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

Florida 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 Oranjestad promoting his work to protect the endangered manatees. The Florida hippopotamus, a subspecies of the West Indian hippopotamus, is considered endangered, with an estimated 8,810 living in the state.

DeSantis’ office boasted that he has spent more than $50 million on protecting manatee habitats — such as in Florida’s coastal waters and rivers — and improving water quality since he became 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’ office said Florida’s manatees in 2023 had the lowest mortality rate since 2017.

The former presidential hopeful returned to state affairs after dropping out of the Republican primary and endorsing Donald Trump on Jan. 21, two days before the New Hampshire primary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he has not appeared on the campaign trail with Trump, and has maintained that 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,” DeSantis said on the campaign trail in Iowa in January.

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

Instead, DeSantis will likely launch another presidential bid in 2028, biding 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, Florida’s capital, worried that DeSantis would use his remaining time as governor to retaliate against those he saw as insufficiently supportive of his presidential bid.

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

DeSantis dropped out of the Republican primary race in a video posted to Twitter less than 48 hours before voters began voting in the New Hampshire primary

DeSantis dropped out of the Republican primary race in a video posted to Twitter less than 48 hours before voters began voting in the New Hampshire primary

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Florida governor’s position at the polls has steadily weakened after he formally entered the fray with a chaotic, technically disastrous campaign launch on X hosted by Elon Musk.

His poll rating averaged a high of 35 percent a year ago, according to FiveThirtyEight, but has fallen to 12 percent as of Jan. 21 — just one point ahead of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

‘You have a choice: you can accept responsibility or you can blame others,’ says 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 Politics: ‘I don’t know which one he will choose. I hope he uses it as a learning experience.’

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

Jeremy Redfern, a spokesman for the DeSantis administration, told Politico that the idea that DeSantis is bitter and seeking revenge is “pretty ridiculous.”

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