The tragedy in Surfside is exposing voters to a different side of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as he prepares for a reelection bid next year that could propel him into a presidential campaign.
He’s still the conservative populist who rarely parts with Donald Trump. But unlike the former president, DeSantis is showing he can tone down some of his most extreme partisan rhetoric during a disaster.
In the two weeks since the condo collapse, DeSantis has stood somberly with local officials, including Democrats, as they assessed the damage.
He nodded in agreement when President Joe Biden visited, and he skipped a rally headlined by Trump.
Trump's endorsement was vital to DeSantis winning the race for governor in 2018. But after a condo collapse that has killed at least 64 people, his work across the aisle with local officials has won him praise from leaders on the ground.
“The governor has been decisive. He’s been constant. He’s been collaborative,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine Cava, a Democrat who has sparred with DeSantis in the past, said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Hats off to the governor for how he has supported us in this crisis.”
Since assuming the role of governor in 2018, DeSantis has largely shaped his legacy in the mold of Trump. In recent months, he's signed legislation that increases punishments for protesters, particularly those who topple monuments. He also recently signed a bill that prohibits trans-female athletes from participating in women's or girl's sports in high school or college.