It looks like former President Donald Trump will have some high-profile competition from his own party in the 2024 presidential election.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will toss his hat into the presidential ring next week, The Wall Street Journal reported on May 18. While down significantly in the Republican primary polls, DeSantis should stand as Trump’s most serious competition to be the GOP’s candidate to run for the highest office in the land.
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According to the Morning Consult, Trump leads DeSantis by 43 points in the Republican presidential primary. Meanwhile, pollsters at FiveThirtyEight have Trump running ahead of DeSantis by approximately 20 points as of May 17, 2023.
DeSantis is expected to file formal paperwork for a presidential run on May 25, a date which coincides with a major DeSantis donor meeting in Miami, Fla. An official announcement on a White House run is expected on or immediately after that date, The Journal reported.
DeSantis brings both baggage and benefits to a presidential run.
Governor of a Key State
Perhaps his greatest strength is that he’s governor of a key battleground state. Florida is one of the biggest electoral vote prizes in presidential elections, making it closely fought over in every campaign cycle. DeSantis starts with a strong base in the state, having won reelection in 2022, in an off-year election that mostly saw disappointing results for Republicans.
Many Democrats have lambasted the Florida Governor for grappling with Disney, Florida’s largest private employer, pushing tough-on-crime laws and strict immigration laws, and controversial legislation banning discussions of gender and sex at state public schools. Yet those same laws have resonated with the GOP base, giving DeSantis a high national profile for the upcoming Republican primaries.
Depending on one’s political affiliation, DeSantis either succeeded or failed in his management of Florida’s COVID-19 response. The governor’s backers have long pointed to The Sunshine State’s re-opening public schools and private businesses before other states did. The move certainly opened the doors for locked-down citizens of other states to move to Florida during the pandemic, many of whom have stayed there permanently.
From April, 2020 to April, 2021, at the zenith of the pandemic, more than 330,000 people moved to Florida, according to the George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity.
Yet public health advocates were highly critical of Florida’s “open door” policy during COVID-19, pointing to public health risks by not mandating masks and opening public schools early, both of which were cited as significant pandemic risks by the U..S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
DeSantis is Testing the Waters
The “green light” on a White House run also comes at a time when DeSantis is testing the waters in key, early primary states.
Last week, DeSantis held rallies and pumped hands with voters in Iowa, one of the early caucus states. On Friday, May 19, DeSantis is set to meet with key legislators in New Hampshire, an early presidential primary state.
Former President Trump has been a frequent critic of DeSantis, who received Trump’s backing in the 2018 Florida Governor campaign, which DeSantis won over former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by a slim 0.4%.
Trump’s presidential campaign PAC, MAGA, Inc. has been deeply critical of DeSantis’ policies on a wide range of issues, especially on Social Security, Medicare, COVID, and most recently, on abortion.
Last week, Trump bashed Florida’s new six-week abortion ban, stating “Many people within the pro-life movement feel that was too harsh.”
In a rare rebuke of Trump, DeSantis offered a blunt response to the former President and future White House rival.
“And I think that as a Florida resident, you know, he didn’t give an answer about, ‘Would you have signed the heartbeat bill that Florida did?'” he said Tuesday. “I signed the bill. I was proud to do it. He will not answer whether he would sign it or not.”
Expect more of the same as DeSantis makes it official that he’s running for president.