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Ron DeSantis, the governor who has gone from natural heir to Trump’s enemy

The governor of Florida presents a battery of ultra-conservative measures as endorsement for the White House

The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is preparing to make the definitive leap to the forefront of national politics, with a candidacy for the Republican Party primaries where he will face his former mentor, Donald Trump, and from which he will have a loudspeaker on a large scale for the ultra-conservative political positions that he has defended for years.

DeSantis, born in Jacksonville more than 44 years ago, accumulated experience in the Navy and in the Attorney General’s Office before running in the 2012 national legislative elections. His victory in one of Florida’s most conservative strongholds opened the doors of the House of Representatives in early 2013, where he helped create the well-known Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right congressmen.

In his memoirs, DeSantis describes his time in Congress as frustrating, although at this stage he already revealed some of what would be his main lines of discourse in subsequent years, including arguments in favor of reducing government intervention by practically everything from fighting climate change to collecting taxes.

In 2016, he ran for the Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio, who at the time wanted to run for the White House, but the senator’s retreat led DeSantis to rethink his political future. His career would end up leading him to the 2018 gubernatorial elections in Florida, his home state.

He did so with the full support of Trump, who from the White House had the ability to bless and practically lift to victory those who he considered bastions of the most conservative Republican ideology. DeSantis then boasted of the support of the New York magnate and flaunted his friendship with Trump in the campaign, even using his children to sneak in some of the president’s most famous messages.

He prevailed in the elections with solvency – he approached 60 percent of the votes – and then began a term marked in his first half by the COVID-19 pandemic. His management in the first moments of this health emergency, which involved a confinement with which other conservative voices disagreed, received wide recognition.

Already politically established, he has promoted measures against immigration and abortion –Florida prohibits the interruption of pregnancy at six weeks of gestation–, at the same time that he has eased the restrictions on the use of weapons or expanded the death penalty to new assumptions, as in the case of child rapists.

His conservative vision in the social field has also crept into the economic field, as evidenced by the recent struggle waged with Disney after the company’s criticism of a law that limited the dissemination of LGTBI content in schools. DeSantis has stripped the firm, one of the great cultural symbols of the United States, of the special status granted to the area that houses its main theme parks.

His controversial politics and his shifting relationship with Trump have made DeSantis one of the most recognizable figures in American politics, but for now the polls are not smiling on him. Trump remains the undisputed favorite in the Republican Party primaries, with a median of more than 53 percent, while DeSantis is listed below 21 percent, according to Five Thirty Eight.

The former president has intensified the attacks against his former ally in recent months, with nicknames and insults like those he usually dedicates to Democratic leaders, and he does not hesitate to take credit for DeSantis’ electoral successes in Florida. The governor, for his part, tries to distance himself by taking his populism to positions more to the right than those of Trump.

Both will foreseeably fish in the same fishing ground for votes. DeSantis, who came to be considered the natural heir of ‘Trumpism’, has in his favor the legal cases open against his rival, which make him appear more honest in the eyes of public opinion: 41 percent of citizens think that it is, compared to 29 percent who think the same of Trump, according to a poll released in March by Quinnipiac University.

This same poll, however, also reflects that Trump continues to be the favorite of hard-line conservative voters. Among the “very” conservatives, 61 percent favor the former president, while the governor receives support from 30 percent.

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