Photo of an elephant with tusks by Lucas Metz on Unsplash

March 7, 2023: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) used his highly anticipated State of the State address on Tuesday to preview what is expected to be the core message of his likely 2024 presidential campaign, touting his work transforming Florida into a bastion of conservatism and hinting at more fights to come (The Hill)

Speaking to a joint session of the state legislature as lawmakers kicked off their annual session, DeSantis riffed on his usual talking points: how he pushed back against the so-called “biomedical security state” in his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic; how he fought against “woke” culture; and how Americans were flocking to Florida en masse because of it…

…Less than a hour before his address, Republican lawmakers in the state House and Senate filed bills that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. DeSantis signed a 15-week ban on the procedure last year, though he has said that he would sign tougher restrictions into law…

…DeSantis has said that he will make a decision on his 2024 plans once the legislative session ends in May…

April 13, 2023: Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) on Thursday encouraged Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “to make up his mind” about 2024 as anticipation builds that the governor could launch a presidential bid and get in the GOP primary ring with former President Trump. (The Hill)

“He’s got one leg, one foot in running for president and the other one not,” Kasich, who ran against Trump for the presidential primary in 2016, said of DeSantis on MSNBC. “And, I mean, one of the issues is: you got to jump in at some point.”…

…Trump, who lost his 2020 reelection bid to President Biden, announced his 2024 campaign just after the November midterms. DeSantis has repeatedly polled as the top potential contender for a hypothetical GOP primary alongside Trump, but has been coy about whether he’ll get into the race…

April 14, 2023: Floridians woke up Friday morning to discover Gov. Ron DeSantis had signed into law a six-week abortion ban overnight, meeting behind closed doors with a select group of invited guests to give final approval to a bill that just passed the state legislature earlier that day. (CNN).

In backing a six-week ban, DeSantis fulfilled a campaign pledge to block abortion after the detection of a heartbeat – just before he is expected to launch his 2024 presidential bid. But as he inches towards a national campaign, DeSantis, who rarely sidesteps cultural clashes, has become oddly muted on abortion since the fall of Roe v. Wade and has avoided laying out a federal position before jumping into the race.

(NOTE: BabyCenter reported: “When you’re 6 weeks pregnant, however, the heart isn’t fully developed. For this reason, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) defines the fluttering cells in the embryonic heart tube as “cardiac activity” rather than a heartbeat.)

Speaking Friday morning to an overwhelmingly pro-life audience at Liberty University, a deeply conservative Baptist college in Virginia, DeSantis didn’t mention the bill he signed the night before…

May 11, 2023: Two high-profile Iowa Republicans – Senate President Amy Sinclair and House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl – are endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ potential presidential bid as he returns to the state this weekend ahead of a likely presidential run. (Des Moines Register)

DeSantis is scheduled to hold a pair of events Saturday in Sioux Center and Cedar Rapids – the same day former President Donald Trump is set to appear at a rally in Des Moines.

Trump and DeSantis are on a potential collision course in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, which could have a more important role than ever in helping determine the course of the Republican presidential primary as Trump opponents hope to coalesce around a viable alternative.

The endorsement from two well-known, deeply conservative Iowa Republicans underscores the desire among many in the GOP to move on from Trump, even as he continues to claim a firm grasp on a sizable chunk of the Republican base…

May 16, 2023: In late April, Juliet Harvey-Bolia, a Republican New Hampshire state representative, was one of dozens of elected officials whose endorsements former President Donald Trump announced at a packed rally in Manchester. (NBC News)

On Tuesday, officials at Never Back Down, the super PAC backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, said Harvey-Bolia is throwing her support to their guy. She is one of four New Hampshire legislators – the other are Reps. Brian Cole, Lisa Smart and Debra DiSimone – whom Never Back Down identified as flipping from Trump to DeSantis as it rolled out endorsements from 51 lawmakers in the state who signed a pledge to back DeSantis.

But that’s not how Harvey-Bolia sees it.

“I’m endorsing both,” she said in a telephone interview. “DeSantis has a lot of promise for the future, and Trump is great now.”

