by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Editors at National Review Online assess Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ official entry into the 2024 presidential race.
Ron DeSantis enters the presidential race with a successful record as governor and the goodwill of Republicans nationally.
If he’s taken a beating in the press and in the national polls lately, he also brings with him formidable financial resources and organizational wherewithal. He is clearly the candidate Donald Trump fears most, as the former president demonstrates almost every day with some new fusillade.
The political promise of the DeSantis campaign is that he can potentially pry MAGA voters away from Trump while still appealing to traditional Republicans and unite the party in a vessel that would have a good chance to win a general election and heal some of the fractures of the Trump era.
The just-concluded Florida legislative session added to the historic raft of legislation the last couple of years that would have thrilled conservatives any time over the last several decades: a heartbeat bill, constitutional carry, school choice, tort reform, E-Verify, tax relief, pushback on ESG, and on and on.
There are two main things that have made DeSantis distinctive. First, his response to Covid. He had the independent-mindedness and backbone to forge a different, better path that avoided the excesses of the lockdowns and mandates of the federal government and other states.
Second, his zest for fighting back in the culture war and using his control of the government as an instrument. The restrictions on gender ideology and CRT in public schools are appropriate and his reforms of higher education, as a general matter, welcome and overdue. But some of the higher-ed measures present free-speech issues. And his high-profile fight with Disney has divided conservatives. The company, on the one hand, exercises government power for its own benefit in the form of its special district, and DeSantis has targeted that power. On the other hand, the governor has retaliated against a private company for something it said. …