former’s potential rival might raise eyebrows, as Trump endorsed her nomination to run for Arkansas governor.

Conservative media figures present included Buck Sexton, Lisa Boothe and Josh Hammer. 

The event was seen as an informal and ‘lightly scheduled’ opportunity to connect key donors and conservative media figures with Republican governors and candidates allied to DeSantis.

The day-long conference served to shore up and consolidate DeSantis’ support base for his upcoming gubernatorial re-election race to keep his seat as Governor of Florida.

Florida Governor Ron DeStantis held an informal gathering among his top national donors as well as fellow GOP governors and candidates to ‘get to know one another’ over drinks and cigars as his gubernatorial re-election bid nears – and as he positions himself for a potential presidential run in 2024

The day-long conference served to shore up and consolidate DeSantis' support base for his upcoming gubernatorial re-election race to keep his seat as Governor of Florida. Pictured: DeSantis reaches out to firefighters and dignitaries after accepting the endorsement of the Florida Professional Firefighters in his Florida re-election bid

The day-long conference served to shore up and consolidate DeSantis’ support base for his upcoming gubernatorial re-election race to keep his seat as Governor of Florida. Pictured: DeSantis reaches out to firefighters and dignitaries after accepting the endorsement of the Florida Professional Firefighters in his Florida re-election bid

It featured a ‘get to know you session’ over ‘drinks and cigars’ and panels moderated by DeSantis that introduced the personalities and policies of the visiting governors and conservative pundits. 

However, any proposed run in 2024 would likely see DeSantis come up in direct competition against former President Trump in the presidential primaries. 

A recent New York Times / Sienna College poll put Trump’s support among GOP voters to be the 2024 presidential candidate in a narrow minority for the first time, as 49 per cent said they wanted it to be the 2016 winner.

Ron DeSantis was next, but with just half the support at 25 per cent. However, he is the challenger that party insiders view as the most potent threat to Trump.

There is a substantial drop-off after that, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz getting 7 per cent support, former Vice President Mike Pence getting 6 per cent, former South Carolina Gov. and UN ambassador Nikki Haley at 6 per cent, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 2 percent. 

Former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was thought to be present at DeSantis' informal get-together

The presence of loyal Trump lieutenant Huckabee Sanders at a confab for the former's potential rival might raise eyebrows, as Trump endorsed her nomination to run for Arkansas governor

Former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was thought to be present at DeSantis’ informal get-together

So far DeSantis has refused to publicly rule out a run for president in 2024 when given the opportunity, even if it means running against Trump. 

When asked whether he would challenge Trump in the primaries during an interview with Fox News last month, DeSantis replied ‘nice try, man.’ 

And there are reports that DeSantis is set to hold another private fundraiser for his gubernatorial re-election campaign next week in the state of Utah that is expected to draw some of the country’s wealthiest Republican donors.

Sources who briefed CNBC on the matter asked not to be named due to the fact that the DeSantis campaign is trying to keep the event, in a state 2,000 miles away from Florida, on the down-low and away from Trump’s attention.

Invites have been sent verbally, instead of by email, to limit any paper trail, a source said. 

Trump has said that he gets along with DeSantis, who supported him in 2016, but the former president has made strong efforts to assert his dominance within the party, picking favorites in key primaries and trying to defeat Republicans who voted to impeach him.

Trump likes to boast that his endorsement for GOP primary candidates is the key to their election victories and he would be a formidable foe to DeSantis. 

Though the Florida governor is coming to Utah to raise money for his 2022 gubernatorial re-election campaign, fundraisers held in far-flung states like Utah often suggest national aspirations. 

Utah is one of the reddest states in the union, having voted for the Republican candidate in each of the last six elections. They voted for Trump over Biden by 20 per cent in 2020. 

Trump likes to boast that his endorsement for GOP primary candidates is the key to their election victories and he would be a formidable foe to DeSantis, here pictured together during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on Nov. 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida

Trump likes to boast that his endorsement for GOP primary candidates is the key to their election victories and he would be a formidable foe to DeSantis, here pictured together during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on Nov. 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida

DeSantis’ re-election campaign has already raised $96million from GOP megadonors for the Nov 8 vote, where he will face off against a Democrat challenger who will be determined when the primary elections take place on Aug 23.

Former governor Charlie Crist was seen as the strong favorite, holding a 21 point lead over nearest challenger Nikki Fried in June and having raised four times the funding from donors at around $8million.

But the past month has seen a collapse in Crist’s support, and the latest poll by Real Clear Politics put both Crist and Fried neck and neck at 39 points each.

Pundits in the media see the Democratic primaries as mainly a sideshow, with a re-election for DeSantis, a nationally known figure and rising GOP star, as their likeliest outcome.

Re-election in November is seen as a vital step in any potential presidential run in 2024. 

Ron DeSantis’ team was contacted for comment. 

But former President Trump may have problems of a different nature to overcome before he can formally run as a candidate in 2024.

Rep. Liz Cheney said that former White House Pat Cipollone's testimony 'met expectations' while she claimed it was 'nonsense' to argue that former President Trump was misled into believing the election had been stolen from him

Rep. Liz Cheney said that former White House Pat Cipollone’s testimony ‘met expectations’ while she claimed it was ‘nonsense’ to argue that former President Trump was misled into believing the election had been stolen from him

Panel vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) of the January 6 committee claimed it was ‘nonsense’ to argue that Trump was misled into believing the election had been stolen from him as the committee played testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone claiming he told Trump to concede after Dec 14.  

The Wyoming Republican, ranking member on the Jan 6 committee, said yesterday the committee had seen a ‘change’ in how Trump-allied witnesses and lawyers had approached the committee’s investigation

‘Today, there appears to be a general recognition that the committee has established key facts including that virtually everyone close to President Trump – his Justice Department officials, his White House advisors, his White House Counsel, his campaign – all told him the 2020 election was not stolen,’ Cheney said. 

She said this had forced Trump’s attorneys to ‘change the strategy’ for defending him. ‘Now the argument seems to be that President Trump was manipulated by others outside the administration that he was persuaded to ignore his closest advisors and that he was incapable of telling right from wrong.’ 

The committee played a clip where White House counsel Pat Cipollone told them that by mid-December he had urged the former president to give up his election fraud claims after court after court ruled against him. 

‘Did I believe he should concede the election at a point in time? Yes I did.’



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