Don’t matter if Donald Trump wins or loses in November….
Potential sweepstakes contestants are already jostling for the drawing….
And the Florida group is the focus in the linked piece below….
Even as attention focuses on the rapidly intensifying 2020 campaign and the unprecedented complications presented by Covid-19’s double-barreled health crisis and economic catastrophe, there’s another race already in progress. A number of well-known players in the GOP—former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Vice President Mike Pence, among them—are considered leading contenders to succeed Trump should he win a second term. But Florida, which also boasts Senator Marco Rubio (who many expect to try and avenge his 2016 failure) and Rep. Matt Gaetz, a nationally known congressman and huge Trump ally, already looks like a uniquely consequential proving ground for several of the most likely Republican aspirants to the Oval Office. And it is captivating political insiders who see the contours of a still distant contest emerging in dramatic ways.
POLITICO interviewed 20 veterans who have worked formally or informally for both DeSantis or Scott—and in some cases, both. Speaking anonymously to share their candid assessments of the state’s political topography, these insiders reveal that almost every story involving Florida’s statewide politicians is best understood by viewing it through the lens of the 2024 race.
“You know how I know Rick Scott wants to run for president?” said a longtime Republican operative who has worked for both men. “He said that. I have to be careful about specifics, but he has said to me, and for sure has alluded to donors, what is to come.”
And earlier this year, the junior senator who favors a brand of precision, focus-grouped politics, spent $19,000 on Iowa airtime ahead of the state’s first-in-the nation nominating contest, a small investment well worth the buzz it generated. “Two words: trial balloon,” said a Scott consultant when asked about the ad. Scott officials did not respond to a request for comment.
DeSantis loyalists acknowledge that even in 2018, in the midst of a messy primary fight, they were aware of their candidate’s higher aspirations—and the long-term work required to mold a gaffe-prone congressman with a notable lack of people skills into the national candidate he already thought he was.
“Internally on the campaign, we joked that we were working on our own type of ‘Manhattan Project,’” said a staffer who worked on DeSantis’ campaign. “Once he became governor, we knew we would need to work on his communications skills and his retail politics. …You know, the sort of stuff you need in a diner in Iowa or New Hampshire.”
“One of the lines I’ve heard him use multiple times with multiple high-net-worth donors is, ‘I’ll be sworn in as governor at 40 years old. That’s not the last thing I’m going to do,’” said a veteran GOP consultant who also worked on DeSantis’ campaign. “It’s very clear he is a person who has national aspirations, and for better or worse, has the confidence to do it.”
Rubio has remained outside the fray, but his failure in 2016 makes him an automatic factor for a second run. Indeed, he has already been the most openof the three that he is considering running for president in a post-Trump era.
His team also quietly gathered last year in Washington to plot a potential path forward. “There was a frank conversation about donors and who they would be with if all three were in,” said one adviser who attended the meeting. Rubio’s office did not respond to a request for comment…..