JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Republicans in Michigan, a state that played a pivotal role in sending President Trump to the White House in 2016, are looking past Mr. Trump and pinning their 2024 hopes on a new rising star: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
A group of 18 GOP Michigan state lawmakers recently delivered a letter to Mr. DeSantis urging him to run for president, calling him “uniquely and exceptionally qualified” for the job. They pledged to help him “win Michigan” if he seeks the GOP nomination.
The list of signers makes up a third of all Republicans serving in the Michigan House of Representatives and the letter, obtained by The Washington Times, sends a strong signal that Mr. Trump’s GOP support may be waning in one of the critical rust-belt states that helped him become president.
“In four years, Michigan went from a competitive purple state with Republicans controlling everything — a majority of the congressional delegation, the governorship and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, a majority in both houses of the legislature, the state’s high court — to a blue-leaning state entirely controlled by Democrats,” Dennis Lennox, a Michigan GOP strategist told The Times. “Gov. Ron DeSantis is unquestionably the only 2024 standard-bearer who can put Michigan back into play and lead the GOP back into the majority in the legislature.”
State Rep. Phil Green, who represents a Lansing district and signed the DeSantis letter, told The Times he’s not opposed to Mr. Trump. But he said he believes Mr. DeSantis can win back Michigan in 2024 following Mr. Trump’s nearly three-point loss to Joe Biden in the state in 2020.
Mr. DeSantis has risen in popularity within the GOP and has climbed in national prominence politically after implementing a conservative, pro-business agenda in the Sunshine State that rejected “woke” policies embraced by the Biden administration as well as COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates.
“DeSantis might be that candidate that can put together a strong campaign, who has the conservative credentials and can talk with the average Michigander about issues and show what he’s done,” Mr. Green said.
The Michigan lawmakers join other Republicans and GOP donors nationally who are scouting for an alternative to Mr. Trump.
Mr. DeSantis was re-elected to a second term in November, winning by 20 points. He has not signaled that he plans to run for president.
A spokesman for Mr. DeSantis did not respond to a request for a comment about the letter.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, sought to disprove reports that his campaign is off to a slow start by making what he called a “major political speech” Thursday at his golf club in Miami, Florida.
“The Fake News says I am not campaigning very hard,” Mr. Trump said on his Truth Social media site. “I say they are stupid and corrupt, with the Election still a long time away. But do not fear, MANY GIANT RALLIES and other events coming up soon. It will all be wild and exciting. We will save our Country from DOOM and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
The former president announced his third bid for the White House on Nov. 16, nearly two weeks after Republicans failed to deliver a predicted red wave and many of Mr. Trump’s top endorsed candidates lost their races.
Some Republicans pointed the finger at Mr. Trump for endorsing flawed candidates, including Tudor Dixon, who failed to unseat Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan.
But Mr. Trump appeared to have the backing of high-ranking Michigan Republicans.
Guests at his Mar-a-Lago announcement included Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock and her husband, state Rep. Matt Maddock.
The Michigan GOP did not respond to a request for a comment about the letter. Mr. Maddock said he was unavailable to comment.
Some top Michigan GOP lawmakers criticized his decision to launch another campaign for president, even though Mr. Trump pulled off an upset victory over Hillary Clinton in Michigan in 2016, beating her by about 10,000 votes.
Republican Mike Shirkey, who was Michigan Senate Majority Leader in November, predicted on a local television show that Mr. Trump would lose the GOP nomination.
“It’s a free country, go ahead and run,” Mr. Shirkey said on JTV. “But you’re not going to make it because we’re going to put somebody up that better represents the country.”