Where Ron DeSantis stands on key issues

·4 min read
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis calls on a member of the media at a press conference at the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, Florida on 1 May 2023
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis calls on a member of the media at a press conference at the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum in Titusville, Florida on 1 May 2023

Ron DeSantis has entered the Republican presidential race and, while he trails Donald Trump in the polls, he is widely seen as his main rival. So what does he stand for?

Based on what he has done in Florida and what he has said since he launched his campaign, here's a dash through various policies - and where he differs from Mr Trump.


After the US Supreme Court voted last year to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion, Mr DeSantis promptly signed a bill prohibiting them after 15 weeks.

Last month he signed a stricter bill passed by his party which banned the procedure after six weeks - before most women know they are pregnant.

Polls show a majority of Floridians, including a significant number of Republicans, oppose the latest measure.

That may be a warning sign to Mr DeSantis - the party's stance on abortion was widely blamed for its poor performance in the 2022 midterm elections.

Mr Trump has said he supports the states deciding on this issue and privately is thought to believe the six-week ban makes his rival vulnerable electorally.

Teaching in schools

Mr DeSantis has repeatedly waded into culture war issues, particularly what he refers to as "woke ideology".

Declaring often that "Florida is where woke goes to die", he has led efforts this year to remake education curriculums by restricting classroom discussions on sex and gender identity. The bill is called "Don't Say Gay" by its critics.

His escalating war with Disney, one of the state's largest employers, began over its criticism of the bill following protests by employees.

"His opponents are using that as an example of 'the wrong kind of Republicanism'," said Peter Schorsch, publisher of the Florida Politics news site, who believes the governor's legislative and rhetorical assault on the company may "be his undoing" in the 2024 race.

Mr Trump has been sharply critical of the Disney feud, warning that the firm could pull its vast investment from the state.

Race has also been in the crosshairs. Teachers in Florida have told the BBC that various laws limiting what can be taught in the classroom have had a chilling effect on how they teach history.

Border wall

Mr DeSantis has taken one of Mr Trump's signature policies and run with it.

He first came to national prominence in a 2018 campaign advert which featured him teaching his baby how to build a border wall out of children's bricks.

And this week he told Fox News that a day one priority in the White House would be to mobilise resources to construct it for real.

Immigration is a subject on which he likes to make headlines.

He has sent asylum seekers to the Democrat-controlled state of Massachusetts in a move condemned by critics as a gimmick.

Social Security

Despite the pressure on budgets as debt ceiling talks drag on, neither man is keen to pick a fight with a crucial voting bloc - pensioners.

"We're not going to mess with Social Security as Republicans," said Mr DeSantis. "I think that that's pretty clear."

But it has become a bone of contention between the two.

Mr DeSantis has in the past supported raising the retirement age to 70 so Mr Trump, who has vowed to protect Social Security, has attacked him for it.


This is not a strong issue for the Florida governor.

After calling the war a "territorial dispute" that was not part of the US's vital interests, he was rounded on by several senior members of his party.

His 2024 rival Nikki Haley warned him not to go "weak at the knees" on foreign policy.

He has since tried to clarify his remarks and said he would like to see a settlement but like Mr Trump he has not given details how.

There is a lot of focus on whether both candidates might halt the military aid that has been flowing to Kyiv since the start of the war.

Both have called on other countries in Europe to contribute more.


As the US economy loses steam, voters may be looking for a responsible economic steward to be their next president - more proactive than Mr Biden but less reactive than Mr Trump.

According to Edwin Benton, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, the governor's intense focus on the culture wars will leave many with the perception that he is less interested in attending to issues like the rising cost of living and property insurance.

"When you get right down to it, people are going to look for the real nitty-gritty: is this person interested in me and my family?" he said.

Mr DeSantis visited UK, South Korea, Japan and Israel on an "international trade mission" aimed to build on the economic relationships between Florida and the four countries.