Back to the swamp for Ron DeSantis… (just not the one he thought he would be in!): Florida Governor launches initiative to save Sunshine State’s endangered manatees

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Ron DeSantis on Tuesday launched an initiative to protect the manatees in Orange City, Florida
  • The governor abandoned his presidential campaign on January 21, two days before the New Hampshire primary
  • DeSantis, 45, endorsed Donald Trump but has insisted he has no wish to be vice president: he is believed to be now plotting a 2028 presidential campaign 

Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis was back at work in his state on Tuesday, two weeks after dropping out of the presidential race.

DeSantis, 45, was in Orange City promoting his work to protect the endangered manatees. The Florida manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, is considered threatened, with an estimated 8,810 living in the state.

DeSantis’s office boasted that he has spent over $50 million in protecting manatee habitats- such as in Florida’s coastal waters and rivers – and improving water quality since becoming governor in 2019.

Nearly 2,000 manatees died in Florida in 2021 and 2022, representing more than 20 percent of the state’s population. But DeSantis’s office said that in 2023, Florida manatees had the lowest mortality rate since 2017.

The former presidential hopeful has turned back to state matters after dropping out of the Republican primary on January 21, two days before the New Hampshire primary, and endorsed Donald Trump.

Ron DeSantis is pictured in Orange City, Florida on Tuesday promoting his policies on protecting the manatees

The Florida manatees are considered threatened, but some experts say they should be upgraded to endangered

The Florida manatees are considered threatened, but some experts say they should be upgraded to endangered

DeSantis with his wife Casey and son Mason is seen in Iowa on the campaign trail on January 12

DeSantis with his wife Casey and son Mason is seen in Iowa on the campaign trail on January 12

But he has not appeared on the campaign trail with Trump, and has insisted he has no interest in being Trump’s vice president.

‘I’m running for president because I think we need someone who can win and get the job done,’ said DeSantis on the campaign trail in Iowa in January.

‘I would much rather do my final two years as governor in 25 and 26 than be vice president. I don’t think it’s a position that offers much.’

DeSantis, instead, is believed likely to launch another presidential bid in 2028, and will bide his time as governor until then.

His current term ends on January 5, 2027, and he will not be eligible to see a third consecutive term.

Some in Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, worried that DeSantis will use his remaining time as governor to seek vengeance on those he perceived as not being sufficiently supportive in his presidential bid.

DeSantis’s campaign was remarkably lackluster, despite high expectations that he would be the 2024 nominee.

DeSantis dropped out of the Republican primary race in a video posted on Twitter less than 48 hours before voters started casting ballots in the New Hampshire primary

DeSantis dropped out of the Republican primary race in a video posted on Twitter less than 48 hours before voters started casting ballots in the New Hampshire primary

Casey and Ron DeSantis embrace during a caucus night party on January 15 in West Des Moines, Iowa after the governor's second place finish in the first primary contest state

Casey and Ron DeSantis embrace during a caucus night party on January 15 in West Des Moines, Iowa after the governor’s second place finish in the first primary contest state

Never Back Down super PAC spent $130 million in support of Ron DeSantis in the Republican presidential primary, FEC records show

Never Back Down super PAC spent $130 million in support of Ron DeSantis in the Republican presidential primary, FEC records show

Donald Trump takes the stage at a caucus night party in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 15

Donald Trump takes the stage at a caucus night party in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 15

The Florida governor’s standing in polls progressively tanked after he formally entered the fray with a chaotic, technically disastrous campaign launch on X hosted by Elon Musk.

His poll rating peaked at a 35 percent average a year ago, according to FiveThirtyEight, but had plummeted to 12 percent as of January 21 – just one point above the former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley.

‘You have a choice: You can accept responsibility or you can blame others,’ said state Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican who flipped his endorsement from DeSantis to Trump and found himself drawing the ire of those in the governor’s circle.

He told Politico: ‘I don’t know which he’ll choose. I hope he uses it as a learning experience.’

Another Tallahassee political operative told the site: ‘Will it be the prickly, thin-skinned vengeful guy we have learned to love or can he learn he has to build rather than burn bridges?’

Jeremy Redfern, a spokesperson for the DeSantis administration, told Politico that the idea that DeSantis was bitter and seeking revenge was ‘rather ridiculous.’

‘Governor DeSantis was re-elected by a historic margin in 2022, and he’s been delivering results as he promised, with the most substantial legislative session in Florida’s history in 2023,’ he said in a statement.

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