Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lures former Trump donors ahead of a possible 2024 White House run

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running far ahead in the polls in his bid for a second term, is attracting major donors who previously funded the campaigns of former President Donald Trump.

Mr. DeSantis raised nearly $107 million this election cycle and some of the money comes from former Trump donor Walter Buckley Jr., a retired venture capitalist who lives in Palm Beach, not far from Mr. Trump’s Mar A Lago estate. 

Mr. Buckley, a GOP megadonor who gave significant sums to Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, gave Mr. DeSantis $500,000, according to campaign funding data. 

Another GOP megadonor, businessman Richard Uihlein, and his wife donated a total of $1 million to Mr. DeSantis this election cycle. Mr. Uihlein and his wife were major Trump donors during the last presidential election.

Mr. DeSantis’ re-election bid in Florida has attracted other big GOP moneymen, suggesting Republicans are looking beyond 2022 and view Mr. DeSantis as an alternative to Mr. Trump for the 2024 White House race.

Republican megadonor and billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin tops the list, donating $5 million to the Friends of Ron DeSantis political action committee this cycle. 

Daytona Beach business tycoon Gale Lemerand and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus each gave the Friends of DeSantis PAC about half a million dollars. 

Mr. DeSantis is increasingly viewed as a top GOP contender in 2024, although he remains a second choice to Mr. Trump for most GOP voters.  

Mr. DeSantis has run the state in defiance of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 mandates and lockdowns, and he has signed laws banning “woke” school curricula and corporate training, among other conservative initiatives that have won him plaudits from the right. 

Mr. Trump remains extremely popular among Republicans. He has strongly hinted at a third White House run but has not made an official announcement about his plans.

Mr. DeSantis said he’s focused on running the Sunshine State and winning a second term. State polls show Mr. DeSantis with a comfortable lead over his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Charlie Crist.

One poll suggests voters may be looking beyond Mr. Trump. 

Mr. DeSantis, 43, beat Mr. Trump, 76, by four points in a straw poll taken at the Western Conservative Summit held earlier this month in Denver. In other polls, Mr. DeSantis typically ranks second behind Mr. Trump, when it comes to voter preferences for a GOP presidential candidate in 2024.

Mr. Trump contends he would beat Mr. DeSantis in a primary matchup and continually takes credit for helping Mr. DeSantis win his first term as governor in 2018 by giving his coveted endorsement over GOP opponent and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. 

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