Steve Bannon is courting Ron DeSantis after expressing frustration with Trump

Steve Bannon on Saturday praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for moving “to the right” of Donald Trump after expressing frustration with the former president in recent weeks.

DeSantis is considered one of Trump’s key potential opponents in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Unlike Trump, DeSantis hasn’t announced any formal plans to run, but polls find him strong support among conservative voters, suggesting he’s encroaching on Trump’s base could, as the ex-president’s election campaign falters.

Trump has been plagued by a myriad of controversies in recent weeks, being reprimanded for backing candidates who lost key races in the midterm elections, dining with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and calling for the US Constitution to be “cancelled.” In addition to being condemned by the usual Trump opponents, his supporters have also voiced their criticism.

Earlier this month, Bannon called on Trump for failing to use his political power to take on top priorities for conservative voters, including amnesty and a massive spending bill aimed at keeping the government open — as well as his “major announcement” of one $99 digital NFT trading card by itself.

Bannon endorses DeSantis after expressing frustration with Trump
Former President Donald Trump (left) and Steve Bannon are seen. Bannon on Saturday praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for moving to Trump’s right after expressing frustration with the ex-president in recent weeks.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images; Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Amid his remarks criticizing the former president, Bannon praised DeSantis in a Gettr post Saturday morning, specifically citing DeSantis’ position on the COVID-19 vaccine.

“DeSantis is moving to President Trump’s right – specifically on: The Vaxx,” Bannon wrote.

The Florida governor has become a leading critic of vaccination mandates. This week he asked a grand jury to investigate whether Floridians were misled by manufacturers about the vaccine’s safety. While Trump has also spoken out against mandates, he has also spoken out in favor of the vaccine, endorsing the initial rollout at the end of his term as president.

Trump’s support for vaccines has put him at odds with some segments of the GOP base, as many Republican voters rejected the COVID-19 vaccine despite health officials claiming it is safe and prevents serious illness if a person contracts the deadly virus .

Joe Lowndes, a professor of political science at the University of Oregon, said news week on Saturday that while pandemic politics likely won’t be a big issue in the 2024 election, vaccines offer DeSantis an opportunity to “outflank Trump from the right.”

Still, he questioned how much appeal the vaccine issue will have among GOP voters — as long as COVID-19 doesn’t make a “very big” resurgence — given that neither Democrats nor Republicans are pushing for vaccine mandates nearly three years after cases were first reported in the U.S .

“It’s unclear what kind of promises DeSantis could make that would have teeth,” Lowndes added.

According to Lowndes, should DeSantis decide to run, he will present himself as a more responsible version of Trump, who has already enacted policy in Florida regarding contentious culture war issues such as transgender rights or the Critical Race Theory (CRT). DeSantis could benefit from voters being jaded by Trump’s legal woes, but he could still have trouble connecting with voters, Lowndes said.

“Targeting a national audience is different than targeting a nationwide audience,” added Lowndes. “I think DeSantis will have trouble becoming a candidate who is comfortable at that level of campaigning.”

While Bannon has expressed frustration with Trump, he has not said he would support another candidate against him in the 2024 Republican primary and has maintained his support for his policies. In a previous statement too news week, Bannon described Trump as “the leader of the Republican Party and MAGA/America First, the most powerful political movement in American history.”

Meanwhile, he joined fellow Republicans in criticizing Trump’s NFT rollout.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Bannon said in response to the announcement. “He’s one of the greatest presidents in history, but I gotta tell you whoever… business associates [or] someone on the communications team and someone in Mar-a-Lago… and I love the people down there, but we’re at war – they should be fired today!”

Bannon’s comments come after a poll showed support for Trump has plummeted among Republican voters. That United States today/Suffolk University poll found DeSantis supported by 56 percent of GOP primary voters compared to Trump’s 33 percent.

news week asked Bannon’s rep for comment.

Update 12/17/2022 4:11 PM ET: This article has been updated to include a comment from Lowndes. Steve Bannon is courting Ron DeSantis after expressing frustration with Trump

Rick Schindler

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