Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Since ending his presidential campaign, Ron DeSantis voiced concerns about Trump and left the possibility open for a 2028 run. Michael Dwyer/AP

Ron DeSantis Will Need Friends in D.C. in 2028. He Doesn’t Have Many.

“Donald Trump shows up to their district,” one Republican operative said. “[DeSantis] doesn’t return calls.”

If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is eyeing another presidential bid in 2028, he hasn’t yet started building back the friends and allies he’d need to actually succeed.

Strategists tell NOTUS that even as DeSantis makes a concerted effort to keep up his national profile, he has yet to address the challenges that hindered his campaign, which ended in few delegates and millions of dollars burned through. Likewise, many Florida congressional Republicans — of whom just one of 22 endorsed DeSantis’ presidential run — haven’t been in touch with the governor.

“Donald Trump calls them, Donald Trump shows up to their district, Donald Trump treats them very nicely, Donald Trump’s team calls and says, ‘Hey, the president would love to endorse you in your primary.’ So what the hell are you going to do? [DeSantis] doesn’t return calls,” one Republican operative from Florida who supported DeSantis in the primary told NOTUS asking for anonymity to speak candidly about the governor. “Why would anyone stick their neck out?”

During a 200-person video chat with supporters in late February, DeSantis voiced concerns about Trump’s power in the party, denied interest in being vice president and left the possibility open for a 2028 presidential run, according to audio obtained by NBC News. A top Trump campaign official shot back, calling DeSantis a “small little man” on X.

But it’s unclear whether DeSantis has maintained the political capital, especially outside of Florida, for another political run — without “a hard reset.”

“People in the Republican megadonor space truly hated Donald Trump. They wanted him out. They wanted any solution to getting rid of Donald Trump and they were willing to sort of invest in [DeSantis] in that early window,” said Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson, a vocal DeSantis and Trump critic. “I don’t think he ever gets the benefit of that doubt again, because he turned out to be a guy who burned through $150 million.”

DeSantis’ megadonors, like Robert Bigelow, who donated $20 million to the super PAC supporting DeSantis, Never Back Down, were publicly and privately expressing frustration with his campaign last year. It’s only been a month since he dropped out, and his political tactics could change in the years ahead. But his few relationships in Washington, even after five years in Congress through 2018, don’t bode well for future political allies.

When Florida congressional endorsements were pouring out for Donald Trump last spring, DeSantis’ campaign team unsuccessfully reached out to members to stop the bleed. Now that the governor is back in Florida, he hasn’t made much effort to rebuild bridges, House Republicans told NOTUS.

DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment. The one Florida Republican in Congress who did endorse DeSantis, Rep. Laurel Lee, was formerly his appointed secretary of state. “I have enjoyed a great working relationship with him for many years, so I was proud to support him,” she told NOTUS, but few of her Florida colleagues have much of a relationship with him at all.

“I’ve never really had a conversation with the guy,” Rep. Greg Steube said. “The two times I’ve seen him, I’ve attempted to open up a dialogue, asked him to call me on issues that were important to my district and never heard back.”

Steube has been the most openly critical of the governor’s decision to run against Trump, but even Florida lawmakers who praise the governor say they haven’t talked to him recently. “We’ve got our own fish to fry up here,” said Rep. John Rutherford, adding, “I just wish he’d have waited till ’28.” Rep. Gus Bilirakis said, “I haven’t spoken to him at all since my endorsement of Trump.”

Instead, Republican insiders in Florida are reportedly worried DeSantis will exact revenge on those who didn’t support his presidential campaign.

“I don’t think that’s in his character, personally, but I don’t know,” Rep. Cory Mills said when asked whether he thought DeSantis would hold a grudge against him for endorsing Trump. Mills praised DeSantis’ record in the state but noted that he didn’t know the governor “personally enough” and hasn’t talked to him recently.

Steube reiterated a point to NOTUS that he made to Donald Trump Jr. last spring: that DeSantis’ campaign team had threatened lawmakers with primary challengers if they didn’t endorse him.

“The DeSantis team started pressuring people, ‘Oh don’t go with Trump, don’t endorse Trump,’ when there’s no relationship there and then threatening members of Congress,” Steube told Trump Jr. at the time. “Not me, but there were other members of Congress that were threatened that if they endorsed Trump, that DeSantis was going to primary them.”

No Florida Republican openly confirmed a threat from DeSantis to NOTUS. “That’s a choice that he could make. I would anticipate that if he did that though, I’m gonna get President Trump’s endorsement,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez said, adding that neither has called each other in a long time, but that, “It wasn’t personal, I didn’t reject Ron, I just supported President Trump.”

Sign up for the latest from NOTUS.

At the end of January, DeSantis had $8.8 million in his federal campaign accounts. Remaining funds could be donated to other candidates in local, state or federal elections among other options.

As DeSantis weighs his political future, Florida state Rep. Joel Rudman, who campaigned for DeSantis in Iowa, wants the governor’s “staunch conservative” agenda focused on Florida.

“Without the governor’s engagement, [the Florida Legislature] is almost like a rudderless ship, you’re gonna see all these bills passed in the House and Senate, but there’s no one defining message,” Rudman told NOTUS. “The governor is extremely good at focusing that message like a laser beam.”

Claire Heddles is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow. Alex Roarty, a reporter at NOTUS, contributed to this report.