Smart, one of the other three legislators, said Tuesday that she remains with Trump – dropping DeSantis’ total to 50 state lawmakers…

…The unusual dual endorsement and Smart’s reiteration of her support for Trump added intriguing twists to DeSantis’ efforts to show momentum as he nears making his bid official. Last week, his super PAC revealed endorsements from 37 Iowa legislators just before he launched a three-city tour of the state.

And NBC News confirmed Tuesday that he has summoned his top donors to meetings in Miami on May 25, in conjunction with his expected campaign launch…

May 16, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) went after former President Trump over his stance on abortion restrictions, saying Tuesday that Trump dodged questions about whether he would sign a bill similar to the six-week abortion ban signed by DeSantis. (The Hill)

Trump said this week in an interview with The Messenger that “a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing,” when asked about DeSantis’s decision to sign the six week ban, arguing that “many people in the pro-life movement feel that was too harsh.”

DeSantis fired back during a bill signing in Tallahassee on Tuesday, criticizing Trump for not saying whether he would sign a similar bill.

“I think that as a Florida resident, you know, he didn’t give an answer about ‘would you have signed the heartbeat bill that Florida did.”” DeSantis said. “He won’t answer whether he would sign it or not.”

The bill in Florida, which DeSantis signed last month, has infuriated abortion rights advocates. But the governor defended his decision to endorse the law…

May 19, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is coming up on the zero hour for his long-anticipated 2024 campaign launch. (The Hill)

After months of travel, preparations and posturing, the governor is set to file paperwork next week declaring his candidacy for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination, a person familiar with the plans told The Hill. The filing is expected to come just before he meets with donors in Miami.

His formal entrance into the race will end months of speculation that have swirled around a deeply conservative governor who quickly emerged as one of the country’s most prominent and influential Republicans…

…There has been little doubt about DeSantis’s intentions. He began touring the country earlier this year to promote his latest book – a move that was widely viewed as a soft launch for an eventual campaign. And he’s steadily assembled a political team, brining in veteran campaign staffers and consultants and expanding his once-small political circle…

May 20, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is running into early problems as he tries to cast former President Donald Trump as a loser while opening his presidential campaign. (The Hill)

DeSantis and his allies have focused on Trump’s losing record in recent elections to set up the Florida governor as a worthy alternative to the ex-president with GOP primary voters. DeSantis has specifically told GOP voters to “reject the culture of losing.”

“Governing is not about entertaining. Governing is not about building brand or talking on social media and virtue signaling. It’s ultimately about winning and producing results,” DeSantis told voters during a recent stop in Iowa in a swipe at Trump without naming the former president.

…Casting Trump as a loser also forces DeSantis to wade into the 2020 election. Trump lost that election, but many GOP voters refuse to accept it, and DeSantis himself has danced around the issue and avoided saying whether he believes the result was rigged or fraudulent…

May 21, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appears, finally, to be ready to enter the presidential race. (The Hill)

DeSantis, who has long been seen as the most serious rival to former President Trump for the GOP nomination, has been running a quasi-campaign for months, backed by a big-spending super PAC.

But now multiple reports suggest the Florida governor will enter the race next week.

He is expected to file paperwork making a bid official around Wednesday or Thursday – the days when he has scheduled a gathering of campaign donors in Miami….

May 23, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will announce he is running for president during a discussion with Twitter CEO Elon Musk, three sources familiar with the plans told NBC News. (NBC News)

Musk and DeSantis will host an event on Twitter Spaces, the site’s platform for audio chats, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. It will be moderated by David Sacks, a tech entrepreneur who is a Musk confidant and DeSantis supporter.

That same evening, the campaign will release a launch video, and DeSantis will begin visiting several early states after Memorial Day.

