Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Amoralists: Ron DeSantis, Part Two; The Governor

 

President Trump delivered an urgent warning to his staunchest supporters in Florida Wednesday night at a pulsating political rally: Don’t let Ron DeSantis lose the governor’s race next week. Not with Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election plans potentially hinging on the country’s biggest presidential battleground state.

This is my state also,” Mr. Trump reminded them, alluding to his golf properties and winter home in Palm Beach and his one-point victory in 2016.

That Mr. DeSantis is the Republican nominee for governor is a testament to Mr. Trump’s strong endorsement and popularity with conservatives. That Mr. Trump’s support has not been enough to make Mr. DeSantis the favorite on Tuesday — in one of the most high-profile and symbolically important races in the country — is evidence not only of the president’s shaky footing with independents, but also of Mr. DeSantis’s shortcomings as a candidate, political strategists from both parties say.

Mr. Trump has expended more political capital on Mr. DeSantis than on most other candidates this year, so the president would inevitably own a loss. Neither party is counting out Mr. DeSantis, but he is slightly trailing Andrew Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, in most public polls; the president has scheduled another rally on Saturday in Pensacola.

What seemed a winnable race for Republicans against Mr. Gillum, an outspoken progressive who supports impeaching Mr. Trump, has instead become neck-and-neck, with the charismatic Democrat drawing far larger crowds than Mr. DeSantis, a telegenic Fox News regular who has proved uneven on the trail.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, what has separated the two candidates most is how each has dealt with issues of race and identity. Mr. Gillum, who would become Florida’s first African-American governor, has talked about both matters at length; Mr. DeSantis, who is white, has struggled to address questions about his past political associations with racists and xenophobes.

Mr. DeSantis and his team never prepared to run against Mr. Gillum; they thought they would face one of the more traditional, centrist Democrats running in the primary. The Republican fumbled early on with how to criticize his unexpected opponent and how to deal with a contender who, more than other Democrats who ran for governor, knew how to make moments go viral.

One reason Mr. DeSantis may have stumbled is where he had come from: the conservative cocoon of the political right, where his rise to national prominence — lifted by stoking fears of terrorism — went little noticed because Mr. DeSantis was only a congressman in a reliably Republican seat. (He resigned after winning the August primary.)

Over nearly three terms in office, Mr. DeSantis, a 40-year-old Yale and Harvard graduate and former Navy prosecutor, became a familiar face on Fox, doing hits from Capitol Hill and flying to New York to appear from the network’s flagship studio. He attended conferences billed as conservative gatherings where he made his name known in political circles that mattered.

Thrust into a marquee race in a purple state, however, Mr. DeSantis floundered.

In a Fox interview the day after the Aug. 28 primary, he said electing Mr. Gillum, 39, could “monkey this up,” which Democrats denounced as a racist dog whistle. (Mr. DeSantis denied that.) News reports exposed how far-right extremists were among the organizers and attendees of some of the conferences he frequented. A white supremacist group targeted Mr. Gillum with offensive robocalls. A campaign contributor apologized for referring to former President Barack Obama with a racist slur, but Mr. DeSantis declined to return his donation.

Mr. DeSantis managed to regroup from that rough start. But the controversies have cast a shadow over his campaign.

During the candidates’ last debate, Mr. DeSantis angrily rejected a question about his ties to a conservative author, David Horowitz, who has made incendiary statements.

Are you going to play the McCarthy-ite game?” Mr. DeSantis asked, suggesting he was being found guilty by association. “How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement someone makes?”

...

Mr. DeSantis has pounded Mr. Gillum over a continuing FBI investigation into possible corruption in Tallahassee’s community redevelopment agency, and over inappropriate gifts Mr. Gillum appears to have accepted during several trips with a lobbyist friend. Mr. Trump has gone as far as to label Mr. Gillum, without evidence, a “thief.” On Thursday, the Gillum campaign was also dealing with criticism after the conservative undercover journalism operation, Project Veritas, released a video in which a Gillum volunteer calls Florida “a cracker” state. (The campaign has cut ties with the volunteer.)

Mr. Gillum and his supporters have tried to turn those accusations of corruption — as well as claims by Mr. DeSantis that Mr. Gillum is anti-police — against Mr. DeSantis and Republicans, saying the attacks are fueled by racism against a successful black politician. Mr. DeSantis’s campaign has countered that resorting to accusations of racism is a way for Mr. Gillum to avoid scrutiny on his lobbyist dealings.

