Ron DeSantis is a highly ambitious right-wing Republican who has been governor of Florida since 2019. Although he rose to power through Trump, in May 2023 the governor announced that he would run against the ex-president in the 2024 GOP primary for president. “By governing the way he’s governed, by running for reelection the way that he has, DeSantis is all but already running for president and has been for a while,” Politico pointed out eight months earlier, in October 2022.
Although Trump endorsed him in 2018 and takes full credit for his gubernatorial win and although DeSantis fully aligned himself with the ex-president and became an outspoken proponent of the Big Lie, the dueling opportunists have never been friendly. In fact, DeSantis snubbed Trump’s potential endorsement of his 2022 gubernatorial campaign but on the national campaign trail he refused to admit the legitimacy of Biden’s win of the 2020 election in fear of alienating Trump supporters. In January 2024—just two days before the first GOP primary in New Hampshire—DeSantis dropped out of the race and endorsed Trump, who summarily stopped trashing him on daily basis.
An outspoken critic of what the Right derides as “wokeness,” DeSantis began his second gubernatorial term in 2023 by burnishing his MAGA credentials and vowing to make Florida the state “where woke goes to die.” As governor, he has targeted Covid-19 mask mandates, LGBTQ people, asylum seekers, public sector unions, peaceful protest (though this law was later blocked by a federal judge), teaching the factual history of racism in K–12 public schools, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs at state colleges, and academic freedom (another law that is still being challenged in the courts). In his 2023 memoir The Courage to Be Free (subtitled Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival), the governor describes himself as a “blue-collar boy who grew up to take on Disney and Dr. Fauci.”
In September 2022, DeSantis ordered migrants who were awaiting immigration proceedings in Texas to be flown to Martha’s Vineyard at Florida’s expense, using them as political pawns in a stunt to gain publicity and presumably shame Democrats and the Biden administration over lack of progress on immigration reform. “Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens,” DeSantis said in defense of flying migrants to the island without any notification to authorities. “It shouldn’t all fall on a handful of red states.”
Prior to serving as governor, DeSantis was first elected to Congress in 2012 and served three terms, representing Florida’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House from 2013–19. As a congressman, he helped found the House Freedom Caucus, an outgrowth of the right-wing Tea Party movement.
January 6, 2021
- Although DeSantis initially spoke out against the riot at the Capitol, a year later—on Jan. 6, 2022 anniversary of the insurrection—he denounced commemorations of the event, calling them a “smear” against Trump supporters.
The Big Lie
- During a Nov. 5, 2020 appearance on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, DeSantis urged voters in swing states to contact their representatives seeking “remedies” to the election. He also encouraged his audience to donate to Trump’s legal fund.
- In the days following the election, DeSantis refused to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect.
- While addressing a group of lobbyists on Dec. 3, 2020, DeSantis said he had urged Trump to “fight on” as he attempted to overturn the results of the presidential election.
- On June 17, 2021, DeSantis refused to answer whether he thought the presidential election had been rigged.
- On April 25, 2022, DeSantis signed into law a bill creating a police force in Florida charged with seeking out election fraud, thereby bolstering the myth that election fraud is common and widespread in the U.S. and affected the results of the 2020 presidential election.