The relationship could be a significant boost for DeSantis by giving him an introduction to, and credibility with, Musk’s massive following – including his 140 million Twitter followers. But it could prove a burden should DeSantis become distracted by the tycoon’s many controversial comments…

…The announcement will coincide with a retreat for high-end fundraisers pledged to support DeSantis in Miami. Bundlers will gather at the Four Seasons hotel from May 24-26, receiving briefings from campaign staff, combined with time to call around to raise money for the campaign…

May 30, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is eyeing a critical opportunity to counter former President Donald Trump in Iowa as he sets off on his 2024 White House campaign. (The Hill)

Even as Trump has taken an early lead in national polls, Republicans see an opening for DeSantis in the storied, first-in-the-nation caucus state, a traditional proving ground and potential source of early momentum for White House hopefuls.

Not only has he already racked up a long list of endorsements from prominent Iowa Republicans, but a super PAC supporting his campaign has launched an extensive vote contact and organizing operation in the state and he began his 2024 campaign tour in West Des Moines on Tuesday evening…

…Even before his campaign launch last week, Never Back Down, the main super PAC backing DeSantis’s presidential bid, rounded up endorsements from dozens of Iowa state legislators and helped organize a crowd to attend an impromptu appearance by DeSantis in Des Moines.

The group has also hired a team of 10 staffers and nearly 200 canvassers in Iowa to begin reaching out to caucus-goers and has already knocked on more than 50,000 doors in the state, according to a spokesperson. The super PAC’s canvassers are being trained out of an office in West Des Moines…

May 30, 2023 – updated May 31, 2023: Standing before a 20-foot American flag in an evangelical church in Iowa, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made his first appearance as a presidential candidate. (Des Moines Register)

“The tired dogmas of the past are inadequate for a vibrant future. We must look forward, not backwards,” DeSantis said. “We must have the courage to lead, and we must have the strength to win, because the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

A few hundred supporters packed into Eternity Church in Clive, filling the seats of the small auditorium and standing along the grey cinderblock walls. Cheering drowned out the music when Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds welcomed DeSantis to the stages as he took the podium.

It was the first public campaign event since DeSantis launched his presidential campaign last week in a Twitter even marred by technical difficulties…

…As governor, DeSantis has signed legislation to ban instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, to remove funding for diversity, equity and inclusion offices at state colleges, to restrict care for transgender individuals, and to prohibit the teaching of “critical race theory,” which argues that the U.S. still struggles with systemic racism…

June 6, 2023: Ron DeSantis ventured far from the usual presidential campaign trail Saturday, heading to a rodeo in reliably red Oklahoma to make the case that he’s the top alternative to Donald Trump – even as the former president’s indictment threatens to upend the 2024 Republican primary race. (The Hill)

The Florida governor sought to project strength by campaigning in one of the more than a dozen states scheduled to hold GOP primaries on Super Tuesday next March, weeks after the earlier states vote. He also notched the endorsement of Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, the first governor to formally announce his support for DeSantis.

DeSantis says his record has put him at the cutting edge of the next generation of Republicans. But addressing a sweat-soaked audience fanning themselves with yard signs, the governor introduced a loftier theme, asking Americans to embrace his call for new national leadership…

June 6, 2023: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he would agree to a debate with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“I’m all in. Count on it,” Newsom told Hannity during a sit-down interview on Fox News that aired Monday.

“You would do a two-hour debate with Ron DeSantis?” Hannity asked.

“Make it three,” Newsom responded. “I would do it one day’s notice with no notes. I look forward to that.”

Tensions between the two governors have grown after a dozen migrants from the Texas border were flown to Sacramento, Calif. The Florida Division of Emergency Management confirmed last week that the state was behind the recent migrant flights to California…

…Sixteen South American migrants who entered the country through Texas were dropped of outside the Roman Catholic church in Sacramento earlier this month after boarding a private plane. California Attorney General Rob Bond (D) said he met with the migrants and that there was “no prior arrangement or care in place,” for them. He also aid the migrants were carrying documentation form Florida…

June 7, 2023: Questions surrounding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) presidential campaign strategy are multiplying as he continues to trail former President Trump in the polls nearly a month after his highly anticipated campaign launch. (The Hill)

In a sign of just how concerned some of the governor’s allies are, the spokesperson for the pro-DeSantis PAC Never Back Down recently referred to Trump as the “runaway front-runner: in the primary and that DeSantis faced an “uphill battle.”

