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Washington Watch: Trump vs. DeSantis: Midterm election results shake up the Republican 2024 field

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has the edge over Donald Trump to score the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, according to analysts who are assessing the results of the 2022 midterm elections.

DeSantis won re-election by a 19-point margin, while a number of Trump-backed candidates lost their races, such as Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and that state’s GOP gubernatorial candidate, Doug Mastriano.

“The contrast between DeSantis’s triumph and the failure of numerous candidates backed by former President Donald Trump is stark,” said Brian Gardner, chief Washington policy strategist at Stifel, in a note. 

“The results will probably lead some Republican voters to question their future support for Mr. Trump. Gov. DeSantis is, for now, the presumptive frontrunner for the GOP nomination.”

Related: Anti-Trump vote and Dobbs abortion ruling boost Democrats in 2022 election

Also read: Here’s how candidates endorsed by Trump performed in the midterm elections

Trump has bounced back often from setbacks, but the midterm results were meaningful, said Daniel Clifton, a partner and head of policy research at Strategas Securities, in a Barron’s Live interview.

“If you were aligned with Trump, you generally did much worse than a Republican who wasn’t aligned with Trump. Look at the governor of New Hampshire just blowing out the lights with a great win, and then the Senate candidate losing,” said Clifton, referring to Gov. Chris Sununu  and Don Bolduc.

“Look at Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, winning by 25 points, and the Republicans had to spend $30 million to save J.D. Vance’s Senate seat.”

See: Trump-backed J.D. Vance beats Tim Ryan as Republicans retain Senate seat in Ohio

Clifton discussed how the New York Post joined in the praise of DeSantis, with the conservative newspaper saying on its front page Wednesday that the Florida governor is “DeFuture,” as shown below. The paper is published by MarketWatch’s parent company.

“What you saw last night was the future of the Republican Party begin to emerge — which is competent populism as the alternative to Trump,” the Strategas analyst said.

DeSantis was “a major winner last night,” and he’s “clearly ascendant,” wrote Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist at AGF Investments, in a note.

“For the Republicans, the lesson is clear — Donald Trump hurt the party in several races and may become a noisy distraction by winter,” Valliere also said.

DeSantis is now favored to nab the 2024 GOP presidential nomination by betting market PredictIt, which gives him a more than 40% chance, up from less than 30% on Monday and ahead of Trump, who is just below 40%. All other Republican politicians are at 4% or lower.

To be sure, betting markets aren’t always right, with PredictIt users, for example, now looking like they were too bullish on the GOP’s prospects for winning the Senate. They also got a Supreme Court nomination wrong a few years ago.

Trump on Monday said he’ll make a “big announcement” this coming Tuesday in Florida as he teased a third presidential run. Some allies now are calling on the former president to delay his planned announcement.

On Thursday, Trump lashed out at DeSantis, calling him an “average” governor whose political success is owed all to the former president.

U.S. stock indexes 
SPX,
+0.06%

DJIA,
-0.39%

closed sharply lower Wednesday, but then finished with big gains Thursday, as credit went to data that showed high inflation could be peaking. Equities looked on track for a further advance Friday.

Now read: Midterm election results: Control of Congress too close to call, with key Georgia Senate race headed to runoff

And: Here are the congressional seats that have flipped in the midterm elections

MarketWatch Premium: Bitcoin owners are bellyaching about its plunge, but the digital currency’s volatility is no more extreme than that of stocks

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