DES MOINES, Iowa – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may still be mulling over a run for president, but the Republican looked and sounded every bit a contender for the GOP presidential nomination Friday evening in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
DeSantis joined fellow Republican, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. at a packed, standing-room only stop at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, ostensibly to promote his new book, The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.
Make no mistake: The popular governor’s two stops in Iowa — in Davenport and Des Moines — were part of a blueprint for his upcoming run for the White House.
DeSantis wowed the crowd of 1,000-plus with his take-no-B.S. narrative, much of it true. His cultural war against the left and their allies in the legacy media, his fight against Florida’s woke corporate Goliath Disney, and, particularly, his brawl with the lockdowners and mask police during the pandemic.
“It’s great to be with you from the free state of Florida,” the Republican shouted to deafening applause from Iowa Republicans.
DeSantis repeated his war of words against the “expert class,” particularly one Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The old Pandemic Czar is taking increased heat in retirement for, among other concerns, growing evidence that the virus that has claimed more than 7 million lives worldwide likely originated from a lab in China — a theory Fauci’s top scientists feverishly worked to discredit.
“The Expert Class was wrong on almost everything,” DeSantis said. “They were wrong on lockdowns, they were wrong on masks, they were wrong on school closures, they were wrong on rejecting natural immunity, they were wrong on the efficacy of mRNA jabs, and they lied for three years about saying COVID came from a wet market when we know it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
It was one of DeSantis’ biggest applause lines, perhaps not surprising in a state led by Republicans — a state that, too, pushed against the conventional “follow the science” wisdom at the time.
“These were challenging and uncertain times with no playbook,” Reynolds said in introducing. DeSantis. “We both were elected in 2018 and we both focused on protecting the lives, livelihoods and freedoms of the citizens that we represent.”
The Florida governor, as he does in his book, addressed the Red State-Blue State difference on crime and punishment, asserting Florida is a “law and order state.” He recalled that when the Black Lives Matter movement hit the streets of Minneapolis and cities across the country were on fire with riots following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, he immediately called out the National Guard and Florida law enforcement.
“I said, ‘You’re not burning down cities in the state of Florida.’ Guess what? They didn’t burn down cities in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
He added that he was rebuked by the United Nations for signing a bill into law that set stiffer prison sentences for looters and rioters. The governor said he wears that rebuke “like a badge of honor.”
DeSantis walked through his “tussles” with the left-wing, identity politics army. He drew cheers when he talked about Florida banning the controversial teachings of critical race theory and similar curricula that demand the United States is steeped in white supremacy.
“We’re not teaching our kids to hate our country or hate each other with your tax dollars,” the presumptive presidential candidate said. He noted that Florida now reserves a day each year — November 7 — to teach its school children “about the evils of communism and Marxism.”
“And we should not have a situation where a teacher is telling a second grader that they were born in the wrong body, that their gender is a choice. That is wrong,” DeSantis said, to applause. Iowa’s Republican-controlled Legislature is working on many of the same conservative policies this session.
As he laid out his record and his vision, DeSantis clearly trumpeted his candidate bona fides. He talked about how he was elected by a slim 32,000 votes to his first term as governor in 2018, and how he won re-election last November by nearly 20 percentage points and more than 1.5 million votes.
He said nothing about his would-be rivals for the White House, particularly the Republican Big Gun heading to Iowa on Monday for a campaign rally: Former President Donald Trump. Trump, meanwhile, has apparently been workshopping derogatory nicknames for what many pundits believe would be his toughest competitor for the Republican nomination.
The former president has hit DeSantis where it could hurt, however: the governor’s past positions on Social Security and Medicare. He recently attacked DeSantis for his three votes in congress supporting nonbinding resolutions recommending reducing projected Medicare spending over a decade. DeSantis also suggested in his 2012 campaign for the House that he backed partial privatization of Medicare. He later said Medicare needed to be restructured.
Trump’s blows were apparently bruising enough to force the Florida governor to tell Fox News that Republicans “are not going to mess with Social Security.”
Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley earlier this week in western Iowa said there needs to be a change to the Social Security age, and suggested there should be limits on the entitlements for wealthier seniors. The former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations under Trump seems to have backed off of that trial balloon in recent days.
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Ron DeSantis.