Meanwhile, DeSantis’s campaign faced backlash this week after sharing a video attacking Trump over his past comments in support of the LGBTQ+ community, leading some Republicans to raise concerns…

…There are still reasons for allies of the governor to be worried. Around the same time [Steve] Cortes’s comments surfaced, the DeSantis campaign’s “war room” sparked outrage and confusion with a video attacking Trump over LGBTQ+ rights, including for comments the former president made in support of the community after the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida in 2016.

Among those who criticized DeSantis were LGBTQ+ Republicans including Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) and 2024 rivals including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie…

June 10, 2023: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) endorsed Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis on Saturday, after several fellow Republicans from the Sooner State threw their weight behind the Florida governor’s 2024 bid earlier this week. (The Hill)

…The Florida governor, who traveled to Tulsa, Okla. on Saturday afternoon, received endorsements from a former Oklahoma congressman and 20 state lawmakers on Thursday.

…Stitt’s comments on the Florida governor’s COVID-19 record comes as DeSantis has faced frequent attacks on the issue from former President Trump, who remains the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination.

Trump has repeatedly criticized DeSantis for instituting a lockdown in the early months of the pandemic, as well as for the state’s deaths from COVID-19. However, Florida ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of coronavirus death rate in 2021…

…DeSantis has previously taken aim at Trump’s ability to serve for only one more term, saying that it “really does take two terms as president to be able to finish the this job.”

June 10, 2023: Casey DeSantis, is set to play a central role in her husband’s campaign for the White House. (The Hill)

Florida’s First Lady was front and center with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) during his campaign kickoff tour last month and earlier this month.

The couple notably brought their three young children to Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) “Roast and Ride” event last Saturday, presenting a youthful, family image to GOP caucus goers in the Hawkeye state.

Many political observers say her charismatic presence is likely to be a boon for her husband, who has drawn criticism over his perceived aloofness and reluctance to embrace retail politics.

“That’s a trait that we often see the first ladies or First Ladies to be,” said Debbie Walsh, director at the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University.” They’re, in a way, humanizing their spouse and filling in some of the ways that they might not be as skilled or adept.”…

…In 2022, DeSantis launched “Mamas for DeSantis,” as a part of her husband’s reelection campaign. The initiative was described as “as a movement for Florida moms, grandmas, abuelas, nana’s, and more to get involved in the re-election campaign.”…

June 15, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said on Saturday during a campaign event that he would consider Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) for his running mate in the 2024 presidential election if he were to win the GOP nomination. (The Hill)

“Of course,” he said, when asked if Reynolds would be on the shortlist. “I mean, she’s one of the top public servants in America.”

During his two-day campaign sweep through the early caucus state, DeSantis also made several comparisons between Iowa and Florida – including the 6-week abortion ban signed into law by Reynolds on Friday. DeSantis signed a similar bill in April, though it’s being held up amid legal challenges…

June 17, 2023: Conservatives Saturday at Northern Nevada’s annual Basque Fry – an event that has been solidly Donald Trump country for years. (Reno Gazette Journal)

Many attendees wore Trump shirts and hats while listening to DeSantis’ case for why he should get their vote instead of the former president in February’s 2024 Republican presidential-preference primary.

His 45-minute campaign speech never mentioned frontrunner Trump by name.

DeSantis made it clear, though, that he thinks Trump is more focused on himself than delivering on the overall vision they both seek: beating back what they call radical leftist government that they believe is destroying cities and the nation.

“We need to restore sanity in this country,” DeSantis said. “We need to restore a sense of normality to our communities. We need to make sure our institutions have integrity.”

Holding a cordless microphone, the 44-year-old governor talked casually and quickly, running through numerous problems he sees in the country and how his administration handled them in Florida. These included bureaucracies being too sluggish in responding to disasters, prosecutors who don’t prosecute certain crimes, and school curricula informed by race and gender ideologies…

…Democrats held a news conference Friday in Reno to criticize DeSantis as extreme and linking him to Trump.

