All but running: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis soft-launches a White House bid

JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Gov. Ron DeSantis is testing out a presidential run this week, launching a book tour that will expose him to national retail politicking and dropping a campaign-style advertisement promoting his successes running the Sunshine State.

Mr. DeSantis’ book, “The Courage to be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Survival,” was released on Tuesday and is part memoir and part victory lap for Mr. DeSantis, whose conservative policies and opposition to COVID-19 mandates have been very popular in the state and helped propel him to national attention and a historic 19-point reelection victory in November.

The publisher describes the book as “a firsthand account from the blue-collar boy who grew up to take on Disney and Dr. Fauci.” The publisher called it “a winning blueprint for patriots across the country [and] a rallying cry for every American who wishes to preserve our liberties.”

On Sunday, a DeSantis-aligned super PAC released a campaign-style ad touting Florida’s growth and successes under the DeSantis administration. It blamed the nation’s difficulties on President Biden’s spending and energy policies, COVID-related restrictions and an influx of illegal immigrants over the southern border.

Florida, Mr. DeSantis says in the ad, “is proof positive that ‘we the people’ are not destined for failure.”

Mr. DeSantis will make stops in seven Florida cities this week to promote the book.

Mr. DeSantis isn’t expected to announce his 2024 plans until sometime after the state legislature wraps up business in May. 

For now, he’s dipping his toe into a national race. He gathered with donors in Palm Beach earlier this month and conducted a mini-tour of Democrat-run cities of Philadelphia, New York and Chicago to promote his support of law enforcement and tough-on-crime policies. 

Mr. DeSantis raised record sums of money for his 2022 reelection campaign and has close to $100 million left over, which he can use for an aligned super PAC if he decides officially to run for president.

His rising political star has already attracted dozens of mega-donors who backed his reelection bid and see the 44-year-old governor as the most viable GOP alternative to former President Donald Trump.

In his book, Mr. DeSantis touts his response to the coronavirus pandemic, in which he quickly reopened shuttered Florida businesses and schools and rejected mask and vaccine mandates. He wrote that “power-hungry elites” used the pandemic to try to impose “an oppressive biomedical security state on America.”

Florida, the governor wrote, “stood as an impenetrable roadblock to such designs.”

Mr. DeSantis is among an emerging field of GOP candidates who hope to dethrone Mr. Trump, who announced his own 2024 presidential campaign in November.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley launched her presidential bid earlier in February, while other top Republicans, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have made stops in New Hampshire and Iowa, which are early-voting states in the nominating race.

Mr. Trump, who clearly sees Mr. DeSantis as his top GOP threat, is testing out unflattering nicknames for his likely opponent and accusing his old favored network, Fox News, of over-promoting the governor. 

A new Fox News poll shows Mr. Trump leading Mr. DeSantis, 43% to 28%. 

“The new Fox Poll, which has always been purposely terrible for me, has ‘TRUMP Crushing DeSanctimonious,’ but they barely show it,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Isn’t there a big, beautiful, Network which wants to do well, and make a fortune besides? FAKE NEWS!”

Mr. DeSantis’ book includes behind-the-scenes information about how the governor navigated some of the most significant backlash to his conservative legislation.

When Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek called to ask Mr. DeSantis not to sign a bill that would ban teaching LGBTQ issues to children in kindergarten through third grades, Mr. DeSantis warned him not to bend to pressure from the left and questioned how the theme park and entertainment giant could justify its support of China, a nation accused of significant human rights violations.  

Instead, Mr. Chapek vowed to fight the law in court, escalating the battle and prompting Mr. DeSantis to win passage of a law revoking the special self-governing district for Disney’s Orlando theme park.  

Mr. DeSantis signed the law on Tuesday, placing the district under a board appointed by the governor. 

“We believe that being joined at the hip with this one California-based company was not something that was justifiable or sustainable,” Mr. DeSantis said.

Source: WT