Donald Trump's expected indictment for an alleged hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels is obviously a big complicating factor in his campaign to win next year's GOP presidential nomination. But it's nearly as vexing for the man who looks likely to be his main challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. An indictment would force DeSantis to make a choice: Kowtow to the former president and look weak or use the tawdry sex scandal to try to loosen his grip on the GOP. DeSantis's decision may determine his political future.
Over the last year or so, DeSantis has turned himself into a top presidential contender by treading a careful path, advertising his allegiance to the MAGA masses while building out a profile that is distinct from Trump's - and ultimately, he hopes, more appealing to Republican voters. Most Republicans looking to get ahead (Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, etc.) spent years fluffing Trump's ego on Fox News because that was the surest way to get attention and signal one's Republican bona fides. But this came at a price: Playing the role of Trump courtier consigned them to "beta male" status, making it hard to mount a convincing challenge to him in 2024.