“(DeSantis’) MAGA agenda is full of dangerous policies that I believe will hurt Nevadans, including banning abortion, cutting Social Security and Medicare, turning the Silver State into a nuclear waste dump, and peddling baseless claims about the 2020 election,” said Reno city council member Devon Reese.

DeSantis’ record in Florida “is against everything we stand for here in Nevada, and his assault on reproductive freedom and the right to have free and fair elections will not be tolerated…

July 17, 2023: A pro-Ron DeSantis super PAC uses an Artificial Intelligence version of Donald Trump’s voice in a new television ad attacking the former president. (Politico)

The ad, from Never Back Down, charges Trump with attacking Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds as part of a larger pattern of disrespect he has shown to the first caucus state.

But the audio that the spot uses is not actually from Trump. A person familiar with the ad confirmed Trump’s voice was AI generated. Its content appears to be based off of a post that Trump made on his social media site Truth Social last week. The person said it will run statewide in Iowa tomorrow and that the ad buy was at least $1 million – a massive sum through one doable for the well-heeled super PAC. It will also be running via text message and on digital platforms.

Political ads have never used impersonation before, and the Trump-generated voice in the Never Back Down ad does not sound entirely natural. Still, the spot highlights what could be the next frontier of campaign advertising: The use of AI-generated content to produce increasingly difficult to identify, so-called deepfakes…

…Never Back Down had previously used AI to superimpose a fighter jet into a pro-DeSantis ad.

July 27, 2023: Longtime Republican strategist and Fox News contributor Karl Rove is blasting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for floating the idea of Robert Kennedy Jr. leading U.S. health agencies if DeSantis is elected president. (The Hill)

DeSantis, a candidate for the GOP nomination for president, suggested during a recent interview with conservative outlet OutKick he would “sic” RFK Jr., a well-known anti-vaccine activist on agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) if he were elected president.

Calling the idea “nutty,” Rove pulled out is trademark whiteboard during an appearance on Fox News and said “it is not just health care that Robert Kennedy is a conspiracy buff on. He’s got lots of conspiracies.”…

…Kennedy is running as a Democrat for president and has sparked widespread backlash for his comments on vaccines and the coronavirus pandemic, which he recently said was engineered to avoid infecting Chinese and Jewish people…

July 27, 2020: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) tumultuous week is underscoring the mounting challenges his campaign faces in the race against former President Trump. (The Hill)

On Tuesday, the campaign announced it was laying off 38 staffers in an effort to “streamline operations and put Ron DeSantis in the strongest position to win this primary.” The round of layoffs was the second in recent weeks.

The governor faced other awkward headlines as well, including that his campaign fired a staffer who prompted Nazi imagery on social media. The recent stumbles and shake-ups are seen as further evidence that DeSantis’s campaign is struggling to find its footing a month away from the first GOP primary debate in August…

…On Tuesday evening, the DeSantis campaign sent out a messaging memo to supporters acknowledging the “reset” and how they “embrace being the underdog.”

“We will press the gas on what works and pump the breaks on what doesn’t,” the memo reads. We will continue to make constant improvements as we move forward.”

Those improvements include cutting down on event and travel costs and using recent staff cuts to “reinvest” in DeSantis and his message. The campaign noted that the themes of it’s “Great American Comeback” message will be the economy, the border, China, and culture…

June 28, 2023: Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis suggested that he would eliminate a number of government agencies during an interview on Wednesday. (The Hill)

“Are you in favor of eliminating any agencies? I know conservatives in the past have talked about the closing of the Department of Education, would you do that?” Fox News’s Martha MacCallum asked the Florida governor on “The Story.”

DeSantis responded with a list of federal departments he would eliminate: “We would do Education, we would do Commerce, we’d do Energy, and we would do the IRS.”

“And so, if Congress will work with me on doing that, we’ll be able to reduce the size and scope of the government,” he added.

