It was a war of words that grabbed plenty of national attention.
President Biden, aiming to get under control the surge in new coronavirus cases due to the extremely infectious delta variant, took aim at some Republican governors who he said are “signing orders that forbid people from doing the right thing,”
“I say to these governors, please help. If you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people trying to do the right thing,” the president urged this past week.
GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, where new COVID cases are soaring, fired back. At a news conference, he told the president “Why don’t you do your job? Why don’t you get this border secure, and until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you.”
Those were the opening rounds of a bout of verbal fireworks between the two politicians that lasted throughout the week.
For DeSantis, a potential 2024 Republican presidential contender, the give and take with the president has a very obvious political payoff – it only increases his popularity among GOP base voters who will cast ballots in the next race for the Republican presidential nomination.
“It’s good politics for Gov. DeSantis looking ahead to 2024,” noted longtime New Hampshire based GOP consultant Jim Merrill, a veteran of numerous Republican presidential campaigns.
DeSantis – a conservative congressman who was narrowly elected Florida governor in 2018 with the support from then-President Trump – has seen his popularity surge among Republican voters in his state and around the nation, thanks in large part to his combative pushback against COVID restrictions amid the pandemic. And that’s fueled speculation about likely national ambitions.
Earlier this summer his campaign team starting selling merchandise that takes aim at White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s become a pandemic hero to many but is vilified by many conservatives.
DeSantis earned the president’s wrath after signing an executive order a week and a half ago preventing school districts in Florida from mandating that students and school employees wear masks amid the new spike in COVID cases. New polling in Florida suggests that mask mandates in public schools – which open in the coming days – are popular among Democrats and independent voters, but are opposed by a majority of Republicans.
After the president responded to the first wave of DeSantis pushback by saying “Governor who?” – the governor responded the next day that “I’m the governor who protects parents and their ability to make the right choices for their children’s education. I’m the governor who protects jobs and education and businesses in Florida by not letting the federal government not lock us down. I’m the governor who answers to the people of Florida not to bureaucrats in Washington.”
President Joe Biden, right, looks at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, during a briefing with first responders and local officials in Miami, Thursday, July 1, 2021, on the condo tower that collapsed in Surfside, Fla., last week. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP)
While DeSantis has to first cope with the dangerous jump in COVID cases in his state, and then he faces a potentially challenging reelection next year, that kind of talk will only inflate the governor’s image in the minds of many Republican presidential primary voters. The 42-year old DeSantis, who graduated from Harvard Law School with honors and who served in the Navy as a JAG officer, ranks second in the most recent extremely early 2024 GOP presidential nomination polls, far behind Trump, but far ahead of the rest of the large field of potential contenders.
“Gov. DeSantis and President Biden engaging only benefits Gov. DeSantis. It raises his profile. It sets him apart from others who are looking to run in 2024,” Merrill emphasized.
Will Biden run for reelection?
A third of those questioned in the survey said that they believed Biden will seek reelection in 2024, with 13% not offering an opinion. There was a partisan divide, with three-quarters of Republicans and a majority of independents saying that the president wouldn’t run again in 2024. Democrats were divided on the question, with 41% saying Biden would seek reelection and 45% disagreeing.
There’s been intense speculation – dating back to the launch of his 2020 White House bid over two years ago – whether the now-78-year-old Biden would run for a second term. The former vice president made history last November when he became the oldest person ever elected president.
Asked in March at the first formal news conference of his presidency about his 2024 plans, Biden said, “My answer is yes. I plan on running for reelection. That’s my expectation.”
If he campaigns for reelection in 2024 and wins, Biden would be 82 at his second inaugural and 86 at the end of his second term.
Trump, six months removed from presidency, has repeatedly flirted with running in 2024 to try and return to the White House. By a 49%-39% margin, Americans said they think Trump will launch a 2024 presidential campaign, with 12% not offering an opinion.
A majority of Republicans and a plurality of independents said they think the former president will seek to win back his old job, but a majority of Democrats said Trump won’t run again.
RNC chair says no ‘chatter’ from committee members to alter 2024 calendar
There’s plenty of talk – and drama – among Democrats to alter the 2024 presidential nominating calendar, with Nevada Democrats recently passing a law to leap frog their state ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire to become the lead off nominating contest.
But Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Ronna McDaniel says there’s no such drama when it comes to the next GOP presidential primary and caucus calendar.
“I’m definitely not hearing chatter from our members to change the calendar,” the RNC chair said Thursday in an interview with Fox News in New Hampshire, the state that for a century’s held the first primary in the race for the White House.
The membership of a new committee that will make recommendations on the 2024 GOP presidential primary and caucus calendar will be announced this upcoming week, as the RNC holds its summer meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
“We’re going to let the nominating committee do its work and then we’ll let them present their report and then members will ultimately decide but it’s fair to say that we’re not hearing buzz around that with the RNC members right now,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel was in New Hampshire to speak at training session for Republican activists and to headline a state party fundraiser.
The GOP chairs in Iowa, whose caucuses for half a century have kicked off the nominating process, New Hampshire, as well as in South Carolina and Nevada, the other two early voting states, have been teaming up all year to protect their cherished status. They held a hospitality session at the RNC spring meeting in Dallas, Texas to drum up support among fellow national committee members and state party officials for keeping the existing nominating calendar.
NHGOP chair Steve Stepanek, who called the session at spring meeting “a last minute quick reception,” told Fox News recently that they would “be doing a much more in-depth reception at the RNC summer meeting that is being put on by all four states. We’re all in unison working together to preserve the calendar and the order within the calendar exactly as it is.”