How do Florida’s GOP presidential candidates compare?

The Washington Monument stands tall ahead of the 2024 presidential election. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

Ahead of the 2024 presidential election, decisions made in the state of Florida hold an impactful role in the fate of the nation. Three of the most prominent GOP contenders hail from Florida, including former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

Each candidate has contributed to Florida’s ever-evolving political landscape, making the state a microcosmic representation of how polarizing politics have spread through the country.

To understand each of these candidates, here is a comprehensive analysis of how they differ on a variety of issues.

Donald Trump

Trump remains an influential figure within the Republican Party, as seen with his high approval ratings across various polls and surveys. His presidency, marked by unconventional policy choices and unapologetic communication, continues to shape conservative thought, despite recent federal lawsuits filed against him.

Trump’s economic policies often leaned towards deregulation and tax cuts, resulting in significant economic growth prior to the pandemic. His “America First” agenda focused on protecting domestic industries and renegotiating international trade deals.He advocated for stricter border controls, including the travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries and the push for a border wall with Mexico.

In regards to education, Trump supported school choice and has been a critic of the Common Core State Standards. He has also self-identified as being pro-life, supporting restrictions on abortion and nominating Supreme Court justices with similar viewpoints. However, he has been less vocal than other prominent Republican leaders on several of these conservative stances, choosing to focus on financial policies instead.

“Despite how heinous some of his actions have been, it’s clear that a lot of Republicans are much more willing to support him,” Steven Delgado, a senior from Miami studying political science, said. “[Trump] was all over the place and inconsistent between his words and actions during his term. But also, given that he served a term already, a lot more people are probably willing to go with someone they know than someone they don’t.”

Francis Suarez

Suarez has gained attention for his blend of conservative values within an urban context as the mayor of Miami.

The mayor has actively promoted the city as a profitable hub for tech and finance, particularly in cryptocurrency. He aimed to fund the city through a blockchain token called MiamiCoin and supported paying and receiving salaries in Bitcoin, but faced challenges like MiamiCoin’s value decline and termination of a cryptocurrency deal with FTX exchanges.

Suarez has sought to make Miami a leader in sustainability efforts, given the city’s interaction with climate and environmental changes. His advocacy for green initiatives and infrastructure has positioned him as a different breed of the conservative leader addressing environmental issues.

“He tends to naturally take a more moderate stance given the overall political mindset of his jurisdiction,” said Delgado. “Miami is constantly dealing with issues related to the environment and immigration, which is probably why he tends to focus on those policies.”

In the past, Suarez has emphasized the importance of DACA and opposed family separations. While his specific stances on abortion are not readily known, Suarez has shown support for LGBTQ+ rights and has been vocal about racial justice issues.

However, Suarez came under scrutiny in May 2023 after failing to respond to allegations that he was paid thousands of dollars as a consultant on a development project within city limits.

Suarez has also faced public backlash for his investments in various businesses and the rapid growth of his personal income while holding office, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the ethical implications of his financial activities.

Ron DeSantis

DeSantis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his recent legislation in Florida has made him a widely discussed figure in national politics.

“It’s hard to ignore a lot of what’s going on here politically because of DeSantis,” said Monica Gupta, a senior from Jacksonville. “I feel like he’s in the news cycle everyday.”

His policies advocate for tax cuts, Second Amendment rights and education reform. However, his views tend to go beyond traditional Republican values, as seen with the passing of state legislation like permitless carry and the restructuring of Florida’s education system to limit teachings of critical race theory and gender and sexuality studies.

He has most notably been involved in enacting the Parental Rights in Education Act in Florida, which grants parents the power to sue school districts and gain insight into private information their child chooses to share with a school counselor.

“He’s always been controversial in the state, but it’s interesting to see where his party supports him and doesn’t,” Gupta continued. “It seems like he’s probably one of the most active politicians out there in a way, but I’m not sure if his policies are what most Floridians believe in.”

As the Republican Party continues to evolve, leaders like Donald Trump, Francis Suarez and Ron DeSantis represent diverse interpretations of the conservative view in today’s political landscape.

“We’ll really see the stark differences in the first debate,” said Delgado. “Being students, we each have a responsibility to be as informed as possible about every candidate. All I know is that debate is going to be a night no one wants to miss.”

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Caroline Val
Caroline Val is a senior from Orlando, Fla. majoring in journalism and with double minors in political science and French. She began writing for the news section of The Hurricane in the fall of her sophomore year and developed its first ever podcast, Catch Up 'Canes, as podcast editor last year. Born in Miami, Caroline is excited to reconnect with the South Florida community through storytelling, interviews, and writing as co-news editor this year. Val is also a freelance contributor for the Miami New Times, an intern with News@theU, and loves trying all the new restaurants in Miami in her spare time!