“But what I’m also going to do, Martha, is be prepared if Congress won’t go that far, I’m going to use those agencies to push back against woke ideology and against the leftism that we see creeping into all institutions of American life,” he said…

…The announcements follow reports Wednesday from the Trump campaign and his leadership political action committee, Save America, that they together raised $35 million for the second quarter of 2023, despite state and federal indictments of the former president. The second-quarter state and federal indictments of the former president. The second-quarter figures were more than double what the Trump campaign and Save America raised in the first quarter of 2023.

DeSantis, who is currently in second place in national polls of GOP voters, has lagged in recent weeks amid concerns about the public demeanor and hiccups with local groups in key primary states. DeSantis allies and officials, however, have voiced confidence that the campaign is trending in the right direction ahead of primary debates and early contests and remains the clearest alternative in the GOP field to the former president.

July 3, 2023: LGBTQ Republicans say they feel misled by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) after the GOP presidential hopeful’s “war room” shared a bizarre video widely seen as inflammatory. (The Hill)

The video bashed former President Donald Trump’s (R) support for the LGBTQ community and leaned into conservative state policies passed under DeSantis this year that were criticized as anti-LGBTQ.

LGBTQ conservatives, reacting to the video, said DeSantis had shown his true colors as an “anti-LGBT champion,” undermining his arguments that his support for the police were about protecting children and parents’ rights…

…The video shared Friday – the last day of LGBTQ Pride Month – by the “DeSantis War Room” Twitter account features footage of Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016 saying he would “do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens…

…The video then cuts to images of DeSantis overlaid with headlines that the Florida governor signed “the most extreme slate of anti-trans laws in modern history” and a “draconian anti-trans bathroom bill.”…

…DeSantis, like other conservatives who have championed similar policies, has defended his signature on legislation to remove lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity from Florida classrooms and ban transgender women and girls from female sports and restrooms by invoking the protection of children and women’s spaces…

July 4, 2023: Showtime quietly pulled an episode of its VICE newsmagazine last week- one that featured a report on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ time as a U.S. Navy lawyer serving at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. (The Hollywood Reporter)

The episode, the fourth in Vice’s fourth season, had been slated to air May 28. Showtime pulled the episode, however, and is now referring to the June 4 installment as episode 4 of the season. Repeat programming aired in place of the shelved episode on May 28.

Mentions of the originally scheduled episode, titled: “The Gitmo Candidate & Chipping Away,” have been scrubbed from Showtime’s website and press portal. An email sent to press May 24 noted that a screener of the episode was available; however, on May 30, a follow-up email noted a different installment, titled “Detransitiones & Draining DRC” as episode four.

No reason was given as to why the episode was pulled. “We don’t comment on scheduling decisions,” a Showtime spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter…

…The description of the episode, as seen on cached versions of the Vice page on Showtime’s site, hinted at potentially explosive material about DeSantis, who recently entered the Republican presidential race. The episode’s description reads in part, “Seb Walker investigates allegations from former Guantanamo Bay detainees that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis witnessed acts condemned by the United Nations as torture during his past service at the controversial detention camp as a Navy JAG officer.” (The “Chipping Away” part of the episode title refers to a different report on the “high stakes race between the U.S. and China over he production of semiconductors.”…

July 6, 2023: The DeSantis campaign announced on Thursday that it had raised $20 million since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis officially entered the Republican presidential primary six weeks ago, a show of fundraising prowess as DeSantis tries to position himself as the main GOP rival to former President Donald Trump. (Politico)

The fundraising figures, reported earlier by Fox News, were celebrated Thursday by DeSantis campaign officials as the “largest first-quarter filing from any non-incumbent Republican candidate in more than a decade.”…

…The DeSantis campaign framed the fundraiser figures as a sign of momentum for his candidacy…

…”We are grateful for the investment so many Americans have made to get this country back on track,” campaign manager Generra Peck said in a news release. “The fight to save it will be long and challenging, but we have built an operation to share the governor’s message and mobilize the millions of people who support it. We are ready to win.”…

…The announcements follow reports Wednesday from the Trump campaign and his leadership political action committee, Save America, that they together raised $35 million for the second quarter of 2023, despite state and federal indictments of the former president. The second-quarter state and federal indictments of the former president. The second-quarter figures were more than double what the Trump campaign and Save America raised in the first quarter of 2023.

