Understanding the Decline of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Challenges of Replicating Trump’s Rise to Power

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who appeared to be on the rise after a successful 2022 reelection campaign, has lost momentum and now trails behind former President Donald Trump in both popularity and polls.[0] DeSantis has stumbled on foreign policy and has been outmaneuvered by Disney, while Trump has successfully undercut DeSantis’ MAGA credentials by attacking the governor’s support for Paul Ryan-era entitlement reforms while serving in Congress.[0]

DeSantis’ decline reveals a larger misjudgment by Republicans who have failed to understand Trump’s rise to power. Although many Republicans have tried to imitate Trump’s pugilistic style and penchant for culture-war fights, they have failed to replicate the two factors that propelled Trump to victory in 2016. Firstly, Trump was able to moderate on certain positions, such as Social Security and Medicare, without significant backlash.[1] Secondly, Trump’s recklessness, which DeSantis is trying to present himself as an alternative to, was the key to the former president’s popularity as it underlined the fact that Trump was not a typical politician.[1]

DeSantis’ lack of personal touch has also been highlighted by Florida lawmakers who have thrown their support behind Trump in the 2024 presidential race. For example, Rep. Greg Steube revealed that DeSantis had never reached out to him during his five years in Congress and had not responded to Steube’s attempts to connect.[2] In contrast, Trump personally called Steube to check in after the congressman was admitted to the hospital earlier this year.[3]

Despite DeSantis’ decline, he remains the most powerful Florida governor in at least a generation.[4] However, he has crossed traditional boundaries of gubernatorial control and intimidated opponents into silence.[5] DeSantis has also galvanized the state’s shift to the right and won reelection by a significant margin.[5]

In his fiscal year 2021 proposed budget, Trump included several proposals to reduce the growth in Medicare spending over the next 10 years by about $600 billion, which led to criticism from then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.[6] However, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget argued that the proposals represented reductions in costs rather than cuts to benefits.

DeSantis’ behavior towards political opponents has also become more confrontational. For example, he lashed out at Disney after then-CEO Bob Chapek objected to the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which critics called the “Parental Rights in Education Law.”[5] DeSantis then pushed through a change in state law that eliminated a special taxing district that Disney had relied on for more than half a century.[5]

Despite some support from Congress, there is little indication that DeSantis is usurping Trump’s favor within the Republican Party.[7] Trump has garnered the support of several members of Congress from Florida, while DeSantis has just one endorsement from Rep. Laurel Lee.[8]

In conclusion, DeSantis’ decline in popularity and support highlights the challenges that Republicans face in replicating Trump’s rise to power. While many Republicans have tried to imitate Trump’s style, they have failed to replicate the factors that propelled him to victory in 2016. Additionally, DeSantis’ lack of personal touch and confrontational behavior towards opponents have further undermined his popularity.

0. “Over Before It Began?” The Cook Political Report, 20 Apr. 2023, https://www.cookpolitical.com/analysis/national/national-politics/over-it-began

1. “Ron DeSantis Is Having an Epic Disaster of a Week” The New Republic, 19 Apr. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/article/172048/ron-desantis-washington-reboot-flop

2. “2024 Republican endorsements: Donald Trump has been embarrassing Ron DeSantis in Florida.” Slate, 20 Apr. 2023, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2023/04/donald-trump-ron-desantis-endorsements-florida-republicans.html

3. “How Trump turned the tables on DeSantis” The Hill, 22 Apr. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/3963150-trump-desantis-2024-endorsements

4. “‘Deeply frustrated’: Florida legislators worn out by DeSantis” POLITICO, 20 Apr. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/04/20/florida-republicans-desantis-campaign-00092994

5. “How DeSantis became Florida’s most powerful governor in a generation” The Washington Post, 18 Apr. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/04/16/florida-ron-desantis-governor-legislature-power

6. “Dueling Ads: Trump and DeSantis on Social Security and Medicare” FactCheck.org, 20 Apr. 2023, https://www.factcheck.org/2023/04/dueling-ads-trump-and-desantis-on-social-security-and-medicare

7. “DeSantis’ D.C. charm offensive was a massive failure” MSNBC, 19 Apr. 2023, https://www.msnbc.com/the-reidout/reidout-blog/desantis-washington-dc-trump-endorsements-rcna80468

8. “Exclusive: 2 More Florida Congressmen Plan to Endorse Trump” TIME, 19 Apr. 2023, https://time.com/6273050/donald-trump-endorsement-florida-congressmen-exclusive/

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