Ron DeSanctimonious.” It was with this pun, which combines the nickname DeSantis with the word sanctimonious (“hypocrite”, in Portuguese), that former US President Donald Trump referred to Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, re-elected by a large majority for a second mandate in the midterms of November 8.
In addition to signaling the growing popularity of the 44-year-old Republican politician, by using this expression, Trump seems to recognize that he sees Ron DeSantis as a threat to the race for the 2024 election.
Days before announcing his re-election, Trump even warned DeSantis against a potential candidacy for the Republican Party’s nomination for the next Presidential elections. “I would say things about him that are not flattering. I know more about him than anyone else — except maybe his wife,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News on election day.
Although the GOP (Grand Old Party, as the Republican Party, is also known) failed the so-called “red wave” (party color) in Congress in the mid-term elections, Ron DeSantis scored one of the biggest victories that night, defeating the candidate Democrat Charlie Crist with 59.4% of the vote against 40% — a margin of about 1.5 million votes, when four years ago he secured the position of governor of Florida by a meager 32,400 votes, approximately.
To achieve re-election, DeSantis painted traditionally Democratic counties red — including Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous, where a Republican had not won an election in two decades — and increased his percentage of voting among the female, young, independent electorate. and Hispanic. This after a first term marked, above all, by the lifting of restrictions while the US was still struggling with high numbers of cases of Covid-19 and by the ban, in March of this year, on teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity until the third year in public schools — a law that came to be dubbed by LGBT+ community activists “Don’t Say Gay”.
“We embrace freedom, maintain law and order, protect parental rights, respect our taxpayers and reject the woke ideology,” he said in his speech following his re-election as governor. “We choose facts over fear, we choose education over indoctrination, we choose law and order over riots and disorder. Florida was a haven of sanity when the world went crazy,” added DeSantis.
Political analysts and members of the Republican Party see the overwhelming victory of the governor of Florida on the night of November 8 as a stumbling block for Donald Trump, who, a week later, on the 15th, officially announced his re-candidacy for the White House. The result at the polls reinforced the conviction of many who already identified DeSantis as a potential candidate for President of the United States and even his supporters seem to view this hypothesis with good eyes, as they echo “two more years” after his re-election, which the North American press sees it as an expression of support for the possibility of his early resignation as governor to run for president.
Given the similarities to Donald Trump’s speech marks, the governor of Florida is seen by many conservatives as a representative of Trumpism, a “Trump 2.0”, only younger and without the legal problems that the former tenant of the House Branca currently faces, especially since the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Sarah Longwell, a Republican political strategist who conducts focus group interviews with Trump voters, told the BBC that DeSantis is “by far the first name that comes up” when respondents are asked who they would like to have as their Republican nominee if Trump is not around. compete. While she believes DeSantis is “positioning himself” to be a Trump opponent, “it’s not clear” that he can win the nomination within the party.
What is certain is that Ron DeSantis is being cautious about whether he will actually enter the race for the 2024 election, refusing to say whether or not he will be a candidate. An article in The New York Times reveals that, when he was a history teacher at a school in Georgia, he even told his students that maybe one day he would become President. However, even Republicans who want Trump’s defeat, considering that the party has to move forward after the results of the midterms, doubt the possible candidacy of DeSantis, starting with the fact that he has never run at national level, as recalled by The Hill.
From Yale to the House of Representatives and Governor
Ron DeSantis’ political career began in 2012 when he was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served as a member until 2018. Previously, the Republican from Jacksonville, Florida, studied History at Yale University and later Law at Harvard. During his studies, he even performed legal functions in the US Navy, having been deployed to Iraq as a consultant to the Navy Seals.
The Florida gubernatorial election took place in the mid-terms of 2018, when Trump was still leading the US Administration, and, curiously, with the support of the then President. A few days ago, after DeSantis’ re-election was known, Trump said that he sought him “desperately” when he ran for his first term. “Ron had a low approval rating, unfavorable polls and little money, but he said if I supported him, I could win,” Trump said, adding that he fixed the DeSantis campaign, “which had completely fallen apart.”
“Ron DeSanctimonious is playing!”, accused the former US president. “Fake news asks him if he will run if President Trump runs, and he replies, ‘I’m just focused on the gubernatorial race, I’m not looking to the future. Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s not the right answer,” he said.
Going back to 2018, during his campaign for governor, Ron DeSantis launched an ad in which the famous slogan used by Donald Trump appears — “Make America great again” —, and in which he also appears reading to his son Mason : “So, Mr. Trump said ‘you’re fired’ — I love that part,” admits DeSantis, referring to the popular television show “The Apprentice”, hosted by the former Republican President.
Also in that video, DeSantis encourages one of the daughters to “build the wall” while the child played with blocks, which harks back to the wall that Trump wanted to build along the US-Mexico border. Precisely this tough stance against immigration, common between both, was visible a few weeks ago when DeSantis sent about 50 migrants by plane to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, on flights paid for by the State Government. And earlier this year, he pushed through a $12 million budget to move people from Florida to another location.
The right to abortion is another issue where he is side by side with Trump. When the US Supreme Court overturned the country’s 1973 protection of abortion rights, DeSantis said “the prayers of millions” had been answered. Since then, he has said less about the issue, with some speculating that it is a political calculus designed to balance pressure from conservative elements in the Republican Party with the views of Florida voters, most of whom are in favor of abortion rights.
In the case of immigrants, “it was again itself that inserted itself in a very proactive way in a culture war”, evaluated the former spokesman of the republican national committee Doug Heye, in statements to the BBC. Longwell, for his part, believes that DeSantis’ clashes with the press over his more controversial policies may be what is propelling him to political stardom. “The press thinks he’s terrible, and he loves it,” he notes.
According to the Republican strategist, “it’s another thing he (DeSantis) learned from Trump.” “If it angers the media, they talk about him a lot and that helps get his name out there and benefits him with fans and supporters alike,” she points out. But Doug Heye goes further: DeSantis “engages in Trump tactics, but there are political goals in mind behind them”.
An Emerson College poll released on November 22 indicates that Donald Trump would defeat the governor of Florida by a wide margin in a hypothetical 2024 Republican presidential primary: the former president received 55% of the support of registered voters, while DeSantis, his potential rival for the White House nomination, had only 25%.
“What voters are going to look for a year or two from now is very unpredictable,” said Alex Conant, former director of communications for Republican Marco Rubio’s presidential campaigns, as quoted by The Washington Post. But as David Frum, who wrote speeches for former President George W. Bush, put it in an article published in The Atlantic magazine the day after DeSantis won, “if the governor of Florida ever intends to wrest control from the Republican Party to Trump, now is his moment”, with the defeat of the large majority of candidates supported by the incumbent President in the midterms of November 8.
Source: With Agencies