If the past few months are any indication, the GOP is in big trouble in 2024.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, though reportedly planning a run for president, has not formally announced yet. But despite that little wrinkle, the GOP is already strongly divided about which man should top the ticket in the next presidential election, and that division is playing right into the Democrats’ hands.
Related: FACT CHECK: Did George Soros Endorse Ron DeSantis?
DeSantis has gained popularity amongst conservatives in the past few years because of his incredible leadership in Florida. His defiance of COVID-19 restrictions and masterful opposition to the woke agenda plaguing schools and Hollywood has been a model for other conservative leaders to follow. Thanks to DeSantis, Florida has transformed from a bellwether battleground to a solidly red state. Many Republicans see him as a rising star within the party, with the potential to succeed Trump as the leader of the conservative movement.
But there is no point in denying that Donald Trump remains an influential figure in the Republican Party. He has a loyal base of supporters who see him as a champion of conservative populism and a powerful voice against the liberal establishment who was severely wronged in the 2020 presidential election. They understandably want him back in the Oval Office because they think he’s the best hope for fixing the damage done by Biden — and because he should have been there in the first place. But the threat presented by DeSantis is making them antsy.
This week, MAGA Republicans shared a video of leftist billionaire George Soros predicting that Ron DeSantis would defeat Trump in a GOP primary. They claimed, falsely, that Soros had “endorsed” DeSantis.
Kari Lake tweeted an article from The Gateway Pundit making this false accusation, and she wasn’t the only one buying into it. “I get George Soros attacking President Trump, but praising DeSantis?” tweeted former Trump official Sebastian Gorka.
Being loyal to Trump doesn’t mean you have to lie about Ron DeSantis. Conservatives should be better than that.
On Friday, after I fact-checked the claim, I monitored social media to see what people were saying about the story. Thankfully, most voices on the right saw through the fake news. But there are plenty of others with a wide reach and religious devotion to Trump who refuse to acknowledge that what Soros said was in no way an endorsement of DeSantis.
In fact, one person responded to my fact-check by sharing a deep-fake audio clip of DeSantis thanking Soros for his endorsement and also claiming to be homosexual. “Please update your fact check,” he told me, apparently having fallen for the fake clip. I can only imagine how many people have bought it because they want to believe DeSantis is a fan of Soros.
This does not bode well for the GOP. Ron DeSantis isn’t even in the race yet, but the threat he presents to Trump in the contest for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination is very real. This is the reason Trump welcomed Nikki Haley into the race but has actively discouraged DeSantis from running, saying he would be disloyal to do so.
And it’s going to get so much worse. If DeSantis does run, and all indications are that he will, the attacks will get worse, and the GOP will ultimately split between MAGA Republicans and DeSantis Republicans.
Sure, bitter primaries are nothing new. In 2008, Hillary and Obama went through a brutal battle, and when Obama won, the party coalesced behind him. Will Trump voters coalesce behind DeSantis if he defeats Trump? Probably not because, as Soros predicted, it’s far more likely that Trump would run third-party or call on his supporters to sit out the election rather than unite.