Former President Donald Trump is widely expected to launch a third bid for the White House on Tuesday night, but nearly 100 elected Utah Republicans have signed a statement urging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to explore challenging Trump for the GOP nomination in 2024.
State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is spearheading the effort.
“One of Trump’s messages was there would be so much winning that people would get tired of winning. Quite frankly, I’m tired of losing,” Weiler said.
Weiler’s statement says the “nation stands at a crossroads” and calls for strong leadership.
“We need a leader who will unify the nation. Governor Ron DeSantis served his country and state well and skillfully navigated the many challenges Florida faced during his first term,” the statement says.
DeSantis is rapidly becoming a favorite among Republicans, especially after he cruised to a landslide victory last week. A recent YouGov poll conducted after the midterm elections finds more Republicans and Republican-leaning independents prefer DeSantis over Trump as the party’s presidential nominee in 2024, 42% to 35%.
Many Republicans blame Trump for the party’s lackluster performance in the midterms after expectations were sky-high that the GOP would retake control of Congress. Instead, Democrats kept the majority in the Senate, while Republicans are likely to win a slim majority in the House. Because of those midterm electoral troubles, several of Trump’s advisers have urged him to hold off on his presidential announcement, but Trump is reportedly pressing ahead, according to The Washington Post.
The list of Utah Republicans who signed on to the letter of support for DeSantis includes several members of the Legislature, including Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, and House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper. Others who added their signature include State Auditor John Dougall, several mayors and city and county council members.
State officials haven’t finished counting all the votes from the 2022 midterm elections, so is the Utah Republicans’ news release premature? Weiler doesn’t think so, noting Trump is kick-starting the 2024 presidential contest, ready or not.
“The last two elections proved Donald Trump is a drag on the party. I think now is the time to send the message. After six years of the party being dominated by Trump, it’s important for people who want to see the party move on to stand up,” Weiler says.
Utah Republican Party Chairman Carson Jorgensen says he’s worried it’s too early for the party to start dividing into factions.
“Let’s see how this plays out. When it comes from the top down, that never works. Let the people decide. But let’s not kill each other in the meantime and draw this rift deeper. We are all on the same team and have the same end goal,” Jorgensen said.
Utah is one of the most Trump-skeptical Republican-led states. In 2016, Trump finished far behind Ted Cruz and John Kasich in the Republican presidential caucus, carrying the state with just 45.5%. In the 2020 presidential election, Trump won Utah, grabbing just 58.13% of the vote. The last Republican presidential nominee to win Utah with less than 60 percent was Bob Dole with 54.8% in 1996.
DeSantis visited Utah in July for a fundraiser where attendees paid $5,000 or more to attend. DeSantis and Trump endorsed Republican Mike Lee in his successful U.S. Senate race against independent Evan McMullin. DeSantis cut a television spot for the conservative Club for Growth and recorded a robocall that went to Utah voters in the days before the midterm election.