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DeSantis Donors Called to Miami, Sparking Speculation He'll Announce 2024 Run

(Bloomberg) -- Ron DeSantis is summoning financial backers for a meeting in Miami next week, raising speculation among donors he’ll announce his presidential bid then and formally challenge Donald Trump for the GOP nomination, according to people invited to the meeting.

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Aides to the Florida governor have invited donors for an event the evening of May 24 and a political briefing the next morning. “Following the briefing, the fun begins! All guests are encouraged to stay and work with the Team through the night of the 25th,” reads an invitation obtained by Bloomberg News. “Casual attire and jeans encouraged!”

Backers are interpreting that to mean they will be involved in fundraising calls to friends and allies on behalf of a nascent DeSantis campaign, according to conversations with people invited, who asked not to be identified discussing the confidential plans.

Before contributions can be solicited, federal election laws require DeSantis to first announce he is running, leading many to surmise that will happen before or during the two-day meet-up, according to those people.

DeSantis is expected to have a formal kickoff with a crowd the week of June 1 in his hometown of Dunedin, Florida, but donors think a campaign announcement of some kind could come ahead of that event.

A DeSantis spokesman declined to comment.

The announcement will officially bring a rival once seen as former President Trump’s strongest potential challenger into the race. DeSantis, though, has been losing ground in the polls and suffered missteps that led major donors such as Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire co-founder of Blackstone Inc., to privately express concerns about whether he will be able to defeat Trump, the Republican frontrunner.

Earlier: Schwarzman Holds Off Giving Money to DeSantis After Meeting Him

Trump has built a 36-point advantage in the RealClearPolitics average of polls and has hammered the governor on issues from Ukraine to Florida’s economic record as well as his social skills and dealings with state legislators, with the aim of weakening DeSantis before he can even declare.

Read more: Trump Pivots to Biden in Bid to Assert He’s De Facto GOP Nominee

The team has sought to counter donors’ trepidation by hosting private dinners at the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee where DeSantis and senior staff laid out the rationale for his potential candidacy. In private, he has been pitching himself as the drama-free alternative to Trump, more conservative and more electable to GOP primary voters exhausted by the former president’s ongoing legal challenges.

His campaign-in-waiting told donors recently that its polling shows DeSantis has a good chance to perform well in early voting states such as New Hampshire and Iowa. In particular, the team is courting Iowa’s evangelical voters, who hailed the governor’s passage of a six-week abortion ban in Florida.

Read more: DeSantis Courts Donors as Drama-Free Alternative to Trump

His team also told donors last week it believes DeSantis has a better chance than Trump of winning Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona in a match-up against President Joe Biden. Trump carried all three states in 2016 before losing them in 2020. And the DeSantis team argues he could potentially serve for eight years if he wins two terms, while Trump can only serve four more under US law.

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