16.6 C
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
HomeEconomyRon DeSantis is trying to soften his image on the campaign trail

Ron DeSantis is trying to soften his image on the campaign trail


Speaking to hundreds of local Republicans at an outdoor pavilion in Salem, New Hampshire, Ron DeSantis made no explicit mention of Donald Trump this week.

But with thinly veiled attacks, the Florida governor gave a clear picture of how he plans to challenge the former president for the Republican party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

“I’m sorry, this is something only a two-term president will be able to pull off,” DeSantis told a crowd of Republican voters standing alone at one of four stops in New Hampshire’s crucial early voting state on Thursday.

The 44-year-old governor was referring to the fact that Trump, 76, as a former president would be constitutionally limited to just one term in the White House, while DeSantis could serve two consecutive four-year terms. .

“Anyone who says they can beat the Deep State in six months should be asked: Why didn’t you do that when you had four years to try?” DeSantis added, in a barb to Trump’s claims that he could get the country “back on track” within months.

Supporters of Donald Trump outside the Ron DeSantis campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday © Bloomberg

DeSantis’ tour of New Hampshire was part of a four-day blitz that includes events in Iowa and South Carolina as the governor looks to jump-start his fledgling campaign in key early voting states that will determine the Republican presidential nominee.

Analysts say DeSantis should claim the title of heir apparent to Trump without alienating too many of the former president’s loyal supporters.

“He has to thread a needle,” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. “How do you get those Never Trumpers on board while still grabbing those conservative voters?”

When DeSantis launched his campaign last month, he ended months of speculation and entered an increasingly crowded field of Republican presidential candidates. Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the UN, and Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, campaigned, while Chris Christie, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, and Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, went to are expected to participate in the contest next week.

DeSantis’ popularity skyrocketed last November after he won reelection in Florida by nearly 20 points as other Republican candidates around the country faltered in the midterms.

DeSantis watches as his wife Casey DeSantis speaks Friday at a campaign event in Bluffton, South Carolina

DeSantis watches as his wife Casey DeSantis speaks Friday at a campaign event in Bluffton, South Carolina © AP

But DeSantis has fallen in polls in recent months after a string of public missteps and because his increasingly hardline stance on social issues like abortion has left deep-pocketed donors terrified. At the same time, Trump has soared as his supporters rallied behind him despite several legal challenges.

The latest average of national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics shows Trump enjoys the support of more than half of Republican base voters, with DeSantis a distant second, with just over 22 points.

DeSantis nevertheless drew large crowds in his first appearances as a candidate in New Hampshire, with many former Trump voters saying they were ready to move on.

“I think we need some young blood and new ideas in Washington,” said Bernice Cooper, 58, who drove several hours to hear DeSantis speak at a community college in Manchester.

“(DeSantis) is my top pick right now — and I’m a Trump supporter,” Cooper added. “I don’t think that (DeSantis) is bullshit. He doesn’t just chat. He has real ideas, real results.”

DeSantis’ stupid speech draws heavily on his legislative accomplishments as Florida governor. Clocking in at nearly an hour, it can sometimes sound like a laundry list of shaky policies, like the governor’s opposition to the idea of ​​a central bank digital currency, or his enthusiasm for little-known epidemiologists opposing Covid-19 lockdowns .

But DeSantis is also trying to convey a more human side to his candidacy. Critics have accused him of being too socially awkward and not investing enough in the “shaking hands and kissing babies” side of retail politics that voters in early primary states crave.

DeSantis started every event in New Hampshire by throwing branded baseball caps into the crowd. He shared the stage with Casey DeSantis, his telegenic former TV reporter wife, who spoke about family life with the couple’s three young children. At a veterans’ hall in Rochester, the governor was jeered by a mostly retired crowd when he told a story about a middle-of-the-night search for chicken nuggets for his jet-lagged five-year-old.

Ron DeSantis throws campaign hats into crowds in Manchester

Ron DeSantis said, ‘Ultimately, leadership isn’t about entertainment’ © REUTERS

The family anecdotes may help soften DeSantis’ image with voters who find him too brash — earlier in the day, the candidate barked, “Are you blind?” to a reporter who asked why he wasn’t answering voter questions. But strategists say the stories also provide a more subtle contrast to Trump, who is not only three decades older, but also married three times.

DeSantis’ speech includes other apparent digs at Trump, who was famous for flashy business dealings and reality TV stardom before running for president.

DeSantis claims that he “could have made a lot of money doing other things” but got more “fulfillment” by enlisting in the military before running for public office. And he repeats a rehearsed line: “Ultimately leadership is not about entertainment. . . it is ultimately about producing results for the people you represent.”

But DeSantis and allies see his track record at the polls as perhaps his most effective weapon against Trump. The governor concluded each speech in New Hampshire by calling on Republicans to “shake the culture of loss that has infected our party in recent years,” saying, “There is no substitute for victory.”

Many in the Republican establishment blame the former president for the party’s failure in last year’s midterm elections, when several of Trump’s hand-picked candidates for the U.S. Senate and other major offices lost their races.

It remains to be seen whether grassroots Republican voters share their concerns about electability. A Monmouth poll last week found that nearly half of Republican voters nationwide said Trump was “definitely” the strongest candidate to run against Joe Biden, the Democratic president.

In New Hampshire, however, several voters seemed receptive to DeSantis’ pitch.

“(Trump) has already lost to Biden once,” said Fred Kohout, an 82-year-old two-time Trump voter from Hebron, New Hampshire, who attended DeSantis’ speech in Manchester with his wife Barbara.

“He should have blown them out of the water just like DeSantis did.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

Latest stories