Who is Ron DeSantis?

For many people, the governor of Florida is Donald Trump’s potential successor. But it’s not like Trump at all

by A. Altieri D’Angelo

The Republican Party (the Party) failed to win decisively in the U.S. Mid-term Elections. “Political experts” predicted that the November 8th elections would result in a red wave enabling the Party to control the House of Representatives (the House) and the Senate. But the Party did not take control of the Senate and gained control over the House by a few seats. It was an embarrassing outcome for the Party.

As a result, there is a great deal of finger-pointing within the Party. The person considered to be responsible for the Party’s miserable performance is Donald Trump; most of his chosen high-profile Party candidates lost. However, this defeat has caused many Party members who are not diehard Trump supporters (the MAGAs) to consider backing other presidential candidates in 2024.

Currently, seven people are considered potential Trump challengers. They are Nikki Haley-former Governor of South Carolina and Ambassador to the UN (2017-2018); Mike Pence-former Vice President; Glenn Youngkin-Governor of Virginia; Mike Pompeo-former Secretary of State; Larry Hogan-Governor of Maryland; Ted Cruz-Texas Senator; and Ron DeSantis-Governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis (the Governor) is considered to have the best chance to defeat former President Trump. But who is Ron DeSantis?

Ron DeSantis was born in Florida in September 1978. He is descended from Italian immigrants who came to the U.S. in the early 20th century. All eight of his great-grandparents were born in Italy; they came from the provinces of L’Aquila, Avellino, Benevento and Campobasso. The Governor went to grammar school and high school in Florida. He attended Yale and graduated magna cum laude, and earned a law degree at Harvard. DeSantis was commissioned an officer in the Navy and served in Iraq with distinction. DeSantis, a Roman Catholic, is married and has three children.

He is a vocal conservative who has held several elected offices before becoming Governor of Florida. As Governor, he currently maintains a 58%-65% approval rating. He beat his opponent in the 2022 Governor’s election by 19%-the highest margin of victory since 1982. Floridians consider him to be an effective administrator.

The Governor’s political views are aligned with the Party’s platform. He is against abortion, is anti-immigration, opposes limiting gun ownership, and favors carrying weapons in public. DeSantis is anti-global warming but is pro-environment for projects based in Florida. He does not believe the federal government has any role in determining the health and education policies of U.S. States. 

His background, and success as Governor of Florida, have made him a celebrity in the Party. He is, to many people, the potential savior of the Never Trump faction of the Party.

The Governor is well aware of his emerging position in the Party and works to enhance it. An excellent example of his public relations skills is a recent Sports Illustrated article (published November 2022) that described the Governor’s baseball accomplishments. The article told how DeSantis and other 12 years old players competed in the Little League World Series. It also talked about the Governor’s baseball career at Yale, where he became the team captain. Using baseball to connect with American voters was a brilliant idea.

Unfortunately, his carefully curated image was somewhat damaged when he authorized the transfer and abandonment of legally admitted immigrants from Texas to Massachusetts without the permission or knowledge of the Governors of the two states. He won praise from MAGAs but was widely criticized by many Americans.

Ron DeSantis is not a mini-Trump. He carries none of Trump’s baggage; he is clean. The Governor is sophisticated, intelligent, and well-spoken. His support of controversial positions is usually based on logic, not emotion. (Some commentators have noted that the Governor’s style may not work as well in national politics and recommend he soften his approach and moderate his conservative policy positions.)

DeSantis, unfortunately, must walk a tightrope. He must raise his national profile but at the same time not make Trump, his enemy. He is failing as Trump sees the threat. The former President has already started calling DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious.” It is only a matter of time before Trump begins a campaign to bury the Governor. (Many conservatives are desperate to see DeSantis run in 2024. However, another group thinks he should wait until 2028; their logic is that Trump will not be as great a threat in 2028. It is unlikely the Governor will wait until 2028.)

DeSantis will be a formidable opponent of the Democrats. The Democrats will not be able to win by engaging in a character debate. They will need to discuss policies. Ironically, such a debate will be good for the country. The voters can then decide which political philosophy they want to be infused into the American culture and government.   

The 2024 election cycle will be exciting.

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