Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to announce his Presidential run in the coming days
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is expected to finally make it official and enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination in the coming days. For months, his supporters have called him the party's best hope for winning the White House. While he's dodged questions about getting into the race, at the same time, he's made appearances in early voting states, including Iowa last weekend and certainly sounded like a presidential candidate.
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RON DESANTIS: Iowa's like the Florida of the Midwest, they said. But I just want to let you know, after watching all the good stuff you've done in Iowa, it may be that Florida is the Iowa of the Southeast. So we'll see.
SIMON: NPR's Greg Allen covers Governor DeSantis. He joins us now from Miami. Greg, thanks so much for being with us.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Sure, Scott.
SIMON: What are the factors that lead us to conclude that he's close to announcing that he's running?
ALLEN: Right. Well, we know that he's invited donors to a conference in Miami this upcoming week. And around that same time, a number of news organizations are reporting that he will officially declare his candidacy in papers filed with the Federal Elections Commission. And the word is that he'll have a big rollout of his campaign after Memorial Day in his hometown, Dunedin, Fla., up near Tampa. But all this is still very fluid because DeSantis likes to keep his plans and his schedule confidential. Among the laws he signed recently were measures allowing him to remain governor while running for president. Another one allows him to shield all of his travel from media and the public.
SIMON: Donald Trump has already given him a couple of nicknames. It might be a very disputatious series of primaries. How do we think that Governor DeSantis will respond to some of these attacks?
ALLEN: It's hard to say at this point. He's avoided taking Trump on directly as much as possible. As you know, DeSantis used to be very close to Trump. Trump's endorsement of DeSantis was a factor in the governor's election in 2018. After Trump left office, though, DeSantis stopped mentioning the former president pretty much.
At the same time, he avoided saying when asked whether he believes Trump fairly lost the last election. So he's kind of hedged his bets there. DeSantis' strategy appears to be making the case that he, not Trump, represents the party's best chance to win in 2024. Here's what he had to say last week in Iowa.
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DESANTIS: If we focus the election on the past or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats are going to beat us again. And I think it'll be very difficult to recover from that defeat.
ALLEN: You know, up to now, DeSantis has been one of the leading candidates in polls of Republican voters, along with former President Trump. His numbers, though, have dropped, though, as he's taking attacks from Trump. And DeSantis has been working to present himself as a winner, someone who won reelection in Florida as governor by nearly 20 points and who since then has pushed through a whole host of conservative policies here in Florida.
SIMON: What are some of those policies, and how would they put themselves across in a national election?
ALLEN: Well, we'll see about that. You know, he got a lot done in the recent legislative session which just wrapped up. Many of the measures were controversial, very much part of the culture wars. He signed a law banning abortions after six weeks. He's taken aim on issues involving race by banning programs promoting diversity, equity and inclusion at public colleges and universities. He also signed a law allowing parents to challenge the types of books that are in school libraries. DeSantis says he believes teachers and schools have been, using his word, indoctrinating students. And so I expect all those issues to be part of his campaign pitch as he looks to a national audience.
SIMON: And of course, this week we've seen the latest in the ongoing feud with the Walt Disney Company. Disney canceled a big project that was underway there in Florida. I gather thousands of jobs will be affected. How does this affect Governor DeSantis' presidential run?
ALLEN: It certainly puts him out of step with traditional Republican policies, which is, you know, to support businesses small and large. But that dispute with Disney began after the company opposed a law he signed banning discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in the schools. DeSantis became angry at that and pushed for a law that he signed that stripped the company of its self-governing authority over its Florida properties. Disney now is suing DeSantis, saying he retaliated against the company for exercising its free speech. But DeSantis isn't backing away from the fight. He uses the word woke to describe the things he doesn't like about what's happening in Florida and America, and the battle against Disney and other corporations that he calls woke will likely be part of his national campaign.
SIMON: NPR's Greg Allen in Miami. Thanks so much.
ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.