The governor of Florida will likely announce his campaign for the presidential election soon; however, the momentum is long since gone.
Ron DeSantis was the rising star in the Republican cosmos after the midterm election in November. While many of the candidates endorsed by former president Donald Trump fell far behind expectations in the midterms, the governor of Florida scored a landslide victory in his home state, which made him appear suited for even higher orders. For all those in the party who wanted to close the chapter of Trump once and for all, DeSantis was the man who was supposed to succeed in replacing Joe Biden in the White House after the 2024 presidential election.
Just six months after his triumph, the situation looks significantly less rosy for DeSantis, who, according to The Wall Street Journal, will announce his candidacy next week.* If some polls had the 44-year-old ahead of Trump after the midterms, the archconservative governor has receded significantly again in the Republican primary race. In a series of polls since then, DeSantis lies more than 30 points behind his rival 32 years his senior — and this is despite Trump’s huge legal troubles on multiple fronts. Recently, Trump was able to inflict multiple painful losses on DeSantis by securing the support of several Republican congressmen from Florida. For the former president, who has relentlessly made tough attacks against DeSantis for months, these are symbolically important victories in his greatest opponent’s field.
Just No Mudslinging
DeSantis himself, on the other hand, has so far avoided any confrontation with the New York real estate tycoon. At his speeches and appearances, the word “Trump” crosses the Florida governor’s lips as scarcely as a stance on the lie of the stolen 2020 presidential election that is still spread by the former president. DeSantis wants to avoid mudslinging at any cost with Trump and his millions of fans, whom he would have to rely on in an election.
On the contrary, the former navy officer indirectly distinguishes himself — as in regard to Trump’s scandals and his often erratic leadership in his time as president. DeSantis has repeatedly emphasized that there is “no daily drama” with him. At the same time, he promises to successfully complete the things that his rival failed to, be it building a border wall with Mexico or restoring America’s crumbling infrastructure.
However, the two Republican politicians are not substantially different. DeSantis, who sees a serious threat to the American way of life in the “woke” movement and political correctness, paints a picture of classic opposites, as does his rival. The governor of Florida rails against the elite, the media, gender equal politics, communism or all other “left-wing ideologies.” The Harvard graduate sees capitalism; hard, honest work; the traditional family and a strong police force as the solutions to these problems.
The Disney Feud as an ‘Own Goal’**
Meanwhile, the governor has already poured his political ideas into numerous laws in his state. DeSantis tightened abortion law, relaxed access to guns and facilitated death sentences. With a controversial regulation, he prohibited school lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity — initially through third grade, later for all grades.
Not only did DeSantis make quite a few headlines with the law many critics call “Don’t Say Gay,” but he also picked a fight with Disney, which may prove to be a veritable political “own goal.” After the entertainment giant criticized the law, the governor started a genuine crusade of vengeance in which he also removed Disney World’s right to self-administration.
The attacks on one of the most important tax payers and employers in Florida caused many traditionally business-friendly Republicans to shake their heads. The Disney feud was another opportunity for Trump to sharply attack his opponent. The former president scoffed that DeSantis was being “absolutely destroyed” by Disney.
*Editor’s Note: DeSantis officially announced his candidacy on May 24, 2023.
**Translator’s Note: An “own goal” is a goal made in soccer, hockey, etc., when a player accidentally scores against their own team.