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Race to 2024: Montanans weigh in on Trump, DeSantis, possible party split

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Posted at 6:42 PM, Nov 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-18 10:41:17-05

BILLINGS — Just one week after elections, former President Donald Trump made an announcement many knew was coming.

"In order to make America great and glorious again, tonight I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States," Trump said Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

The announcement was expected—but that didn't make it any less exciting for Aaron Flint.

“We see a freedom fighter in Donald Trump, and we see a freedom fighter in (Florida Gov.) Ron DeSantis," Flint said.

Flint hosts a daily conservative talk show in Billings, Montana Talks, which broadcasts across the state.

The 2024 presidential election prospects have already been a popular topic to bounce back and forth with listeners and regular guests, like David Knobel.

“I think Donald Trump obviously is the heavy favorite with people right now. That’s what I’m hearing right now," Flint said. "Because he’s already been there, he’s already won the White House, and people will say ‘yeah, but what about 2020?’ Well, what about the two years since 2020?”

The Trump-DeSantis dynamic is a hot topic in the world of politics right now, with wagers on who will win the Republican nomination, the possibility of a party split, and the pros and cons of backing an up-and-comer or the current face of the party.

"You hear a lot of people talking about a potential rivalry between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, but look back at the big rivalries in 2016, it was exciting, it got people excited about the 2016 election. And what ended up happening? Donald Trump pulled it off," Flint said.

For Paul Pope, MSU Billings associate professor of political science, Trump's announcement didn't drum up much excitement.

“Trump and his announcement—it landed on America with a resounding thud," Pope said.

To Pope, the former president's candidacy seems more like a liability.

“I think Trump--given his personality and most likely that DeSantis is going to get the nomination—will try to run as an independent or start a third party if he doesn’t get the nomination, which I think is very likely," Pope said. "If that happens, it’s pretty much guaranteed Democrats are going to win the 2024 election.”

Trump won in Montana both in 2016 and 2020. In 2020, he carried the state with nearly 60% of the vote.

Where Pope and Flint agree—there will be a lot to talk about leading up to 2024.