Mr. DeSantis first outlined his conservative ideology in a 2011 book that turned him into a popular speaker at Florida Tea Party and Republican gatherings. The book, “Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama,” borrowed from the title of Barack Obama’s 1995 memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” Mr. DeSantis dwelled on socialist and radical mentors in Mr. Obama’s life, arguing that, under their influence, the former president steered the country on a path divergent from what the founding fathers intended.

His anti-Obama message appeared to resonate with some Fox viewers. By mid-2012, even before his first election, he was a guest on Sean Hannity’s show; by the time he got to Washington the next year, Mr. DeSantis had bypassed the obscurity of most rank-and-file freshman members of Congress.

Since 2013, Mr. DeSantis has appeared at four conferences sponsored by Mr. Horowitz — which was first reported by The Washington Post — and had praised his organization as one that “shoots straight, tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.” He has continued to defend his speeches there, noting that the keynote address at one of the gatherings was given by a Medal of Honor recipient.

When Mr. Trump recently tweeted that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” had joined a large caravan of Central Americans heading to the United States, he was repeating an idea advanced on Capitol Hill in 2016 by Mr. DeSantis, who called a hearing to discuss the threat posed by Islamic terrorists crossing the Mexican border

(Mazzei and Saul 5).

Determined to show his independence in his first months in office, he [De Santis] appointed a chief science officer and pledged billions for the Everglades.

He pardoned four wrongfully accused Black men. He lifted a ban on medical marijuana in smokable form.

He was hardly a moderate: Mr. DeSantis also gutted a voter-approved measure meant to restore felons’ right to vote. He allowed some teachers to carry guns in schools. He banned so-called sanctuary cities in a state where there were none.

But the mix pleased voters, and his approval ratings surged. Might the man who had shown his diaper-age daughter building a wall in campaign ad actually be a pragmatist?

Then came the pandemic.

Mr. DeSantis centralized power in his office early in the pandemic, ceding little of the spotlight to public health officials. The state Department of Health’s weekly Covid-19 recaps are titled “Updates on Florida’s Vaccination Efforts Under Governor DeSantis’s Leadership.”

Mr. DeSantis’s slowness in locking down the state last year [2020] hurt his approval ratings. So did the deadly summer surge of the virus. But then, far earlier than most other governors, he pledged that schools would open in the fall and life would start returning to normal.

His policies were contrarian, and he was defiant,” said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster who has tracked Mr. DeSantis’s popularity and saw it rebound beginning last summer. “The more he stands his ground, the more he speaks his mind, the more the affinity grows for him.”

His critics see the governor as stubborn and unwilling to hear dissent.

The governor we have today is the governor we anticipated after the election,” said Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and the only Democrat elected statewide, who looks likely to run against Mr. DeSantis.

He surprised everybody in 2019,” she added, “but obviously that is not truly who he is.”

In some ways, Mr. DeSantis has filled the void left by Mr. Trump, minus the tweets. He remains a Fox News regular. He counts among his scientific advisers Dr. Scott W. Atlas, the former Trump adviser who has promoted dubious theories.

And the governor’s favorite foes are the “corporate media,” against whom he has scored political points.

His recent tangle with “60 Minutes” centered on the extent to which political connections have helped white, wealthy Floridians get vaccinated.

Local news outlets have chronicled how vaccine access has been slower for Black, Latino and poorer communities. Some pop-up vaccination sites were opened in neighborhoods that had many older residents — and that also had ties to DeSantis campaign donors.

But “60 Minutes” focused on how Publix supermarket pharmacies received doses and left out relevant details, including an extended response from the governor at a news conference.

On Wednesday, in Mr. DeSantis’s words, he “hit them back right between the eyes,” accusing “60 Minutes” of pursuing a malicious narrative (Maxxei 6).

Referred to as “DeathSantis” and mocked for allowing “Florida Morons” to pack state beaches, Mr. DeSantis faced national scorn for his resistance to shutdowns. Last fall [2020], he lifted all restrictions, keeping schools open for in-person learning and forbidding local officials from shutting down businesses or fining people for not wearing masks.

