The Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election will be either former President Donald Trump, 76, or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, 44, according to pundits.
The first is considered the big favorite today, according to the polls. The second, who has not yet announced his bid but already seems to be campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire — the first two states for Republican voting — is seen as the main challenger to the first. The two men have huge war chests and have already started attacking each other.
Their mano a mano occupies most of the media coverage devoted to this election, which leaves very little room for the other candidates.
DeSantis’ recent missteps, however, have chilled some big Republican donors, paving the way for a possible third candidate.
First, DeSantis stumbled regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine, which frustrated the Republican establishment, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who support Kyiv against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The likely Republican contender is trying to balance between not alienating Trump fans while appealing to moderate voters. But this is proving very tricky, as he in recent months embarked on a culture war that could come to haunt him during the general election.
Last year, he signed a state law, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, banning kindergarten to third-grade public school classrooms from teaching about sexual orientation and gender. He has proposed to extend this ban to all school-age levels.
In addition, he pushed through a new Florida law banning abortion in the state after six weeks of pregnancy. (Most women don’t know they’re pregnant at that point.)
He is also engaged in an intense feud with Walt Disney, one of the largest employers in his state of Florida, which worries the business community.
The consequence of all this is that billionaires Steve Schwarzman, co-founder and chief executive of private-equity titan Blackstone (BX) – Get Free Report, and Thomas Peterffy, chairman of Interactive Brokers (IBKR) – Get Free Report, have decided to withhold their support within the GOP field. Peterffy even went so far as to say that he and his friends were going to pause their financial support for DeSantis. The reason given was that they condemn his “extreme positions on social issues.”
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla (TSLA) – Get Free Report and founder of SpaceX, promised him last year to devote between $20 million and $25 million to support his candidate. Last year, he said he was leaning towards DeSantis.
“Trump would be 82 at end of term, which is too old to be chief executive of anything, let alone the United States of America,” Musk said last July. “If DeSantis runs against Biden in 2024, then DeSantis will easily win – he doesn’t even need to campaign.”
In this context, the billionaire has just weaved praise to a new candidate for the Republican candidacy, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC.), the only black senator in the Republican camp, who announced his presidential bid in a May 19 video.
“Today’s kids are growing up, immersed in a culture where everyone’s a victim,” Scott says in the 30-second video. “We have to start teaching the necessity of individual responsibility.”
“If you are able bodied, you work; if you take out a loan you pay it back; if you commit a violent crime, you go to jail,” the Republican presidential hopeful continued.
The message pleased Musk, who in recent months has become a hero of the conservatives.
“Great statement by @votetimscott!” Musk commented.
Musk, however, refrained from announcing his support for the senator. But his comment drew many favorable comments from most of his millions of fans on Twitter.
“I like Senator Scott a lot. I’d love to see him and DeSantis as the GOP ticket. We could finally get back to traditional, family value conservatives. In any case, I’d love to see either of them at the top of the ticket,” commented one Twitter user.
“Able bodied.. you work. Can I get an Amen,” another Twitter user applauded, using Scott’s words.
“You endorsing for his presidential run?” another user asked Musk, who did not respond.
In addition to financial power, the billionaire has considerable influence likely to boost the candidate he will support. Musk has 140 million Twitter followers and his statements are receiving unprecedented media coverage.
Musk has not yet said which candidate he intends to officially support.
Scott is credited with 2% of his party’s primary voting intentions. This 57-year-old evangelical Christian, who places his faith at the heart of his political action and carries conservative values on abortion or individual responsibility, intends to distinguish himself from Trump, the big favorite in the Republican primary, with an optimistic message.
Besides Scott, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, is also a candidate. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also planning to run.