As Ron DeSantis seeks to win over Republican primary voters, the Florida governor is running to the right of the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination on many issues.
On the campaign trail, DeSantis touts Florida's economy, as well as more controversial issues like the state's six-week abortion ban and his decision to send migrants on planes to other states.
Professor Todd Belt, a professor and director of the Political Management Program at the George Washington University, says it's a way for DeSantis to differentiate himself from former President Donald Trump.
"Ron DeSantis, of course, made his name for himself sort of riding piggyback on Donald Trump; and you can't run against Donald Trump as Trump 1.0 and Trump 2.0," Belt said. "You have to give voters something else to vote for. And, if DeSantis were to move more to the left, that wouldn't really match the type of legislative record that he has produced in Florida. So it really means he then has to move to the right."
As Trump faces multiple criminal investigations, Belt says at least some supporters of the former president might be open to considering someone else.
"There are a lot of Republicans in the field, and I think a lot of them are waiting for either Trump to bow out or his voters to go away," Belt said. "Trump's not going away, but some of those voters might be looking at taking a second look at some of those other candidates. And, that's where the DeSantis wants to be that one."
Belt notes that securing the GOP nomination is only the first part of a two-step process to win the White House. Some of the hard-right positions DeSantis is taking could complicate his chances of wooing moderate, undecided and independent voters later should he go on to the general election.
"He'd then have to tack back to the middle during the general election, which is what most presidential candidates do, whether they're on the left or the right," Belt said. "But running so far to the right then undermines your credibility."
"As somebody who does strategy for a living, it's a little bit hard to understand what the DeSantis campaign is doing. You know, they've positioned themselves in the very far-right of the Republican Party on a whole host of issues on Jan. 6, on Russia, on immigration, on guns, on abortion," said Simon Rosenberg, the president of the New Democrat Network and the New Policy Institute.
"These are issues that are going to make it very, very difficult for him to win in battleground states where Democrats have been doing really well," he continued.
Despite Trump's two indictments, with the possibility of more legal troubles for the former president on the way, polls suggest he holds a solid lead over DeSantis and the rest of the GOP field.