In a somewhat unexpected move, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced he is suspending his campaign on Monday, 22 January. While he took second place in the Iowa caucus, which may suggest he is the prime challenger to far-and-away frontrunner Donald Trump, the full context of the race makes his decision a lot more reasonable.
Governor DeSantis trailed President Trump in Iowa by nearly 30 percentage points, getting 21.2 per cent of the vote compared to Trump’s 51 per cent. Also, he is polling in a distant third place in the New Hampshire primary, also behind former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. With that, there are only two major contenders left in the race—the heavy favourite, President Trump, and Governor Haley.
Of the two, Governor DeSantis chose Donald Trump to endorse.
With DeSantis Dropping Out, Are Viktor Orbán’s Ideas Out of the Race?
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary has always been closer aligned with President Trump than with Governor DeSantis. Even almost a year ahead of the primaries, at CPAC Hungary in May 2023, PM Orbán showed his clear preference in the 2024 US presidential race. In his speech, he called on Donald Trump to return, saying ‘please come back, Mr President’. In August 2023, while interviewed by Tucker Carlson, PM Orbán said ‘call back Trump, that’s the only way out’ when asked how he would solve the Russo-Ukrainian conflict in Eastern Europe. He never made such strong declarations about Governor DeSantis.
That is not to say that there have not been any similarities between the policies of DeSantis and Orbán.
In fact, the leader of the Sunshine State has been called out multiple times by the American mainstream media for allegedly drawing inspiration from Hungary’s Prime Minister. Most notably, for his signing of the 2022 Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, which was pejoratively dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law by the left-wing media in the US.
That piece of legislation, much like one that was passed in Hungary in the summer of 2021, restricts the teaching of modern gender theory and LGBTQ activism in public schools. Leftist media outlets, such as Vox, The Daily Beast, and even The New York Times have run hit pieces, attacking DeSantis on the matter.
No one from Governor DeSantis’ staff has ever overtly acknowledged the direct connection between the two similar pieces of legislation in Florida and Hungary. However, we do have vicarious accounts of direct influence. At a panel discussion held by the Danube Institute in April 2022, American columnist and writer Ron Dreher told this to the audience:
‘About the “Don’t Say Gay law”, it was in fact modelled in part on what Hungary did last summer. I was told this by a conservative reporter who…said he talked to the press secretary of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and she said, “Oh yeah, we were watching the Hungarians, so yay Hungary”.’
In June 2023, Dreher went as far as calling DeSantis ‘pure Orbán’ in an interview with Dave Rubin.
Unlike Governor DeSantis and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, President Trump never made getting rid of LGBT propaganda out of public education a focal point of his agenda.
Immigration, however, has remained one for him from the start of his 2016 campaign. After his major Iowa caucus win, he promised massive deportation efforts by his new administration if he were to win in the fall.
President Trump first raised his concerns about mass illegal migration after Republican Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama
in the 2012 presidential election.
He made it the most prominent point of the 2015 announcement of his presidential bid.
During that time, PM Viktor Orbán was fighting the first of his own battles on mass migration against the Brussels elite, who were trying to pressure Hungary into letting thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants into the EU, for supposed altruistic reasons. On that front, Orbán and Trump have always been aligned with each other—although, unlike in the case of DeSantis, there is nothing to suggest that Donald Trump was influenced by PM Orbán when first taking a stance against mass migration.
Later on, however, President Trump reciprocated the public show of respect on multiple occasions. In May 2019, he hosted PM Orbán at the White House. Also, as recently as October 2023, he praised the Prime Minister at a campaign rally in Clive, Iowa, calling him ‘the strongest leader, a very powerful man,’ and ‘a great gentleman’.