I see, in many parts of our country, a sad state of affairs: schools closed, businesses shuttered and lives destroyed,” Mr. DeSantis said, offering a rousing defense of his pandemic response at the opening of Florida’s legislative session this week. “While so many other states kept locking people down, Florida lifted people up.”

The same could be said about Mr. DeSantis’s political ambitions.

For Republicans, loyalty to the former president and his pet issues has become the ultimate litmus test. Mr. DeSantis checked all the boxes: fighting with the media, questioning scientific experts, embracing baseless claims of election fraud and railing against liberals.

Conservatives rewarded the governor for his fealty. His approval rating rose above water in recent weeks, with some polling of Republicans showing Mr. DeSantis with higher ratings than Mr. Trump. He finished first in a straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend covering a field of potential presidential candidates that did not include Mr. Trump, fueling chatter about a 2024 bid (Lerer 1).

Mr. DeSantis passed conservative red-meat legislation like voting reform and an “anti-riot” law (a federal judge recently blocked enforcement of it) and picked fights with proponents of mask and vaccine mandates, Big Tech, the media and even some Florida cruise lines.

Mr. DeSantis’s moves were not a complete surprise. In our partisan political atmosphere, there’s a rationale for firing up your base to maximize turnout. Since 2018, the proportion of registered Republicans in Florida has inched up and moved closer to Democrats’ share. As Steve Schale, a Florida election expert, recently noted, “Sometime before the end of this year, there will be more Republicans registered in Florida than Democrats” — which, he said, has never happened before.

Mr. DeSantis’s approval numbers have … [now] declined. A late August [2021] Morning Consult poll showed him down to 48 percent approval from 54 percent in late June — with the biggest shift coming from independents. Another survey of the governor’s approval from Quinnipiac now stands 12 points lower than it did in 2019. And while he opposed vaccine mandates for cruise ships — a significant industry in the state, with a lot of Republican customers — over 60 percent of Floridians supported them (Mair 1).

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday [December 2020] told a private gathering of political donors and corporate executives that he has urged President Donald Trump to “fight on” to overturn November’s election results.

In wide-ranging remarks made in person behind closed doors at a meeting of the Associated Industries of Florida, DeSantis dismissed the risks of the coronavirus, contradicted science and targeted U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He also defended Trump’s attempt to fight the results of the election.

I told the president to fight on,” DeSantis told the group gathered at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes resort hotel in Orlando, according to a recording of the speech obtained by POLITICO. “In reality, none of this stuff has succeeded yet. Time is running out.”

DeSantis defended his response to the coronavirus pandemic, during which he has resisted imposing state-level restrictions on gatherings and mask-wearing. Florida has reported more than 1 million cases as of this week.

We have, I think, really saved the livelihoods of millions and millions of students, parents, workers, business owners by approaching this in an evidence-based way and a way that focused on facts not fear, and in a way that was more moderate,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis also took shots at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its “ridiculous” studies on the Covid-19 outbreak, which he said were more about “affirming” the positions of “bureaucrats” than science.

He questioned the need for contract tracing, saying most people are either infected in their homes or medical authorities can’t figure out the source of infections.

People can engage in most outdoor activities, including sports, because the virus doesn’t spread at such events, DeSantis told the group. He insisted that Trump’s huge rallies did not contribute to the spread of Covid-19, countering a Stanford University study released in late October that traced 30,000 cases and hundreds of deaths to Trump rallies (Dixon 1).

An exchange in August 2021 is a typical example of how DeSantis interacts with the press — with a combination of bluster and grievance modeled on Donald Trump, his political mentor and potential rival.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus had just arrived, and a question about the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the state set him off. There was plenty of room in Florida’s hospitals, he explained.

Then, with a jerky, almost robotic forward-chopping motion, he gestured at the reporters gathered in front of him. “I think it’s important to point out because obviously media does hysteria,” he said. “You try to fearmonger. You try to do this stuff.”

Awkward and ineloquent as the moment was, it was vintage DeSantis — a frequently underestimated politician who has made the media his focal point and foil throughout his rapid rise. The clash, not the case numbers, which averaged nearly 25,000 a day in Florida at the peak of the Delta surge, led that day’s headlines.

