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As the 2020 presidential election drew to a close, it became clear that the Republican Party was facing a crossroads. With Donald Trump’s credibility as a candidate significantly tarnished by his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and controversial comments on race, many began to wonder where the party would go next. One name soon emerged as a strong contender for the GOP’s future: Ron DeSantis.
The Governor of Florida has been vocal in his support of Trump, describing him as “an awesome warrior” during his time in the White House. However, it is not just his loyalty to the former president that has attracted attention. Many commentators are starting to consider the possibility that DeSantis could be the person to out-Trump Trump, using his own brand of mind-boggling rhetoric to win over voters on a national level.
So far, DeSantis has shown a willingness to embrace some of the more controversial positions of the Trump era, particularly on immigration and the so-called culture wars. He has made headlines for signing a bill that would penalize social media companies for “deplatforming” conservative voices, as well as for his staunch opposition to mask and vaccine mandates. While these may not be policies that play well with the general electorate, they could serve as important rallying points for the Republican base.
Of course, there are many challenges that DeSantis would face if he were to launch a presidential bid. Despite his rising reputation on the right, he is still a relatively unknown quantity outside of Florida. He has also been criticized for some of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically his efforts to downplay the severity of the crisis early on. If he were to run, he would need to show a greater willingness to listen to public health experts and work collaboratively with other politicians.
At the same time, there are clear advantages to DeSantis’s potential candidacy. He has proven himself to be a skilled political operator, using his position as governor to shape the national conversation on a number of issues. He has also racked up a number of political victories in Florida, including signing a highly praised bill to improve the state’s infrastructure and boosting the economy through tax incentives for businesses.
One area where DeSantis could potentially out-Trump Trump is in his approach to foreign policy. While Trump’s “America First” platform was certainly popular with his base, many foreign leaders were left scratching their heads at his erratic approach to international relations. DeSantis, on the other hand, has shown a greater willingness to engage with other countries while still putting American interests first. He has spoken out against China’s aggressive expansionism and pushed for greater cooperation with Israel, points that could resonate with voters in a post-Trump landscape.
Another advantage for DeSantis is his appeal to younger voters. While Trump was heavily focused on courting the older, white vote, DeSantis has shown a greater understanding of the concerns of younger Americans. He has been quick to promote Florida’s business-friendly environment, which has attracted a wave of tech startups to the state. He has also been vocal about his support for criminal justice reform, an issue that resonates strongly with millennial and Gen-Z voters.
Ultimately, whether or not DeSantis decides to run in 2024 will depend on a number of factors. He will need to continue to build his profile on the national stage, while also working to shore up his support in key swing states. If he does decide to take the plunge, his campaign will likely be centered around a message of anti-establishment populism, with plenty of tough talk on immigration, foreign policy, and culture wars. Whether or not this approach will be enough to win him the presidency remains to be seen, but for now, he remains a formidable figure in the Republican Party and an intriguing potential challenger to Trump’s legacy.