It wasn't long ago that Ron DeSantis was a political unknown. But Florida's Republican governor has gained ground as a top challenger to Donald Trump for the nomination in 2024.

For many Republicans, Trump is still the face of the party. Trump has effectively convinced many in his base that the election was stolen, which has perhaps helped him gain popularity.

Yet a recent straw poll conducted at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver had DeSantis polling ahead of Trump, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. According to betting site Bet365, DeSantis has the fourth-best odds of winning the White House, trailing Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and Trump.

“If Trump has any plans for 2024 he needs to stop Ron DeSantis right now,” said David Jolly, a former Republican Congressman from Florida.

At age 42, DeSantis has youth on his side. Some Republican strategists may feel that DeSantis would have an advantage over Trump against the Democratic nominee, since Trump is 75 years old.

He also has recently made a national name for himself in conservative circles for his opposition to COVID lockdowns, and Black Lives Matter protests, as well as restricting access to ballot drop boxes. Whereas he has not only drawn sharp criticism from many Democratic lawmakers for his stance on protests, they have also dubbed him "DeathSantis" due to his handling of the pandemic.

Trump can still go into the election cycle with key advantages. Trump’s personal views on issues such as immigration, taxes, the economy, and the second amendment have been shared by the overwhelming majority of Republican voters.

Republican voters may want to move on from Trump after two consecutive losses in the popular vote. DeSantis, who hails from a key battleground state, might be the best alternative, given his strong conservative credentials and likelihood of capturing Florida's 30 electoral votes.

DeSantis has not announced whether he will run. He has stated that he is focused on his re-election campaign in 2022. The last time an incumbent lost a Florida gubernatorial election was in 1990.