Former aides say that DeSantis views the press as just another extension of the political process — a tool to weaponize or use for his own benefit. …

The mainstream press, which DeSantis invariably describes with epithets like “the corporate media” or ‘the Acela media,” tends to get brass-knuckle treatment — when it gets access to him at all.

His former aides as well as his critics describe his approach to the media as methodical and ruthless, in contrast to Trump’s haphazard, seat-of-the-pants approach.

He has studied what has worked and left behind what doesn’t,” said David Jolly, a former Republican congressman who has contemplated running against him for governor. “He’s very good at maximizing the Trump benefit without bringing along the liabilities” (Hounshell and Askarinam 1-4).

Susie Wiles, a Republican consultant who helped guide the last month of DeSantis’s 2018 campaign for governor, described the candidate as a “workhorse.”

It’s like watching an actor who can film the whole scene in one take,” Wiles told The Miami Herald. “He can gobble up a whole issue in one briefing, and when I saw that on my second day, I thought, ‘This is a whole different kind of thing.’” Wiles added, “If he doesn’t have a photographic memory, it’s close” (Edsall 2).

Republican politics have become oppositional politics: Deny the science, demean the media, own the libs. Conservatives are less defined by what they are for than by what they are against.

at the peak of their intransigence and callousness, his [Trump’s] party catastrophically mishandled the pandemic. They refused to follow the science or act with caution. And, because of their reflexive opposition to the facts, untold numbers of people who didn’t have to die did.

Perhaps no politician has taken the reins from Trump with more vigor — and disastrous effects — than Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a man who thinks he could be the next Republican president. But to supplant the last leader of his party, he has to out-Trump Trump.

To accomplish this meteoric rise, he needed to do two things. First, become the darling of the Trump freedom fighters, fighting for the right to get sick and die. And second, he has to be the opposite of the establishment, in this case Joe Biden and his administration. If Biden swerves left, DeSantis must swerve right, even if the hospitals in his state are overrun and the funeral parlors reach capacity.

As The Times reported on Wednesday [August 2021]: “More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic.” The Times continued, “This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now.”

The citizens of Florida do not even support DeSantis’s politically calculated pandemic positions. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week [August 2021] found that “six in 10 Floridians support requiring masks in schools,” and “61 percent say recent rise in Covid-19 cases in Florida was preventable.”

But there are two things more important to DeSantis than those numbers. First, a different Quinnipiac poll found that regardless of how few Floridians approve of his performance, his approval rating is still higher than Biden’s in the state.

Second, DeSantis is playing to an electorate beyond the panhandle. As long as he is still mentioned in the same breath as Biden, even if the coverage is negative, he is playing well among Republicans. As long as he is fighting Washington and Democrats and experts, it doesn’t matter to entrenched Republicans that he’s not fighting the plague.

Some bodies must be sacrificed to appease the gods of partisan resistance.

To keep the spotlight, DeSantis is employing many of the same tricks as Trump: fighting with the media about coverage, deflecting blame onto Biden and convincing his followers that folding to facts is the same as forfeiting freedoms.

As DeSantis said in early August [2021], “We can either have a free society, or we can have a biomedical security state.” He continued, “And I can tell you: Florida, we’re a free state. People are going to be free to choose to make their own decisions.”

Yes, Florida, DeSantis is allowing you to choose death so that he can have a greater political life (Blow 1-2).

he has championed a smorgasbord of policies — some of dubious constitutionality — seemingly designed to make progressives’ heads explode. In recent months, he has signed legislation curtailing voting access, cracking down on protesters and punishing social media firms for deplatforming political candidates. … He pushed to ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools. He issued an executive order, and later signed legislation, barring businesses and government agencies from requiring vaccine passports.

Recent polls show Mr. DeSantis with solid job approval numbers heading into his 2022 re-election race — a position strengthened by his ability to rake in piles of campaign cash from his nationwide network of donors. He is a familiar face on Fox News and Fox Business.

the pro-Democratic group Remove Ron has produced an ad with this theme, taunting the former president for being overtaken by a “rookie congressman” who was a “nobody” until Mr. Trump “made him governor of America’s third largest state.” The ad mocks, “Ron must think you’re past your prime or that you’re a loser, Donald,” before warning that if Mr. DeSantis wins re-election in 2022, neither he nor Florida will have any more use for Mr. Trump. “The clock is ticking, Donald. What are you going to do about it” (Cottle 1-2).


