The political landscape leading up to the 2024 Republican presidential primaries is marked by an intriguing rivalry: Ron DeSantis, the Florida Governor, against Donald Trump, the former president. Their competition, fueled by stark differences in style and strategy, is causing a significant division within the Republican Party.
DeSantis’s Calculated Approach
Ron DeSantis, who announced his presidential campaign on Twitter, is banking on his strong record of achievements and a keen strategic approach. Interestingly, he did not mention Donald Trump in his announcement, suggesting his intention to create his political narrative independent of Trump’s influence. DeSantis believes he has a good chance of winning the primary and ultimately beating Joe Biden, the current president who faces no significant rivals in the Democratic primaries1.
DeSantis is making his case by criticizing Trump on several fronts. He questions Trump’s appointment of Jerome Powell as president of the Federal Reserve, blames him for the increased debt and deficit during his tenure, and points out the failure to complete the southern border wall. He also touts his record, including the ban on abortion after six weeks in Florida and his management of the Covid-19 pandemic, as selling points for his campaign1. Yet, he walks a fine line, acknowledging and praising some aspects of Trump’s presidency, particularly the state of the economy in the first three years1.
Trump’s Volatile Response
Trump has responded to DeSantis’s campaign in his signature combative style, belittling DeSantis with public jibes and nicknames. Yet, DeSantis perceives Trump’s attacks as a sign of his threat to Trump’s position within the party1.
The Impact on the Republican Party
This rivalry represents a broader division within the Republican Party. DeSantis’s ideology is largely a variant of “Trumpism without Trump.” His conservative, populist, protectionist, and defiant ideology resonates with many in the party. Still, he has taken more extreme steps in social security cuts, health, and the culture wars against diversity and gender identity1.
DeSantis aims to convince staunch Republicans that he is the better candidate to defeat Biden. His victory in Florida with a 19-point lead, especially compared to the defeat of numerous Trump-backed candidates in the midterm elections, has undoubtedly boosted his reputation among his followers1.
However, the path ahead is complex. The primaries are primarily a popularity contest, and DeSantis may find it difficult to convince voters to prioritize strategic calculations over personal affection, especially given Trump’s enduring popularity within party1.
As we move closer to the 2024 Republican presidential primaries, the dynamics within the party continue to evolve. The DeSantis-Trump rivalry encapsulates the party’s struggle to define its future. As observers, we can only wait and watch how these dynamics play out and shape the future of the Republican Party in the 2024 elections.