US elections 2024: Who is the Republican contender Ron DeSantis? | Elections News


Washington, DC – In a 2018 marketing campaign advert when he was working for governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis tells his daughter — a toddler — to “construct the wall” as she places collectively bins that resemble bricks.

The construction was a reference to then-President Donald Trump’s promise to construct a border wall between the US and Mexico as a part of an aggressive platform to stem irregular migration.

Endorsed by the Republican president at the moment, DeSantis would totally embrace Trumpism and go on to win the Florida governorship in a tightly-contested and closely-watched race.

Now he needs to exchange Trump because the standard-bearer of the Republican Social gathering.

DeSantis filed paperwork confirming his candidacy for president on Wednesday, throwing his hat within the ring alongside a rising checklist of hopefuls difficult Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. He’s broadly seen as the previous president’s most severe main rival.

The Florida governor has been making headlines by enacting right-wing insurance policies on a variety of social points – infuriating liberals, incomes the reward of conservatives and cementing his distinguished standing and title recognition in US politics.

“There has all the time been house inside the Republican Social gathering for somebody who shouldn’t be Trump,” mentioned Seth Masket, director of the Middle on American Politics on the College of Denver.

“DeSantis was type of a pure, at the very least early on, for that place merely due to how well-known he has been amongst Republicans.”

Who’s Ron DeSantis?

DeSantis, who was comfortably re-elected final yr, is one among greater than two dozen Republican governors.

But, analysts say he has distinguished himself by taking up what he calls left-wing “wokeism”, staunchly opposing COVID-19 restrictions and efficiently transferring his agenda ahead with the assistance of a keen majority within the Florida legislature.

A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Legislation College, a navy veteran and a former Congress member, DeSantis has amassed a resume that checks many bins for a presidential candidate.

However he made his title nationally in 2018 when he first received the Florida governorship, rising from a crowded discipline of Republican candidates to snag a triumph within the tightly-contested state. In the course of the race, he often appeared on Fox Information to defend Trump, making himself identified to the community’s conservative viewers alongside the best way.

Extra lately, in 2022, DeSantis sailed to re-election with historic margins not seen since 1982. His decisive victory helped strengthen Florida’s standing as an more and more pink state.

As governor, he championed conservative causes, particularly within the training system, the place he signed payments to restrict discussions of gender and sexuality in faculties and block funding for variety programmes at universities.

The extra DeSantis attracted the highlight together with his conservative method, the extra he was attacked by Democrats — a dynamic the governor welcomed, in accordance with Masket.

“Individuals in conservative circles have been cheering him on, but in addition Democrats have been noticing,” Masket informed Al Jazeera. “And so they began highlighting him as one of many main threats to democracy within the US. And that simply egged him on. That was excellent for him. The truth that liberals hated him was – so far as he was involved – one other feather in his cap.”

COVID coverage and immigration

Below his management in 2020, Florida was one of many first giant states to roll again after which totally elevate its COVID-19 lockdowns towards the warnings of federal well being officers at the moment.

The next yr, DeSantis pushed again towards coronavirus vaccine mandates, once more advancing the right-wing reason for prioritising particular person selection when it got here to public well being throughout the pandemic.

DeSantis additionally pushed for restrictions on abortion even earlier than the US Supreme Courtroom overturned the constitutional proper to the process final yr. And this yr, he signed a six-week abortion ban into regulation.

Furthermore, he waded into the immigration coverage debate. Final yr, DeSantis chartered flights to move dozens of migrants and asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Winery, a rich group within the largely Democratic state of Massachusetts.

The migrants arrived with out advance discover, native authorities mentioned, sparking anger and questions from rights teams concerning the legality of the switch. The White Home condemned the incident at the moment as merciless “political theatre”.

In brief, DeSantis efficiently translated his right-wing rhetoric into coverage, analysts mentioned.

“Everytime you’re completely different, everytime you break together with your celebration, you’re on the market by yourself. And if there are not any drastic penalties, then it may well make you appear like you’re forward of the curve,” mentioned David Ramsey, who teaches constitutional regulation and political philosophy on the College of West Florida.

He added that the governor helped rebuild the Republican Social gathering in Florida, a conventional swing state that’s now more and more trying like a conservative stronghold.

“He’s put a whole lot of factors on the board for his celebration,” Ramsey informed Al Jazeera.

Former President Donald Trump has a large lead over DeSantis in public opinion polls [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

Trump vs DeSantis

In the meantime, Trump, additionally a Florida resident, stands between DeSantis and the Republican presidential nomination, as they each search to tackle Democratic President Joe Biden in 2024.

A number of different Republican candidates have launched presidential bids, but when public opinion polls are to be believed, the primaries shall be a two-horse race between Trump and DeSantis.

Together with his combative perspective and unconventional policymaking, DeSantis evokes comparisons with Trump. However the governor can distinguish himself from the previous president by way of his youthful age, “extra polished” fashion, navy service and household life, political observers mentioned.

DeSantis is 44 years previous. Trump is 76. And in contrast to Trump, DeSantis’s private life has been largely freed from scandals.