Works cited:

Blow, Charles M. “Ron DeSantis, How Many Covid Deaths Are Enough?” New York Times, August 29, 2021. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/29/opinion/ron-desantis-covid-death.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

Cottle, Michelle. “Can One Florida Man Wrest Control of the G.O.P. from Another?” New York Times, July 2, 2021. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/02/opinion/donald-trump-ron-desantis-republican-party.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

Dixon, Matt. “DeSantis Tells Trump To 'Fight On,' Takes Aim at Science and Has Beef with John Roberts.” Politico, December 3, 2020. Net. https://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2020/12/03/desantis-tells-trump-to-fight-on-takes-aim-at-science-and-has-beef-with-john-roberts-1341031

Edsall, Thomas B. ‘”We Want People That Are Going To Fight the Left,’ Says the Man Out-Trumping Trump.” New York Times, March 16, 2022. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/16/opinion/ron-desantis-is-gambling-on-out-trumping-trump.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

Hounshell, Blake and Askarinam, Leah. “DeSantis and the Media: (Not) a Love Story.” New York Times, January 31. 2022. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/us/politics/desantis-media.html

Lerer, Lisa. “DeSantis Is Ascendant and Cuomo Is Faltering.” New York Times, updated April 10, 2021. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/06/us/politics/desantis-cuomo-political-future.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

Mair, Liz. “Ron DeSantis Was a Slam Dunk. Until He Wasn’t.” New York Times, September 24, 2021. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/24/opinion/ron-desantis-florida.html

Mazzei, Patricia. Could Ron DeSantis Be Trump’s G.O.P. Heir? He’s Certainly Trying.” New York Times, updated August 15, 2021. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/10/us/politics/ron-desantis-republican-trump.html

Mazzei, Patricia and Saul, Stephanie. “Ron DeSantis, a Trump Ally, Struggles in Florida as Racial Flare-Ups Come to Fore.” New York Times. November 1, 2018. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/01/us/politics/ron-desantis-florida-trump-gillum.html


Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Amoralists: Ron Desantis, Part One; Not Yet Governor

 

DeSantis was born on September 14, 1978, in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Karen (nee Rogers) and Ronald Daniel DeSantis. He is of Italian descent, as his great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather were from Italy. His great-great-grandfather Salvatore Storti immigrated to the United States in 1904, eventually settling in Pennsylvania. His great-great-grandmother Luigia Colucci moved to the U.S. to be with her husband in 1917. DeSantis's mother was a nurse and his father installed Nielsen TV rating boxes. His family moved to Orlando, Florida, before relocating to Dunedin, Florida, when he was six years old. … He was a member of the Little League team from Dunedin National that made it to the 1991 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

DeSantis attended Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and Dunedin High School, graduating in 1997. He then attended Yale University. DeSantis was captain of Yale's varsity baseball team and joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity … (Ron 2).

At Dunedin High School, classmates knew him as a super jock and a brilliant student.

At Yale, the baseball coach barely hesitated naming the former team captain when an interviewer in 2002 asked if he ever managed someone of presidential material.

Yale baseball coach John Stuper says he stood out on the field (a four-year starting outfielder and .313 hitter, compared to .230 for another former Yale team captain, George H.W. Bush), and off. Among the many privileged Yalies, DeSantis worked as an electrician's assistant, baseball camp coach, and other odd jobs to cover expenses.

"You look at his transcript his last two years, there wasn't a B on it. How he could work 20 hours a week at baseball, probably that many hours a week at various jobs and still kill it in the classroom like he did is pretty amazing," said Stuper (Smith and Leary 4).

You don’t need three years for law school,” [Governor] DeSantis, a Harvard Law product, said in Naples Friday …

Some of these degrees you see. You know, I went to law school; you don’t need three years for law school,” DeSantis divulged. “I mean, seriously, you don’t. You could do it probably in one. Definitely in two. You don’t need three.”

It’s a waste,” DeSantis continued. “And there’s other degrees where they make you do more years than you need to. We don’t want them toiling for no reason. Get the skills and go out there and put them to use” (Gancarski 1).

