The Struggles of Ron DeSantis: Can Republicans Replicate Trump’s Success?

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign has claimed that Florida, under Governor Ron DeSantis, is “among the worst” states to live, find economic opportunities, work, retire, raise a family, pay taxes, be safe, rent a home, have a baby, afford energy, die, be a teacher, be a doctor, or be a police officer.[0] This comes as a blistering rebuttal to the story Governor DeSantis has been telling about the state thriving under his leadership.[0] In recent days, Trump and his campaign have bashed Florida, citing a string of talking points lifted from left-wing sources.[1]

Trump’s attacks come as Governor DeSantis’ popularity has dipped in public polling, prompting some donors originally committed to him to question whether he is ready for the big leagues.[2] DeSantis spent most of his first term in office building a reputation among national conservatives as the aspirational ideal of what a governor should be, in large part because of his hands-off approach to the Covid-19 pandemic.[2] However, after Trump formally announced his candidacy for president in November 2020, DeSantis has been bludgeoned with near-daily attacks from the former president.[2]

DeSantis’ first term as governor achieved political success in part because the pandemic allowed him to craft a populist identity based on the intuitive principle of letting people do what they want.[3] However, now he has grown obsessed with uprooting progressive ideology from every aspect of people’s lives, from schools to the beer they drink to the cartoons their children watch.[3] DeSantis and his staunch supporters believe that he is engaged in a crucial battle of historical significance. But it is unclear if Republican voters are even able to follow the plot.[3]

The Florida Congressional delegation has been in the middle of a political grudge match this month, as Donald Trump has used his growing support from its Republican members to embarrass his potential 2024 rival, Ron DeSantis.[4] Out of the 20 House members in the state, a minimum of 11 have given their endorsement to the ex-president instead of their own governor.[4] Only one of Florida’s Capitol Hill lawmakers, who also served as DeSantis’ former Secretary of State, has pledged their support to him.[4]

DeSantis’ struggles reveal the extent to which the Florida governor and other Republicans have badly misjudged Trump’s own rise.[5] He displays a distinct inclination to mimic the former president’s confrontational approach and to emulate his tendency to engage in major cultural battles.[5] However, Trump won in 2016 in large part for two reasons that DeSantis and any Republican will struggle to replicate.[5] One was that Trump was able to moderate on some positions during the campaign without taking a lot of blowback, most notably on the matters of Social Security and Medicare. He actually kept himself at a distance from some of the GOP’s most reactionary and unpopular positions.[5] It is probably a misstep for DeSantis and other politicians to align with Trump’s stance on abortion, given that Trump played a significant role in undermining Roe v. Wade.[5]

Furthermore, DeSantis doesn’t understand that Trump’s recklessness, the very thing to which the Florida governor is trying to present himself as an alternative, is the very key to the former president’s popularity.[5] To a lot of voters, this emphasized the notion that Trump wasn’t a politician, in contrast to DeSantis, and that his approach to governing would differ from that of a typical Republican.[5] Although he adhered to party doctrine during his time in office, he lacked any hint of authenticity that DeSantis possesses.[5]

In response to Trump’s attacks, a super PAC supporting a potential White House bid from Florida Gov.[6] Ron DeSantis said it will financially support former President Donald Trump’s move to California.[6] This comes just one day after Trump took aim at the Sunshine State’s leadership and called it the “worst state.”[1] Never Back Down CEO Chris Jankowski said in a statement, “Donald Trump has so deeply disparaged the state of Florida by calling it the ‘worst state,’ we … will help him leave by offering financial assistance to help him move to his beloved California.”[1]

In conclusion, DeSantis’ struggles reveal the difficulties Republicans face in replicating Donald Trump’s success. While DeSantis has pursued a historically necessary struggle in his fight against progressive ideology, it remains to be seen if Republican voters can follow the plot. Trump’s recklessness, which DeSantis is trying to present himself as an alternative to, is the key to the former president’s popularity.[5] DeSantis lacks the authenticity that Trump had, which allowed him to moderate on some positions during the campaign without taking a lot of blowback. As pressure mounts over Trump’s racking up endorsement wins in Florida, it remains to be seen if DeSantis can regain momentum in his campaign.

0. “Donald Trump says Ron DeSantis created ‘misery and despair’ in Florida” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 21 Apr. 2023,

1. “Pro-DeSantis PAC says it will help finance Trump to move from ‘worst state’ Florida to ‘his beloved California'” New York Post , 22 Apr. 2023,

2. “Trump runs up the score in DeSantis’ backyard with endorsements” NBC News, 19 Apr. 2023,

3. “Is DeSantis Just Not Dumb Enough for Republicans?” New York Magazine, 21 Apr. 2023,

4. “Trump Easily Winning Endorsement Race in South Carolina” TIME, 26 Apr. 2023,

5. “Ron DeSantis Is Having an Epic Disaster of a Week” The New Republic, 19 Apr. 2023,

6. “Pro-DeSantis PAC offers to pay for Trump to move out of Florida after he called it the ‘worst state'” Fox News, 22 Apr. 2023,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top