Speaking at a conference, Ron DeSantis and Trump will face off in what will likely prove to be a divisive competition for the GOP's soul

Florida College Students Weigh DeSantis, Trump Ahead of 2024 Presidential Election

As the 2024 presidential election draws closer, the race for the Republican nomination is heating up in the Sunshine State. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump have risen as the two frontrunners in what will likely prove to be a divisive competition for the soul of the GOP.

DeSantis, who is yet to announce a presidential campaign despite being popularly viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party, maintains significant support among conservatives who have supported his actions as Florida governor.

On the other hand, Mar-a-Lago resident Trump still holds significant influence over the party. Despite being indicted on criminal charges in New York on March 30, polling suggests his support has only increased despite public criticisms from both sides of the aisle. 

Based on interviews with University of Florida students from across the political spectrum, students across the board care about the economy, voting rights and national security. Both candidates have addressed these issues, but for many, one is the superior option. 

Matt Turner, UF College Republicans president, believes DeSantis is the best choice to take home the presidency for conservatives. 

“DeSantis has implemented statutes that are by-and-large in the same streamline as Trump, but has been more strategic in their implementation,” he said.

Turner stated College Republicans internal polling numbers conducted by the organization suggest students have rapidly swung their support toward DeSantis.

“We’re really starting to see a shift away from Trump toward DeSantis within my organization – with a robust margin for DeSantis,” Turner said.

Olivia Haley, an active member of UF College Republicans, agreed with Turner and believes DeSantis is the best choice to make the U.S. secure, safe and successful. 

“No one else within the GOP currently has a better shot at being elected [than DeSantis],” she said.

Independents and Democrats on campus tend to agree DeSantis is the strategic choice for Republicans, with mixed opinions on whether DeSantis could beat Joe Biden, the prospective Democratic nominee, in 2024. 

Oscar Santiago Perez, UF Student Government Senate President and independent voter, stated DeSantis is more effective at appealing to conservatives. 

“He is the best candidate for Democrats to beat, and the best candidate for Republicans who want a non-Trump alternative,” they said.

A DeSantis victory over Trump would likely splinter the GOP, as internal feuding and potential claims of voter fraud within the primary would likely impact Republicans’ chances at reclaiming the White House. 

With Republicans struggling to create a coalition behind DeSantis, Democrats can position themselves as the better choice to tackle issues of abortion rights, the economy and voting rights. 

While it is unclear who will win the 2024 Republican nomination, it’s likely the battle over the future of the GOP will happen right in Florida. 

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.

Featured image: Ron DeSantis speaking at the 2016 CPAC Conference. (Unmodified photo by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license. https://bit.ly/435YktH)

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