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Opinion by Peter Lucas/Ron DeSantis Beats Biden, but needs to beat Trump first
Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, could defeat President Joe Biden.
Biden has fallen so low in the polls, on all issues, that the only way he can get re-elected is if the millions of illegal immigrants he allowed into the country vote for him.
This means that, practically, any Republican can beat him, especially a candidate like DeSantis.
But first, the 44-year-old governor must get past Donald Trump, 76, which won't be easy.
As the field of Republican presidential candidates continues to grow, there's hardly a candidate — aside from DeSantis — with the poise and confidence needed to take on the arrogant Trump.
Two unannounced and official candidates worked for Trump (Vice President Mike Pence, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley), while a third potential candidate (Chris Christie) tried but was not hired.
It is enough to remember how Trump, with his slash-and-burn technique, destroyed the candidacy of several Republican opponents in the televised debates in 2016 and ended up as the 'last man standing'. Candidates who follow civil discourse do not stand much of a chance in debates with Trump.
He is expected to use the slash-and-burn technique again. Only this time, Trump's opponents are vigilant. And DeSantis is no air bubble.
Unlike most other Republican candidates, DeSantis has a solid conservative record of accomplishments as governor on which to support the candidacy, a record fresh in people's minds.
Residents of states mired in crime or high taxes, such as New York and others, are moving to Florida, not because of Donald Trump and Mar-a-Lago, but because of Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee.
DeSantis has made Florida the most attractive state in the country.
Ideologically, DeSantis is a Trump with no delusions and no baggage. But he has enough of Trump's confidence to make him a formidable opponent.
Although DeSantis is well behind Trump in the polls, he is the main threat in what is shaping up to be a two-man race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump knows this, which is why his well-funded PACs (Political Action Committees) have spent $50 million in TV ads attacking and mocking DeSantis long before DeSantis officially announced his candidacy (which did Wednesday night).
The bad blood between the two would reduce the possibility — remote as it may seem — that there could be a Trump/DeSantis ticket, with DeSantis succeeding Trump in four years when DeSantis would be just 48 years old.
Aside from the war of words between the two, DeSantis' first real test will come in January in Iowa's Republican primary.
If DeSantis defeats Trump in Iowa, where the first race of the campaign takes place, his candidacy will receive a tremendous boost ahead of the New Hampshire primary a week later.
It would show Republicans across the country that the former president could be defeated and conservative Republicans could have Trumpism without Trump.
DeSantis will use a list of recent conservative accomplishments in Florida — fresh in voters' minds — that appeal to Iowa Republicans, such as the six-week abortion ban, banning (biological) men from competing in women's sports, and banning the teaching of LGBTQ issues in public schools, to name a few.
But it would be a mistake to underestimate Trump. While he lost the Iowa primary to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in 2016, Trump won the New Hampshire primary by a wide margin and became president.
However, this time is different. While the controversies surrounding candidate Trump in 2016 simmered, they are nothing compared to what Trump is going through now.
Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records related to "hush money" allegedly paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. His trial is set for March.
Special counsel Jack Smith will soon report on his investigation into Trump's misuse of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home. And there is more.
While Trump is running for the White House, he will also campaign to stay out of the Big House.
*Peter Lucas is a veteran Boston newspaper, political reporter, and columnist. He has written several books about Albania, the country of origin of his parents.