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I spent the January 6 anniversary near Trump's Mar-a-Lago, and Ron DeSantis' name kept coming up for 2024

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donald trump ron desantis
Then-President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis in Sunrise, Florida, on November 26, 2019.Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • About 300 Trump supporters gathered outside Mar-a-Lago on the anniversary of the Capitol attack.

  • They told me they wanted former President Donald Trump to run again in 2024.

  • But they also picked a very close second favorite: Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

I woke up on the morning of the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol expecting to spend my whole day covering former President Donald Trump.

I didn't expect to get an earful about Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Yet that is exactly what happened.

It all started when I woke up to an email from DeSantis' office alerting reporters that he would be holding a press conference in West Palm Beach, not far from where I was planning to cover a pro-Trump rally for Insider outside Mar-a-Lago later that day.

Just two days earlier, Trump abruptly canceled a press conference he was going to host at his private club in Palm Beach where he lives, but his most fervent supporters were still planning to gather at a rally down the road in a Publix supermarket parking lot.

I recently relocated from Washington, DC, to South Florida to cover the 2022 midterms, DeSantis' reelection, and the lead-up to the 2024 election. This would be my first in-person press conference with DeSantis, so I decided to attend and see whether I could ask the Republican governor a few questions.

The DeSantis press conference was about how Florida was making more at-home COVID-19 tests available to seniors, but the governor took questions on other topics, too

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference in West Palm Beach
DeSantis held a press conference in West Palm Beach on Thursday.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

I asked DeSantis whether he, having served as a US House member from January 2013 to September 2017, wanted to comment on the January 6 riot anniversary.

In response, DeSantis railed against Washington- and New York-based journalists, saying they were "obsessed" with covering the attack.

"January 6 allows them to create narratives that are negative about people that supported Donald Trump," he said, adding that he wouldn't be watching the coverage and thought Florida voters were focused on other issues.

I had also asked DeSantis whether he planned to talk to Trump — who while president would sometimes host DeSantis at the White House — but he didn't answer that part of the question.

After the press conference, I drove to Palm Beach to cover the pro-Trump 'Freedom Rally'

Trump supporters at the "Freedom Rally" in Palm Beach
Trump supporters at the Freedom Rally in Palm Beach.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

I spent many hours talking to supporters down the road from Mar-a-Lago. Many of them had even been in Washington on January 6 a year ago, but everyone I spoke with said they weren't part of the mob that broke into the Capitol.

Organizers told me earlier in the day that as many as 1,000 people could be attending; I would estimate that roughly 300 showed up by the time nightfall arrived, not counting pro-Trump trucks that drove by the rally. The rally started at about 4 p.m. with a few people and gradually grew by 6 p.m. local time.

Trump supporters waited for hours to spot the former president

Trump supporter in Palm Beach
A Trump supporter in Palm Beach.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

A photographer for the New York Post told me Trump did drive by the rally before it officially started — he even caught an exclusive of Trump giving a thumbs-up — but only a couple of supporters had gathered at that point and actually said they saw Trump.

Alan Metser, a leader of the group America's First Responders who was one of the organizers of the rally, told me he thought the event was a success anyway. I ended up interviewing about 20 people throughout the day.

I talked to supporters while we waited to catch a glimpse of Trump

Numerous pro-Trump trucks drove by
Numerous pro-Trump trucks drove by.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

Event organizers said they expected Trump to drive by the rally a second time, so attendees eagerly gathered on the sidewalk to watch for him.

The people were unwavering in their support for Trump and want him to run again in 2024.

"And if he doesn't? Who would you hope would be the Republican nominee?" I asked.

Everyone I asked had the same answer: DeSantis.

DeSantis 2024 T-shirts were even for sale at the event

DeSantis T-shirts were for sale
DeSantis T-shirts were for sale at the pro-Trump rally in Palm Beach.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

DeSantis is running for reelection as governor of Florida and has not said he's running for president, but his name keeps coming up in my interviews with establishment Republicans and outside groups as a 2024 contender for the White House.

So it was interesting to see that same support coming from some of the most enthusiastic Trump voters.

One artist told me he had Trump-DeSantis 2024 hats made.

Maga Jackson, artist
Maga Jackson, an artist who supports Trump.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

Maga Jackson, who records songs about Trump, told me he wanted Trump and DeSantis to run together. He said he had hats in his car to give out.

"I would love to meet him," Jackson said of DeSantis.

Others were also in favor of Trump and DeSantis running on the same ticket

Most people who drove by honked in support of Trump
Most people who drove by honked in support of Trump.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

Danny Hamilton, the owner and president of Star Coaches Inc., which has a pro-Trump design on a bus he had parked in the Publix parking lot, told me he thought a Trump-DeSantis ticket would result in "the biggest blowout of all time."

Trump voters see similarities and differences in their styles

Edward Manak
Edward Manak.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

Edward Manak, an Army veteran, told me he wanted Trump to run again but would love to see DeSantis become president someday, saying the two had "the same energy." He said Trump could be "down and dirty" in his interactions, while "DeSantis is a little cooler."

The interviews suggested DeSantis could get the enthusiasm of at least some Trump voters

Pro-Trump T-shirts
Pro-Trump T-shirts.Kimberly Leonard/Insider

Luis Carabetti, who'd come up from Coral Gables, Florida, said he also hoped Trump would run for president again, adding, unprompted: "He or Ron DeSantis."

"I want them both to be on that ticket," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider