Trump-DeSantis Collision Gets Closer at Early Showcase for 2024

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are on a collision course for the Republican 2024 nomination and like any good prize fight, that battle is getting under way this weekend in Las Vegas.

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The two star Republicans are addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting, offering donors who are antsy about a third Trump campaign a chance to closely eyeball whether DeSantis is the candidate to move the party forward.

The former president went first with remarks via a video link, while DeSantis, fresh off a landslide re-election victory, will headline the gala dinner at a meeting that’s billed as the first major event with potential 2024 Republican candidates.

Trump ticked off what he considers the accomplishments of his administration for Israel and the Middle East, including relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem and the Abraham Accords. He repeated his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and “Israel lost a lot” as a result.

“You better hope that a certain person wins the election in 2024,” Trump said.

Asked how the GOP can reach suburban voters and independents who voted against Republican candidates in the midterms that the GOP will need to win in 2024, Trump said the party did better than it’s being given credit for and blamed the US Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights for energizing Democrats.

A long-simmering cold war between the two Florida men burst into public view since Republicans started looking more favorably at DeSantis after Trump-backed candidates’ poor performance in the midterm elections denied the party control of the Senate and just barely delivered the House. DeSantis has taken only veiled jabs in response to name-calling and threats from Trump.

DeSantis has taken only veiled jabs in response to name-calling and threats from Trump. But in response to reporters’ questions, DeSantis shot back at a Nov. 15 press conference, saying “go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”

Saturday’s event likely marks the first time Trump and DeSantis have appeared before the same audience since they attended the wedding of Zach Witkoff, the son of real estate mogul Steven Witkoff, to actress Sophi Knight, who starred in 2015’s “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town,” at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, the weekend of April 30.

Besides DeSantis, others appearing at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s conference include former Vice President Mike Pence; former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo; former Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley; Texas Senator Ted Cruz; South Carolina Senator Tim Scott; Florida Senator Rick Scott; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; and outgoing Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin withdrew after the shootings last week at the University of Virginia.

Still, most polls point to Trump and DeSantis as the presumptive front-runners in a potentially crowded 2024 GOP presidential primary. Only Trump has officially declared, while the others are flashing strong signals. Trump has largely ignored the rest of the possible challengers, with the exception of DeSantis and Youngkin.

(Updates with Trump comments starting in third paragraph.)

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