Ron DeSantis expected to announce White House bid on Wednesday

The Florida governor’s biggest rival in the Republican primaries is former U.S. president Donald Trump, who has a double-digit lead according to the polls

Ron DeSantis
Ron DeSantis at an event in Tampa, Florida in November 2022.GIORGIO VIERA (AFP)

In the great spectacle of U.S. politics, important announcements are leaked ahead of time. The media reported that Joe Biden and Donald Trump would announce a run for the White House days before they each made the formal announcement. And it has happened again with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Since last week, local media — citing sources close to the governor — have been reporting that DeSantis is getting ready to announce his 2024 White House bid on Wednesday.

Before DeSantis can run for the White House, he will first have to convince the rank-and-file of the Republican Party that he is the ideal candidate. But winning the Republican presidential primaries will not be easy, given he will be facing off against Trump, who saw a popularity boost in the wake of his indictment in March. DeSantis may tick the right boxes — he is a technocrat educated at Yale and Harvard University, he served in the military, and he has carefully cultivated the image of the perfect family man willing to get his hands dirty to fight in the country’s ideological wars, be it on abortion, trans rights, critical race theory or book bans.

Despite this, the polls give Trump a double-digit advantage over DeSantis. With 18 months to go until the 2024 election, one thing does appear clear: the Republican primary is set to be a battle between the former president and the governor. The other Republican presidential candidates, such as the former governor of South Carolina Nikki Hailey, millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy and Senator Tim Scott, the most recent Republican to throw his hat in the ring, are much less likely to win the primaries.

DeSantis is expected to announce his White House bid on a video on social media, just as Biden did about a month ago. He will then meet with donors at a hotel in Miami. The big Trump-style event will have to wait. The closest thing to Trump’s flashy presidential announcement at Mar-a-Lago is likely to happen at the end of the month in Dunedin, the charming seaside resort where DeSantis grew up.

The announcement will mean that DeSantis can start raising funds for his presidential campaign, and will face greater accountability. But the governor has arguably been on the campaign trail since at least the midterm election in November, when he achieved a landslide victory and defeated his Democrat opponent by a margin of 1.5 million votes. Since then, he has been passing laws nonstop, as if in a hurry to cross off every item on his fiercely conservative agenda before heading to Washington. A move that is also intended to sell his credentials as a strong politician willing to battle against what he calls woke progressivism.

Ultra-conservative laws

In half a year, DeSantis has signed an impressive list of laws that have profoundly changed Florida, which not so long ago was considered a purple state — neither fully Democratic nor fully Republican. These laws include a six-week limit on abortion, which effectively equates to a total ban, and a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Under the rules, teachers in Florida are also prohibited from telling students their preferred pronouns and from asking them about their preferred pronouns, and from teaching lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity. This applies to student through to 12th grade, which includes 18-year-olds. DeSantis also signed a bill that blocks public colleges from using federal or state funding on diversity programs, eased the requirements to carry a weapon and made it easier for a jury to sentence a person to death: before a unanimous ruling from the 12-member jury was needed, not only eight jurors need to vote in favor.

How these measures will be perceived outside of Florida remains to be seen. It’s also not known how DeSantis’ fight against Disney over its opposition to his so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law will be received by voters in the rest of the country. It will also be interesting to see how a politician who is neither a great speaker nor traditionally charismatic will perform in the presidential campaign. But his biggest obstacle is no doubt Trump, who has been mocking and attacking him for months — even giving him the nickname of Ron DeSanctimonious. DeSantis, for the moment, has avoided a showdown with Trump, but sooner or later he will have to. And as many before him can testify, the former president is not exactly an easy opponent.

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