by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has finally made his presidential ambitions known, but his message of being a better version of former President Donald Trump without being Trump could fall flat when he steps out on the campaign trail.
At the same time, the governor, who announced his bid for the 2024 Republican nomination during a Twitter Spaces event alongside Elon Musk, is adamant he can take the White House on his own terms.
Trump is the “America First” original, according to Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung, as the former president trends, on average, 37 percentage points ahead of DeSantis in very early primary polls.
“Nobody wants Ron DeSantis, a lowly tribute band that plays off key and can’t read the notes,” Cheung told the Washington Examiner.
In an ad released Wednesday, Trump super PAC MAGA, Inc. also criticized DeSantis as a “swamp creature,” contending “there are big differences” between Trump and DeSantis based on the governor’s voting record as a congressman from 2013 to 2018.
But fellow Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, a former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, has dismissed DeSantis as a Trump “echo,” sensing weakness after the governor received backlash regarding his positions on Ukraine, Disney, and, arguably, abortion.
“The DeSantis elevator pitch can be summed up as: ‘I’m like Trump without the drama,'” Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney wrote in a memo this week. “DeSantis might not have Trump’s taste for incendiary tweets, but make no mistake: his record shows that his ‘leadership style’ will only lead to more drama.”
“Today, DeSantis is echoing Trump on everything from policy to his body language and hand gestures,” she said. “Ron DeSantis is like Trump, drama and all — but without any of the charm.”
DeSantis disputes Trump comparisons, though simultaneously maintains he is more electable and has been more effective than Trump as Florida’s governor. …