DeSantis, who is currently in second place in national polls of GOP voters, has lagged in recent weeks amid concerns about the public demeanor and hiccups with local groups in key primary states. DeSantis allies and officials, however, have voiced confidence that the campaign is trending in the right direction ahead of primary debates and early contests and remains the clearest alternative in the GOP field to the former president.

July 11, 2023: Less than two months into Ron DeSantis’ declared run for president, his most important backers in conservative media are already starting to lose faith. (Rolling Stone)

Since the beginning of the Biden presidency, the powerful Murdoch family has favored the Florida governor in the 2024 presidential primary, largely due to a conviction that DeSantis would be more electable, and less chaotic, evolution from Donald Trump. But in recent weeks, the Murdochs have grown increasingly displeased with the DeSantis campaign’s perceived stumbles, lackluster polling, and inability to swiftly dethrone Trump, multiple sources tell Rolling Stone. They have also seriously questioned whether the governor is capable of defeating Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential primary…

…According to two of the sources, Murdoch has privately winced at DeSantis’ nonstop cultural-grievance strategy, arguing that it is being executed sloppily. In his repeated attempts to outflank the already hard-right Trump on the right, DeSantis and his team have waged an aggressive messaging operation to paint the Florida governor as a much more extreme culture warrior as compared with the former president – most recently via a bizarre, bigoted video lauding the governor for his anti-LGBTQ attacks. This strategy has for months attracted criticism from fellow Republicans for being unsavvy and “too online” to connect with the median voter.

July 15, 2023: Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign is shedding staff as it navigates a cash crunch and looks to refocus resources in Iowa. (Politico)

Fewer than 10 staffers were let go by the Florida governor’s campaign Thursday, according to a person familiar with the internal deliberations and granted anonymity to describe them. Each of the aides was involved in event planning, an some of them may soon wind up at an allied outside group. Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, has received resumes from staffers who’ve been let go, a person familiar with the group said.

The decision to shed the staff comes as the DeSantis campaign has struggled to meet its fundraising expectations. Though the governor raised $20 million in the second quarter of this year, $3 million of that was earmarked for the general election. In addition, only about 15 percent of his donations came from small-dollar donors, a level he will likely have to enhance in order to keep up with former President Donald Trump, who has built a robust small-dollar network over the years. DeSantis’ campaign spent more than $1 million on payroll, payroll taxes, insurance and processing fees in the second quarter with roughly 90 staffers on the books.

Despite his fundraising difficulties, DeSantis remains firmly in second place in the GOP primary behind Trump, and Never Back Down has raised more than $100 million…

…In addition to the event staffers’ departure, two senior DeSantis campaign advisers, Dave Abrams and Tucker Obenshain have left the campaign to work for a pro-Des antis nonprofit organization. Abrams had ben serving as the senior communications advisor and media director, and Obenshain led the campaign’s external affairs.

July 18, 2023: Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis reacted to the news that former President Trump is the target of the Justice Department’s investigation into Jan. 6, saying the former president should have been more forceful on that day but did not necessarily commit any crimes. (The Hill)

“I think it was shown how he was in the White House and didn’t do anything while things were going on. He should have come out more forcefully,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday.

DeSantis said he had not gotten a chance to review the news, but went on to speak out against what he said was the weaponization of institutions like the Justice Department…

…Trump said Tuesday that he has been alerted that he is a target of the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation, which focuses on the former president’s attempts to remain in office following his loss in the 2020 presidential election.