At Harvard [Law School], DeSantis began to earn notice in conservative circles through involvement with the Federalist Society, an influential network of lawyers.

"I certainly became introduced to him through that, and I suspect a lot of other people did, too," said Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the group in Washington.

Leo said DeSantis has a rare ability — he likened him to ardent conservative Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Mike Lee of Utah — to boil down complex, esoteric conservative principles and capture broad public attention.

A cum laude Harvard Law degree is a ticket to virtually any job. DeSantis chose military service, joining the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps while at Harvard.

"You gravitate toward a handful of people and a handful of people end up taking leadership roles. Ron was one of those," said Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, DeSantis' roommate at Naval Justice School in Rhode Island and a Republican candidate for governor there.

DeSantis worked at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, where he met his wife, local television host Casey Black. (They have a daughter and another child on the way.) He served at the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in 2007, he volunteered for and won a coveted and highly competitive assignment with SEAL Team One, deploying to Iraq.

Helping advise the SEALS on rules of engagement, such as when to shoot and whether to go into certain areas, DeSantis deployed to Fallujah as part of the troop surge. He earned a Bronze Star (meritorious service), usually reserved for senior officers.

Outside of his Federalist Society activities, friends say DeSantis' conservatism and interest in politics rarely surfaced in high school, college or his military career. He has said it rose from a lifelong passion for history and studying the Founding Fathers.

The tea party movement was exploding as DeSantis left active duty, and he turned his attention to a political career (Smith and Leary 5).

After exploring a run for state House, DeSantis in early 2012 pivoted to an open congressional seat in the Jacksonville area, joining a crowded Republican primary with better-known candidates.

But DeSantis had powerful factors in his favor: the military record, Ivy League connections and conservative bona fides from a book he wrote in 2011, Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama. The book excoriates the president [Obama] as a European-style leftist abandoning the principles of the founding fathers.

DeSantis hawked the self-published book at tea party gatherings, while contacts from Yale and Harvard provided early fundraising.

"He came to my attention because he's a Yalie," said Joseph Fogg, a 1968 graduate who led financial firms and now lives in Naples. Fogg hosted early fundraisers for DeSantis, impressed by his strong views about Obama. "Those of us on the conservative side of the ledger were looking for some bright young people that would be taking the country in a different direction."

Another Yale connection, former DeSantis roommate Nick Sinatra, provided inroads to Trump. Sinatra worked on Carl Paladino's 2010 gubernatorial campaign in New York alongside Roger Stone, who composed a tweet that Trump fired off on March 20, 2012: "Ron DeSantis, Iraq vet, Navy hero, bronze star, Yale, Harvard Law, running for Congress in Fla. Very impressive."

It was Fox News — advertising, not appearances — that brought DeSantis from obscurity in his first campaign. His team gambled on heavy advertising while DeSantis began to walk neighborhoods and introduce himself to voters.

It began to pay off in polls, and that summer DeSantis was taken to Washington for a round of meetings with conservative groups, including FreedomWorks, Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth.

Crucial to that endeavor was Daniel Faraci, a Washington lobbyist and campaign consultant who helped prep DeSantis and pitched the candidate as rock solid ideologically.

During a sit-down with the Club for Growth, DeSantis impressed with a command of the Bill of Rights and the issues. The book helped, too. "Right off the bat he was scoring positive points with us," said Andy Roth, a club vice president. "It was a no-brainer that we endorsed him and then, as they say, the rest is history."

The first FedEx full of checks provided resources to buy more ads, including attacks on primary rivals, who complained they were misleading or false. The club's wealthy members kicked in more than $100,000 and have since contributed $500,000 to DeSantis' campaigns.

He won the GOP primary by 16 percentage points and easily dispatched a Democrat in the general election (Smith and Leary 4,6-7).

The most memorable part of Mr. DeSantis’s six years in Congress might be the platform they gave him to heighten his profile on Fox News, where he frequently represented the hard-line Freedom Caucus. Later, he would staunchly defend Mr. Trump over the Russia investigation.

He was a policy wonk with an ability to really identify a few areas within his committees, responsibilities which he knew would give him the political opportunity to get on television,” said Scott Parkinson, who was Mr. DeSantis’s chief of staff in 2018. Mr. DeSantis was appearing on cable TV multiple times a day, Mr. Parkinson recalled.

