In a long-awaited moment, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will announce his candidacy for President of the United States in a Twitter Space with Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk at 7 pm ET tonight. Musk, one of the world’s richest men, has in the past said he would support DeSantis for President if he ran in 2024 but now says he won’t be endorsing anyone for President in 2024.
Ron DeSantis has long been anointed as an important part of the future of the Republican Party. While Former President Donald Trump is most certainly the party’s leader, DeSantis is the only other political figure to receive remotely as much public interest and attention as Trump. DeSantis has served as the Governor of Florida for more than a term and previously served three terms in the US House. While DeSantis defeated Andrew Gillum by just 0.4% to become Governor of Florida in 2018, he dominated his campaign for re-election in 2022, winning by 19.4% and outperforming Trump’s 2020 margin by a sizable amount. DeSantis has successfully championed various conservative policies in Florida, which some of his supporters have begun to deem as “DeSantisland.”
While DeSantis trails Trump in endorsements from important political figures by a wide margin, it will be important for him to close the gap in the weeks after he announces his campaign. DeSantis has polled as high as 34% in the GOP Primary this spring, but recently he has dropped in polling and trailed Trump by a 58-20% margin by May 21st.
The Populist Right is seeking a culture-war fighter to take on the “woke” left. DeSantis has proven to be exactly that. His tenure as Governor of Florida has made national headlines, including his notable Parental Rights in Education bill (left-wing critics deemed this as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) and his migrant relocation initiative. Recently, his feud with Disney has made headlines, which DeSantis certainly expects will help him with these Populist Right voters.
Reagan Republicans tend to hold conservative views while being skeptical of Trump and Trumpism. These voters should back DeSantis in droves, largely because he is Trump’s main competitor for the 2024 GOP nomination. DeSantis will have to cement his status ahead of the rest of the field, outside of Trump, or risk losing these voters to other competitors such as Tim Scott and Nikki Haley.
DeSantis is not a social moderate. In fact, his stances on some policies (such as abortion) are more conservative than Trump’s. However, many of these Social Moderate voters are so unhappy with the aftermath of the 2020 election (including the January 6th Capitol Riot) they are likely to back whoever is the most viable alternative to Trump. And for at least right now, DeSantis is clearly the most viable option outside of Trump. DeSantis will have to focus on turning anti-Trump moderates out in large numbers since it will be hard for him to defeat Trump with the voters who make up the core of the GOP base.
While Trump has not begun to launch personal attacks on many of his competitors for the 2024 Republican nomination, he has already begun to criticize DeSantis. Trump and DeSantis once enjoyed a shaky alliance, as Trump helped DeSantis win the GOP nomination for the Florida Gubernatorial Primary in 2018. However, the alliance has recently collapsed as the two are primary rivals for the 2024 nomination. Trump disparages DeSantis more than any other 2024 primary contender, although he could lose this honor if he slips to third in the polls.
The Evangelical Right
Analysts expect Trump and DeSantis to open up a large gap between higher and lower educational attainment groups of voters in 2024. Given that evangelical voters graduate college at a lower rate than the national average, DeSantis could struggle with these voters. Even worse for DeSantis, Tim Scott (who is rapidly gaining traction in the GOP establishment) is making a play for these college-educated evangelical voters.
Decision Desk HQ is profiling each GOP presidential candidate and where their strengths and weaknesses are within the Republican primary coalition. You can read about the 5 Groups of GOP Voters here or see the previous profiles below: