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Ron DeSantis, from Donald Trump’s heir to rival

Ron DeSantis looks like the model candidate for the American presidential election: a graduate with honors from Yale and Harvard, a bronze star for meritorious service in the army… Officially a candidate for the 2024 election, he joins his rival Donald Trump in the race for the Republican nomination.

One is young, cherished by the hard right, and has just announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election after being re-elected hands down as head of Florida a few months ago. The other is in his seventies, freshly charged, but is riding well ahead in the polls for the Republican nomination.

The battle between the two favorites of the Republican camp for 2024 promises to be at loggerheads. Called “DeFuture” by the front pages of conservative newspapers after his very good performance in the midterm elections, Ron DeSantis, 44, in whom many conservatives have placed their hopes, hopes to take advantage of a momentum to impose himself against his rival now that he is officially a candidate.

Last August, an article in the National Review (the standard-bearer of American conservatism) considered DeSantis the true “leader of the opposition”, praising him for championing conservative causes where other state governors (notably those in Utah and Arkansas) balked.

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Donald Trump himself had set his sights on Ron DeSantis during his inaugural gubernatorial bid in 2018, attending rallies in Florida and calling him a “brilliant young leader”, only to realize he was actually becoming a rival.

Because Ron DeSantis, who shares the ideas of the former president of the United States but not the excesses, almost daily makes the headlines of American newspapers, caught up in his fight against the supposed “good-thinking”.

Culture Wars

“Florida is the tomb of ‘wokism'”, declared the boss of the “Sunshine State” in November. As such, this man with a compact physique and a rare smile throws himself into the “culture wars” of the far right.

The governor of Florida notably became anti-mask during the Covid-19 pandemic. He also banned schools from teaching “critical race theory” — the idea that racial inequality is systemic and therefore intrinsic to, say, the U.S. criminal justice system — although that reading framework did not have official place in school curricula.

He is also behind a campaign to ban math textbooks in his state that are deemed too “woke,” and a controversial law in Florida (nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay”) that limits discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.

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Even before the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade judgment, Ron DeSantis entered the abortion debate by signing a law banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

In September, he was also criticized for transferring illegal migrants to the wealthy island of Martha’s Vineyard (Massachusetts) as part of a costly – and cruel for many critics – political campaign by Republican governors aimed at displacing the Immigration to Democratic Regions.

He is now the subject of a Treasury Department investigation into whether DeSantis used federal pandemic relief funds to fly the two planes of Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

Ron DeSantis has finally gone to war against Disney, deeming the company too progressive since its leaders publicly denounced, in 2022, its bill which restricted the teaching of subjects related to sexual orientation and the identity of gender in Florida elementary schools. In February, he ended the special status that Disney had enjoyed in his state since the 1960s. The governor also publicly mentioned the construction of a prison near Disney World or new taxes on hotels on the site.

Trump style

Despite the controversies, these offensive and high-profile actions helped raise Ron DeSantis’ profile nationally.

Like Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis too is prone to concealment and hyperbole – Politifact, a website that checks the veracity of promises and commitments made by American politicians, has classified many of his public statements as “false” or “almost false”.

But DeSantis also displays notable differences with the former American president, in particular when he worried about the growing deficit which began to swell while Donald Trump was in power. He also backed legislation to tackle rising sea levels. And he also backed tougher sanctions on Russia, where Trump thought Ukraine needed to work on a deal. with Vladimir Putin.

Quoted by the New York Times, an ally of DeSantis defined the Florida governor’s policy as “competent Trumpism”.

In his face-to-face with Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis can in any case count on an imposing war chest of 110 million dollars, thanks to which he hopes to catch up a little by flooding the country with commercials.

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In one of his political action committee’s recent videos, a man is seen putting a “DeSantis president” sticker on a car, replacing a “Trump 2016.” This is a summary of the message that the governor wants to send to voters: facing the 76-year-old billionaire, Ron DeSantis claims to embody the new guard.

The latter could also count on the support of the many anti-Trumps of the Republican Party – some of whom have since voted for the Democrats – which gives him an even broader national appeal.

“There are a lot of establishment Republicans who would come home to DeSantis,” David Jolly, a former Republican congressman who served with DeSantis and has since become an Independent, told The Washington Post in September.

According to him, DeSantis “adopted Trump’s agenda in Florida and did things similar to Trump…but he’s actually very far removed from it.”

And while Trump gave no quarter to his critics or political opponents, DeSantis tries to show he can rise above politics when the occasion calls for it.

So last September, Ron DeSantis congratulated President Joe Biden for declaring a state of emergency, freeing up federal funds for Florida and allowing agencies to coordinate relief efforts before the passage of Hurricane Ian. “We appreciate the Biden administration’s consideration for the people of Florida in this time of need,” he said.

A real shift in tone for DeSantis, who routinely uses the president as a political stooge, criticizing him on issues ranging from Afghanistan to vaccination mandates.

From Harvard to Guantanamo

His path to the White House, however, remains strewn with pitfalls. The governor is seriously behind Donald Trump – officially a candidate since November 16, 2022 – according to numerous opinion polls.

Polls that must be taken with tweezers, as the ballot is still far away, but that Donald Trump hastened to share on his social network on Tuesday, from the first rumors of Ron DeSantis’ announcement.

The main handicap of this father of three children: a lack of charisma, pointed out from all sides, despite an exemplary career.

In 2019, when DeSantis was sworn in as governor, he was just 40 years old and Florida’s youngest governor in a century. His official biography invariably describes him as a “Floridian by birth with blue-collar roots” who then followed a high-flying trajectory from Yale University to Harvard Law School (he graduated with honors at both ).

Ron DeSantis graduated from Naval Justice School in 2005 and was assigned the following year as a military attorney at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba, where his responsibilities included ensuring that detainees were treated in accordance with the law, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times. He then served as legal adviser to the commander of special forces in Fallujah during the “reinforcement” of US troops in Iraq in 2007.

He was first elected to Congress in 2012 as a representative for Florida’s Sixth District. During his first term, he co-founded the Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-right conservative lawmakers. He also became a frequent guest on Fox News and won support for the virulently anti-Obama right-wing Tea Party before being re-elected in 2016.

A Republican divide?

In 2017, when Trump becomes president, DeSantis is one of his strongest supporters. He spends time observing her and goes so far as to partly adopt her style.

According to testimony collected by Rolling Stone magazine, the former president allegedly accused DeSantis of “stealing” some of his mannerisms. A video from The Recount also underlines the parallels in a montage placing the two men speaking side by side in split screen.

“DeSantis certainly mimics Trump’s style, rhetoric and body language,” longtime Republican Party donor Dan Eberhart told Rolling Stone, adding that DeSantis’ “pompous” style seems to be “ripped straight from a style guide to Donald Trump”.

While Dan Eberhart has donated to Trump in the past, he said he preferred to support DeSantis in the upcoming presidential race.

Enough to fuel the invectives that Donald Trump does not fail to launch against his rival. According to the Washington Post, the former president called the governor “ingrateful,” telling his advisers, “I did it myself.”

“The problem with DeSantis is that he would need to have a personality transplant,” Donald Trump mocked recently on his network, Truth Social.

Article adapted from English in November 2022 by Pauline Rouquette and updated in May 2023 by Romain Brunet. Find the original version here.

France 24-Trans

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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