Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to enter 2024 presidential race next week, reports say

Governor would become Donald Trump's biggest challenger for Republican nomination

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis holds his daughter during an election night watch party in November 2022. AFP
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to enter the 2024 US presidential election race next week and is likely to become former president Donald Trump's biggest competitor to secure the Republican nomination.

Mr DeSantis is expected to file paperwork that declares his candidacy on May 25 after bringing donors in to Miami. He is likely to conduct a more formal campaign launch on May 29, the Associated Press reported.

He has been a favourite target of Mr Trump in recent months, a signal that former president Mr Trump sees Mr DeSantis as his biggest rival in a growing Republican field.

Mr DeSantis was re-elected as Florida governor in November, soundly defeating his opponent by more than 20 points. That victory buoyed his prospects of taking the Republican nomination, but the former president's attacks appear to have damaged Mr DeSantis's standing in the party.

Mr Trump, who is currently at the centre of several legal investigations, is still the leading candidate among probable Republican presidential hopefuls, FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregator shows.

As governor, Mr DeSantis has employed many of the populist policies that Mr Trump himself was in favour of while president, including opposing social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines laid out by the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Florida governor has also pushed for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation such as restricting discussions of pupils' preferred pronouns at school and forcing the use of male and female toilets. He has also criticised Disney, the state's largest private employer, after the company challenged a Florida law that restricted the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

Mr DeSantis is one of the most prominent dissidents of President Joe Biden's immigration policies, going so far as to transport Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Democratic strongholds in the northern US. He most recently announced that he would be sending more than 1,000 law enforcement officers to Texas to “secure the southern border”.

He has also attempted to wade into foreign policy, most notably having to backtrack on comments in which he said supporting Ukraine's defensive efforts against Russia was not in America's best interests.

Last month he embarked on what his office called an “international trade mission” to Japan, South Korea, Israel and the UK in what was a clear attempt to bolster his foreign-policy credentials.

Mr DeSantis's 2024 White House campaign has long been expected, with some high-profile donors frustrated that he did not enter the race sooner, AP reported.

He would join a growing Republican field that includes Mr Trump, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, business executive Vivek Ramaswamy and former conservative radio host Larry Elder.

Updated: May 18, 2023, 1:46 PM