Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been a favorite corporate media punching bag for not bending to the preferred narrative for COVID-19. He said his state will never lock down again and reiterated it when President Biden was mulling nationwide lockdowns. Rather than asking schools to open, DeSantis ordered them open. He has also been a leader in making sure special needs students get follow-up services to close any gaps from closures in the spring.
Through the summer and fall, the media constantly forced DeSantis to defend the decisions he and his team made in managing the pandemic. Meanwhile, people from states with endless, dystopian lockdowns fled to the Sunshine State, many permanently. According to Bloomberg, 13,000 residents from Andrew Cuomo’s New York alone moved to Florida last year. Senator Marco Rubio noted in an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight that the state is also seeing a new trend of relocations from Florida.
Balancing Floridians’ needs during the pandemic and effectively defending his decisions has Politico saying DeSantis is creating chatter within the Republican Party regarding his political future. At age 42, with a young family, he has plenty of time to decide which direction to take his career. But there is still plenty of chatter about 2024.
A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law, DeSantis served in the Naval Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). During his active-duty service, he supported operations at the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He then deployed to Iraq as an adviser to a U.S. Navy SEAL commander to support the SEAL mission in Fallujah, Ramadi, and the rest of Al Anbar province. He still serves in the National Guard.
Ron DeSantis once drew national scorn for his stewardship of Florida’s Covid-19 response — critics took to referring to the governor as “DeathSantis” for his resistance to restrictive measures.
But that very blowback — marked by predictions of doom and widespread criticism for being divorced from science — has made DeSantis ascendant in the GOP. His position is strengthened among the GOP grassroots and elites heading into his 2022 reelection in Florida and accompanied by increasing conservative chatter nationwide about a presidential bid.
By scrapping with reporters and President Joe Biden’s White House — which has singled out Florida and the governor in recent weeks — the wonky but combative governor has elevated his profile at a time when other big-state governors have been laid low.
DeSantis will likely run for his second and last term as governor in 2022. His only stated opposition at this point is Charlie “I’ve been a member of every party” Crist. Right now, DeSantis edges out President Trump in popularity in his home state, one that turned redder in 2020. According to a Florida Chamber of Commerce poll, DeSantis has a 54% approval rating despite all of the negative national press—and despite an activist former employee who continues to attempt to sabotage the COVID-19 data.
Politico spoke to Republican veterans across the country who give DeSantis a lot of runway going into 2024. Many say they hear his name in unexpected places, like Texas, where he seems to be gaining popularity. The author notes that he is probably popular with Republicans because he defies experts and spars with the media. A shallow assessment, to be sure.
DeSantis is gaining in popularity for several reasons. He has an authenticity about him that is not boorish. He can handle himself with the media, knowing when to crack a joke and when to get serious. DeSantis holds people accountable, like firing Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel after his failures during the Parkland shooting. He also defends Floridians by committing to taking on Big Tech to protect free speech and showing a willingness to take on the new administration when it threatened Florida with travel restrictions.
Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who worked for Trump and DeSantis, told Politico:
“Any serious handicapper would have to put DeSantis in tier one for 2024. And tier one is not big,” he said. Fabrizio puts the governor in the same class as Pence and Cruz, even though they’re far better known at the moment.
Only time will tell if 2024 is the year to give it a try, but Ron DeSantis has the combination of skills, personality, and demonstrated leadership to appeal to a broad coalition.