Mr. DeSantis often slept in his office and walked the Capitol halls wearing headphones, avoiding unwanted interactions. He made few friends and struck other lawmakers as aloof.

A brief Senate run in 2016 proved critical: It exposed him to a national network of wealthy donors he would later tap in his long-shot bid for governor (Mazzei 4).

Much of Mr. DeSantis’s attention in Congress was on terrorism. From his perch as chairman of a national security subcommittee, he delivered attention-grabbing statements that stoked fear of Muslims. Following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, for example, he speculated that there were “thousands” of potential terrorists on federal watch lists in Florida.

He’s willing to tolerate and even utilize prejudice to advance his agenda,” said Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Florida Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil-liberties organization (Mazzie and Saul 5).

On January 29, 2014, DeSantis introduced into the House the Faithful Execution of the Law Act of 2014 (H.R. 3973; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the United States Department of Justice to report to the United States Congress whenever any federal agency refrains from enforcing laws or regulations for any reason. In the report, the government would have to explain why it had decided not to enforce that law. DeSantis spoke in favor of the bill, arguing that "President Obama has not only failed to uphold several of our nation's laws, he has vowed to continue to do so in order to enact his unpopular agenda... The American people deserve to know exactly which laws the Obama administration is refusing to enforce and why."

In 2013, DeSantis signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising to vote against any global warming legislation that would raise taxes.

On August 24, 2017, DeSantis added a rider to the proposed fiscal 2018 spending bill package that would end funding for the 2017 Special Counsel investigation "or for the investigation under that order of matters occurring before June 2015" (the month Trump announced he was running for president) 180 days after passage of the bill. The amendment would counter a bipartisan bill authored by two Democratic and two Republican U.S. Senators that was meant to limit the president's power to fire the special counsel. The DeSantis amendment would potentially cut off funding for the investigation by November 2017. It was also a response to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's statement that the DOJ, "...doesn't conduct fishing expeditions." Rep. DeSantis said that the May 17, 2017 DOJ order "didn't identify a crime to be investigated and practically invites a fishing expedition."

DeSantis opposed the Iran nuclear deal framework, calling it "a bad deal that will significantly degrade our national security." DeSantis said "the Iran deal gives Ayatollah Khamenei exactly what he wants: billions of dollars in sanctions relief, validation of the Iranian nuclear program, and the ability to stymie inspections."

During a line of questioning, DeSantis told Secretary of State John Kerry that the executive branch had a legal obligation to provide Congress with the details behind any side deals made between world leaders and Iran. DeSantis accused President Barack Obama of giving better treatment of Cuba's Raul Castro and Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei than of Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 2015, DeSantis introduced the Guantanamo Bay Recidivism Prevention Act, which would cut off foreign aid to countries that receive detainees if they show back up on the terrorism recidivism list. DeSantis opposed President Obama's plan to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, saying "Bringing hardened terrorists to the U.S. homeland harms our national security."

Regarding the formal restart of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, DeSantis said "Raising the Cuban flag in the United States is a slap in the face to those who have experienced the brutality of the Castro regime."

In 2013, DeSantis introduced the Palestinian Accountability Act, which would halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it formally recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and cuts off all ties with the terror group Hamas.

In 2016, DeSantis co-introduced the Non-Discrimination of Israel in Labeling Act, which will defend the right of Israeli producers to label products manufactured in the West Bank as “Israel,” “Made in Israel,” or “Product of Israel.” DeSantis believes that the U.S. Embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

DeSantis is opposed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He has called for the "full and complete repeal" of the act.

DeSantis was a critic of President Obama's immigration policies; he opposed Obama's deferred action programs (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)) and accused him of failing to enforce immigration laws. DeSantis opposes "sanctuary cities." He is a co-sponsor of the Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015, also known as Kate's Law, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase penalties applicable to aliens who unlawfully reenter the United States after being removed.

DeSantis opted not to receive his congressional pension, and he filed a measure that would eliminate pensions for members of Congress. After introducing the End Pensions in Congress Act, DeSantis said "The Founding Fathers envisioned elected officials as part of a servant class, yet Washington has evolved into a ruling class culture." DeSantis supports a constitutional amendment to impose term limits for members of Congress, so that Representatives would be limited to three terms and senators to two terms.

