Trump has just a handful of open supporters of his 2024 presidential bid in Congress.
We asked some of them why Trump was preferable to DeSantis, who's been heralded as a savvier alternative.
"He's done a good job in Florida. That's one state," said Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
Less than a month out from announcing his 2024 presidential campaign, former President Donald Trump's comeback bid has just a handful of vocal supporters in Congress.
Among them are some of the usual hardline Republican suspects, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
But two impeachments, an unprecedented assault on both the Capitol and the foundations of American democracy, and a penchant for embracing extremists have diminished the former president's stature in the eyes of many in the rest of the congressional GOP, many of which are somewhere between openly critical of Trump and in a kind of wait-and-see mode.
And as other Republicans — including former Trump administration officials — look towards launching their own 2024 campaigns, one man in particular has stood out as a promising alternative for those who believe in Trump's policies but may have bemoaned his political style: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis, who's increasingly caught the former president's ire amid speculation that the popular governor could mount his own 2024 campaign, is viewed as a savvier, less problematic alternative to the twice-impeached former president.
Though much like the former president, he's pursued controversial policies while in office, including keeping his state open during the COVID-19 pandemic, using state resources to fly migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in an apparent political stunt, and signing a controversial "Parents' Rights in Education" bill that advocates say has chilled the expression of LGBTQ people in the classroom.
Insider asked some of the former president's few congressional supporters why they're already on the Trump train — and why they're sticking with him over the alternatives. Some spoke of Trump's "experience," as well as the "unfinished business" of his first term.
"Obviously, a lot of the personality things, a lot of people didn't like," said Tuberville of Trump. "I think the leadership role experience really pays off."
He added that people were "right" to point out that DeSantis doesn't bring the same "personality things" that Trump has, but suggested his experience was limited. "He's done a good job in Florida. That's one state," he said.
"We need several people to run. I think DeSantis will run, I think Trump will run, I think you'll have two or three of my friends here in the Senate will run," he added. "You might even have a couple more governors running. But we need as many as possible."
By contrast, Republican Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas — who formerly served as Trump's White House Physician — was not supportive of a competitive presidential primary process.
"I'd say no," said Jackson when asked if DeSantis should even run. "I don't need to see any more. I know Trump knows what needs to be done."
Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana said it was "wrong" to suggest DeSantis would be better than Trump, calling the former president the best "we've ever had in my lifetime." And he suggested that it was politicians, rather than everyday Americans, who are pining for an alternative.
"Before I came to this body, my colleagues were cops, and firemen, and construction workers, soldiers, bikers," he said. "Those colleagues? We're coming out to vote for Trump. Most of these other guys are just politicians."
Republican Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas shrugged off questions about Trump's character versus that of DeSantis, saying he tells friends that "we're not electing the Pope" when the topic arises.
Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, the leader of the Republican Study Committee and a potential Senate candidate in 2024, declined to comment on the question, despite telling the New York Times that he backed Trump shortly after this year's midterm elections.
"Why don't you reach out to Buckley and we'll talk another time," he said, referring to his communications director Buckley Carlson, the son of the controversial Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Others weren't keen to acknowledge the likelihood of Trump being challenged at all.
"DeSantis hasn't announced he's running," said Greene, who's offered praise for his performance as Florida governor. "I don't know, I can't speculate."
Reached for comment, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida's office referred Insider to an op-ed the congressman wrote shortly after the election.
In it, Gaetz wrote that "Trump alone" can lead the party while criticizing GOP billionaire mega-donor Ken Griffin, who's reportedly ready to back DeSantis, as a member of the "Swamp." But Gaetz, who co-chaired DeSantis's gubernatorial transition team in 2018, avoided directly criticizing his state's governor.
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