Despite his best efforts, it’s looking like Ron DeSantis will not be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. Despite all his legal problems, Donald Trump maintains a solid 30-plus percent of the Republican party voters. With every new entrant into the race—most recently Asa Hutchinson and Tim Scott—DeSantis’ chances go down, and Trump’s increase.
It used to be that a Florida governor was required to resign office to run for president. In its most recent session, the Florida legislature did away with that requirement, meaning DeSantis can continue being governor while running his campaign. Should his candidacy for presidency fail, DeSantis will continue as governor until his second term ends on Jan. 5, 2027. So, what happens next?
According to the Florida Constitution, DeSantis cannot run for a third consecutive term. He could take four years off and run again, but he cannot run for governor in the 2026 election unless there’s a change. Under normal circumstances, that would require putting a measure before the voters, asking them to do away with the present provision preventing him from running. But this is Florida, and anything can happen.
If DeSantis still wants to run for president in 2028, he could take advantage of the time off to begin his campaign. But is the Ron DeSantis we know willing to give up the power he’s carved out for himself? For all practical purposes, DeSantis controls the Florida Legislature. He also controls the Florida Supreme Court, where he has appointed five of the seven judges. He has a personal army: the Florida Guard he resurrected to harass Black voters and Texas asylum seekers. This isn't a man willing to walk away from power.
The requirement that voters need to change the Florida Constitution is tricky, but he’s gotten around it before. Florida voters once restored voting rights to felons. DeSantis got the legislature to implement a requirement that any money owed by the former felons to the state meant their voting right was forfeited. Of course, that was shady politics, but the Florida Supreme Court let the rule stand, so the will of the voters was thwarted. Don’t bet against DeSantis finding a way to get around the constitutional requirement that his time as governor end after two terms. DeSantis may do what other dictators have done before him: make himself governor-for-life unless he is made president first.