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Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, officially joined the Republican primary race for the 2024 presidential election, sparking anticipation for a potentially heated contest between him and former President Donald Trump. While Trump has maintained a significant lead in early polls, DeSantis, who is considered a rising star within the party, has garnered substantial support among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.
A recent survey conducted by ABC News/Washington Post revealed that Trump secured 51% of Republican voters' support, while DeSantis captured 25%. The majority of respondents expressed satisfaction with either candidate as the party's presidential nominee, with 75% favoring Trump and 64% supporting DeSantis.
Although other declared candidates like Nikki Haley and Tim Scott have trailed behind, they have not achieved the same level of support as Trump or DeSantis. The relationship between Trump and DeSantis has become more strained as the latter's national aspirations became apparent, despite their previous alliance.
DeSantis is scheduled to formally announce his candidacy during a live, audio-only Twitter Spaces event with Elon Musk at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday. He filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission earlier in the day. This announcement marks the culmination of months of speculation about the governor's intentions to pursue higher office. Throughout the year, DeSantis made visits to crucial early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, but he waited until the conclusion of the Florida legislative session before officially entering the presidential race.
As he gears up for the campaign, DeSantis has been advocating for Republicans to move beyond Trump. He argued that based on data from swing states, the only viable presidential candidates are Joe Biden and himself. He believes people's opinions of the former president are unlikely to change significantly, making his chances of re-election insurmountable.
During the legislative session, DeSantis solidified his conservative credentials and continued to emphasize controversial culture war issues, which have become his signature focus. He signed bills restricting abortion after six weeks, defunding diversity programs at state universities, and allowing concealed carry of firearms without government-issued permits. In addition, he targeted Disney's self-governing status in Florida after the company opposed the state's Parental Rights in Education Act, which prohibits discussions on sexual orientation and gender in certain K-12 classrooms, leading critics to label it as "Don't Say, Gay."
Over the past week, DeSantis has been highlighting his achievements in front of audiences that typically influence Republican primary outcomes. During a speech at a gala hosted by the Florida Family Policy Council, an anti-abortion group, he promised a "war on the woke," advocated for harsh penalties for those involved in gender confirmation procedures, and spoke out against critical race theory being taught in K-12 education, an issue that many conservatives find objectionable.
DeSantis gained national attention during the COVID-19 pandemic when he deviated from public health guidance on masks and vaccines, arguing that certain restrictions were excessive and unnecessary. He has demonstrated a willingness to provoke Democrats and challenge mainstream media, with his staff frequently engaging in confrontations on Twitter with reporters over what they perceive as biased coverage.
Born in Jacksonville and raised in Dunedin, a Tampa suburb, DeSantis graduated from Yale University, where he played baseball, and Harvard Law School before serving in the Navy as a lawyer starting in 2004. He first held political office in 2013 as a representative for Florida's 6th Congressional District, serving until 2018. In 2018, with Trump's endorsement, DeSantis secured the Republican nomination for governor and narrowly defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum in the general election.
Since becoming governor, DeSantis has overseen a significant shift in Florida's political landscape, with the state leaning more towards the Republican Party. He attributes these conservative victories to his leadership style, even in the face of criticism from within his party, including Trump, who referred to him using the nickname "DeSanctimonious." Despite such remarks, DeSantis remains focused on his accomplishments, emphasizing Florida's progress under his governance. In the 2022 reelection, he won by the largest margin in Florida history, securing nearly 20% more votes than his Democratic opponent.