He sponsored the Faithful Execution of the Law Act of 2014, which would direct the United States Department of Justice to report to the United States Congress whenever any federal agency refrains from enforcing laws or regulations for any reason. Speaking about the bill, DeSantis said "You can not have rule of law when people don’t know what the law is." The bill passed the U.S. House in March 2014.

DeSantis introduced a proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution that would provide that "Congress shall make no law respecting the citizens of the United States that does not also apply to the Senators and Representatives."

DeSantis has said that the debate in Washington, D.C. over how to reduce the deficit should shift emphasis from tax increases to curtailing spending and triggering economic growth. DeSantis supports a “no budget no pay” policy for Congress to encourage the passage of a budget. He believes the Federal Reserve System should be audited.

DeSantis opposes abortion and has denounced Planned Parenthood.

DeSantis was endorsed by the socially conservative Family Research Council Action PAC in 2015. DeSantis agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., saying "This case does not concern the availability or legality of contraceptives, and individuals can obtain and use these as they see fit. The question is simply whether the government can force the owners of Hobby Lobby to pay for abortifacients in violation of their faith."

DeSantis opposes gun control. He received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.

DeSantis opposes federal education programs such as No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top, saying that education policy should be made at the local level.

...

DeSantis proposed an amendment that would halt funding for Mueller’s 2017 Special Counsel investigation probe six months after the amendment’s passage. In addition, this provision also would prohibit Mueller from investigating matters that occurred before June 2015, when Trump launched his presidential campaign (Ron 5-7).

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) today proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to impose term limits on members of Congress. The amendment would limit U.S. senators to two six-year terms and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to three two-year terms.

D.C. is broken,” said Sen. Cruz. “The American people resoundingly agreed on Election Day, and President-elect Donald Trump has committed to putting government back to work for the American people. It is well past time to put an end to the cronyism and deceit that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions.”

Cruz continued: “The time is now for Congress, with the overwhelming support of the American people, to submit this constitutional amendment to the states for speedy ratification. With control of a decisive majority of the states, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, we have a responsibility to answer the voters’ call-to-action. We must deliver.”

Term limits are the first step towards reforming Capitol Hill,” said Rep. DeSantis. “Eliminating the political elite and infusing Washington with new blood will restore the citizen legislature that our Founding Fathers envisioned. The American people have called for increased accountability and we must deliver. Senator Cruz has been instrumental in efforts to hold Congress accountable, and I look forward to working with him to implement term limits.”

In December, Sen. Cruz and Rep. DeSantis published an op-ed in the Washington Post announcing their intention to introduce a term limits amendment in the 115th Congress (Ted Cruz 1).


Works cited:

Gancarski, A. G. “Ron DeSantis Says Three Years of Law School Is a ‘waste’.” Florida Politics, October 15, 2021. Net. https://floridapolitics.com/archives/465049-ron-desantis-says-three-years-of-law-school-is-a-waste/

Mazzei, Patricia and Saul, Stephanie. “Ron DeSantis, a Trump Ally, Struggles in Florida as Racial Flare-Ups Come to Fore.” New York Times. November 1, 2018. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/01/us/politics/ron-desantis-florida-trump-gillum.html

Mazzei, Patricia. “G.O.P. Heir? He’s Certainly Trying.” New York Times, updated August 15, 2021. Net. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/10/us/politics/ron-desantis-republican-trump.html

Ron DeSantis.” Wikipedia. Net. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_DeSantis

Ron DeSantis.” Military Wikipedia. Net. https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/Ron_DeSantis

Smith, Adam C. and Leary, Alex. “Ron DeSantis: Capitol Hill Loner, Fox News Fixture, Trump Favorite in Florida Governor’s Race.” Tampa Bay Times, updated February 10, 2018. Net. https://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/02/09/ron-desantis-capitol-hill-loner-fox-news-fixture-trump-favorite-in-florida-governors-race/

Ted Cruz. “Sen. Cruz and Rep. DeSantis Introduce Constitutional Amendment To Impose Term Limits on Members of Congress.” cruz.senate.gov, January 3, 2017. Net. https://www.cruz.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sen-cruz-and-rep-desantis-introduce-constitutional-amendment-to-impose-term-limits-on-members-of-congress