A new favorite has emerged among possible Republican presidential successors to Donald Trump.
Wealthy GOP donors are lining up behind the 2022 re-election campaign for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is moving past former vice president Mike Pence and other potential contenders should Trump choose to sit out the 2024 presidential race, reported Politico.
"He's in the top tier, should he choose to run for president," said Art Pope, a conservative donor and chair of the influential Bradley Foundation.
Republican donors appreciate DeSantis' refusal to institute strict measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and they see him as a potentially more attractive version of the last president.
"[He's] a nicer version of Trump," said Joanne Zervos, a New York City donor who specifically mentioned DeSantis' handling of the pandemic.
DeSantis aides insist he's focused on his re-election campaign, but the governor is building a nationwide donor network that resembles the foundation George W. Bush built for his 2000 presidential campaign during his own re-election race for Texas governor two years earlier.
"[He] has a major political future in the Republican Party," said Don Tapia, who served as Trump's ambassador to Jamaica and will host a DeSantis fundraiser at his Arizona home. "[He's a] strong candidate I would truly look at."