(Miami) The Republican primary is still a long way off, but the battle for the nomination is already raging between Donald Trump and his great rival Ron DeSantis.

The governor of Florida, the new darling of the conservatives, represents-for the moment-the only credible threat to the former president. Their bitter face-off promises to center on their personalities and their supposed ability to win the 2024 presidential election.

Other lesser-known candidates have declared themselves, but Donald Trump, 76, reserved his fiercest attacks on his opponent Ron DeSantis, 44.

The billionaire is in his third race for the White House, which he left, very bitter, in January 2021, after his defeat against Democrat Joe Biden.

Ron DeSantis — who, contrary to appearances, is not yet officially a candidate — has not proven himself on the national scene.

Aside from experience, there is no shortage of commonalities between these two Florida residents. A populist style, a taste for staging, conflicting relations with the media. Or a proclaimed fight against “wokism”, the “well-meaning” hated by conservatives.

But to succeed in convincing the Republicans, the rivals will undoubtedly have to insist on their differences, in particular of personalities.

However, they were not always opposed. Donald Trump had supported in 2018 Ron DeSantis, then candidate for the post of governor, before distancing himself from it after the triumphal re-election of his ex-foal last year.

True to his style, Donald Trump now does not mince his words when it comes to his main competitor, whom he accuses of being a “mediocre governor”.

Ron DeSantis recently hit back with one of his most blunt attacks, distinguishing between his style “without everyday melodrama” and the scent of scandal that sticks to the former president, surrounded by court cases.

But he is careful not to criticize Donald Trump’s record, especially highlighting their differences in style.

“Policy-wise, they’re probably very similar,” said Saul Anuzis, a consultant and former Republican official. “But their style, their way of governing, that’s where the real difference is. »

Ron DeSantis, veteran, graduate of Harvard and Yale, has much more modest social origins than those of Donald Trump, heir to a real estate empire.

The governor “is not afraid to fight, but does it in a softer way”, judges Saul Anuzis.

He faces a candidate “whose personality overshadows almost everything”, analyzes Matthew Continetti, of the think tank American Enterprise Institute, ranked on the right.

The expert points out that Donald Trump is “very popular with his base, but two-thirds of the country does not want him to be president again”.

Mr. Continetti is therefore betting instead on Ron DeSantis to beat the Democratic nominee in 2024—most likely incumbent President Joe Biden.

Especially since the legal troubles around Donald Trump are likely to cause him a problem.

Accused of having bought the silence of an actress of X movies, he is also under threat of investigations into his electoral pressure in Georgia in 2020 and the management of classified archives of the White House.

Ron DeSantis, for his part, has made Florida a real showcase for his conservative policies, attacking, for example, the teaching of subjects related to sexual orientation or gender.

But his “campaign” — which technically isn’t one yet — took a hit when he called the war in Ukraine just a “territorial dispute.”

And Donald Trump, even entangled in scandals, remains a major figure in the Republican Party, especially since the love of his most loyal admirers is boundless.

“I don’t think DeSantis or anyone else has any interest in attacking Trump at this point,” Saul Anuzis told AFP.

“DeSantis is master of his schedule,” he adds. “So far he’s been very disciplined, and I think his discipline benefits him greatly. »