“He contrasts properly with the earlier president. He’s younger. He’s on his first spouse. He truly served within the navy,” mentioned Gregory Koger, a political science professor on the College of Miami.

After the Republicans’ lackluster performances within the 2022 midterm elections, which have been largely blamed on Trump, many thought DeSantis would turn out to be the unofficial captain of the celebration.

“I feel the query is: Who’s the present chief of the Republican Social gathering? Oh, I do know who it’s: Ron DeSantis,” Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis mentioned final November.

Trump surging

The governor, nonetheless, misplaced some momentum in 2023, with latest nationwide polls displaying him behind Trump by as many as 36 share factors.

Koger outlined three causes for that decline. First, he mentioned, Trump is actively campaigning whereas DeSantis solely launched his official marketing campaign this week.

A second motive is that Trump has been incessantly attacking DeSantis on his Fact Social platform, and for probably the most half, the governor has stayed mum.

After which there’s the query of Trump’s indictment, the primary for a former or present US president. In April, Trump was criminally charged in New York in relation to a hush-money cost to a porn star. Republicans, together with DeSantis, virtually unanimously defended Trump towards the prosecution.

“A mix of voters feeling like he’s being attacked and Republican politicians popping out and criticising the indictment led to a lift for Trump,” Koger informed Al Jazeera.

With the primary caucus in Iowa months away and authorized bother mounting for Trump, DeSantis shall be hoping to bounce again and shut the hole, particularly as he begins to formally marketing campaign for the nomination.

Koger cited DeSantis’s battle with the Walt Disney Firm to point out how the governor aimed to consolidate energy and intimidate critics.

DeSantis went on the offensive towards Disney final yr and tried to strip it of its standing as a particular tax district after the corporate’s leaders criticised a bit of Florida laws dubbed the “Don’t Say Homosexual” invoice by critics. The laws aimed to limit directions on sexuality and gender identification in public faculties.

The assault on Disney, which changed into a protracted authorized and political battle, was a dangerous one. Disney is an iconic American firm that’s one among Florida’s largest employers.

“What sort of Florida politician picks a battle with Disney World within the state and a rustic the place that’s a revered model?” Koger requested. “But it surely is smart if the aim is admittedly to scare any enterprise or organisation that may stand as much as him, to maintain folks from criticising what he’s doing and create a local weather of worry.”


Whereas DeSantis has demonstrated his right-wing credentials on home points as governor, he has not engaged in lots of discussions on overseas coverage.

However in March, he drew criticism from Democrats and a few Republicans when he known as the battle in Ukraine a “territorial dispute”.

“Whereas the US has many very important nationwide pursuits, … changing into additional entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia shouldn’t be one among them,” DeSantis mentioned in a press release to then-Fox Information host Tucker Carlson, a staunch critic of US assist to Ukraine.

“The Biden administration’s digital ‘clean examine’ funding of this battle for ‘so long as it takes’, with none outlined targets or accountability, distracts from our nation’s most urgent challenges,” the governor argued.

That place positioned him nearer to Trump’s stance on the battle than to that of the mainstream Republican Social gathering. Many GOP lawmakers, apart from just a few vocal far-right members, have overwhelmingly voted in favour of offering billions of {dollars} in help to Ukraine.

Masket, the College of Denver professor, mentioned that siding with sceptics of US assist for Ukraine didn’t go over properly for DeSantis.

“I don’t assume that did him any favours,” Masket informed Al Jazeera. “My impression was that it could make extra sense for DeSantis to return out strongly in favour of Ukraine as a result of he’s not going to win over the Trump wing of the celebration.”

Israeli-Palestinian battle

One overseas coverage space the place DeSantis made his views abundantly identified is the Israeli-Palestinian battle.

He has mentioned the Palestinian West Financial institution is “disputed”, not occupied territory, a view that contradicts worldwide regulation and quite a few United Nations resolutions. When he was in Congress, DeSantis additionally pushed Trump early on to maneuver the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Final month, the governor visited Israel and hit out at Biden’s criticism of the Israeli authorities’s judicial overhaul plan, saying the US mustn’t “butt into” Israel’s affairs.

In 2019, he moved to penalise Airbnb for suspending its listings in unlawful Israeli West Financial institution settlements, a part of a marketing campaign that pressured the lodging firm to reverse its determination. He additionally threatened to divest from Ben & Jerry’s father or mother agency after the ice cream maker determined to finish its operations within the West Financial institution.

Rasha Mubarak, a Palestinian-American organiser in Florida, mentioned DeSantis’s insurance policies have been “harmful” not just for Palestinians but in addition for People’ free speech rights.

“He makes use of worry and false narrative when he’s pushing anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-Palestinian, xenophobic laws and rhetoric that carry out his base and his assist,” Mubarak informed Al Jazeera.

Whereas within the US Navy, DeSantis served on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a jail broadly decried by rights group that he has mentioned ought to stay open. One former inmate accused the governor of being current whereas jail officers have been force-feeding detainees throughout a starvation strike.

“He was watching me battle. He was smiling and laughing with different officers as I screamed in ache,” Mansoor Adayfi wrote in a column for Al Jazeera earlier this yr. DeSantis vehemently denies that account.

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