While it has been clear that Trump’s actions would be a major focus of the probe, the former president pointed out that receiving a target letter could mean he will soon face charges…

…The former president has already been charged with a crime twice this year. He was charged in Manhattan in April over an alleged hush money scheme to keep an affair hidden from the public. In June, he pleaded not guilty to federal charges over his handling of classified documents upon leaving office…

July 18, 2023: A super PAC in support of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) run for president used an artificial intelligence (AI) version of former President Trump’s voice in a new ad focused on Trump’s recent attacks on Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). (The Hill)

The super PAC, Never Back Down, released a 30-second ad Tuesday morning in defense of Reynolds after Trump recently lashed out at her for not endorsing a Republican presidential candidate. The super PAC confirmed to The Hill it used AI technology to “give voice to Trump’s words and Truth Social.”

The AI-generated narration takes part of the former president’s Truth Social post last week, where he wrote “I opened up the governor position for Kim Reynolds, and when she fell behind, I endorsed her, did big rallies and she won. Now, she wants to remain ‘neutral,’ I don’t invite her to events.”

The ad goes on to argue, “Trump should fight Democrats, not Republicans.”…

July 18, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) presidential campaign unveiled his plan to revamp the country’s military on Tuesday, marking his second major policy rollout of the cycle. (The Hill)

The plan, titled: “Mission First,” features four pillars: “Ripping Political Agendas Out of Our Military:” “Restoring Military Standards;” “Breaking the Swamp and Promoting Accountability;” and “Turning the Tide Against Biden’s Military Recruitment Crisis.”

The plan takes aim at diversity, equity and inclusion administrators, as well as policies impacting transgender servicemembers.

“Its a military that has been ordered by civilian officials to pursue political ideology, to pursue social experimentation, to be yet another institution on American life that gets infected with the woke mind virus,” DeSantis said speaking at a campaign event in South Carolina. “This is changing the character of the military, it’s changing the culture of our services, and it’s creating a situation where great warriors have been driven away and recruiting is at an all time low.”…

(NOTE: The “woke mind virus” is not actually a virus. You can’t catch it like you can catch COVID-19. In my opinion, the entire purpose of using your campaign time to focus on the “woke mind virus” means that you have run out of things to talk about, and are desperately hoping that the crowd in front of you will accept this sort of nonsense.)

July 25, 2023: Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign is expanding the number of staff it’s cutting to include more than a third of his payroll as the Florida governor looks to get his primary bid back on track. (Politico)

The cuts, which were confirmed by advisers, will amount to a total of 38 jobs shed across an array of departments. They will include the roughly 10 event planning positions that were announced several weeks ago, in addition to the recent departures of two senior DeSantis campaign advisers, Dave Abrams and Tucker Obenshain.

“Following a top-to-bottom review of our organization, we have taken additional, aggressive steps to streamline operations and put Ron DeSantis in the strongest position to win this primary and defeat Joe Biden,” DeSantis campaign manager Generra Peck said in a statement. “Gov. DeSantis is going to lead the Great American Comeback and we’re ready to hit the ground running as we head into an important month of the campaign.”

The expanded cuts are the latest sign that the Florida governor’s team is pivoting to a slim-down operation amid concerns over their finances…

July 28, 2023: Rep. John James (R-Mich.) criticized Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday for his response to Republican lawmakers who called him out on his state’s new Black history education standards Friday. (The Hill)

“@RonDeSantis, #1: slavery was not CTE!” James posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Nothing about that 400 years of evil was a ‘net benefit’ to my ancestors. #2: there are only five black Republicans in Congress and you’re attacking two of them.”

Both Rep. Bryan Donalds (R-Fla.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) have criticized the new standards, which indicate that American slavery helped enslaved people develop “skills” that benefited them, in the past few days.

Scott rebuked the language during a campaign stop in Iowa on Thursday, claiming “there is no silver lining in slavery.”…

…DeSantis responded to the lawmakers by saying they were falling in line with Vice President Kamala Harris, who called the guidelines, “propaganda.”

“They dare to push propaganda to our children,” Harris said earlier this week in Jacksonville, Fla. “Adults know what slavery really involved. It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby away from their mother…

July 31, 2023: Susan B. Anthony PRO-LIFE America posted a release on their website.

In a recent interview with Megyn Kelly, Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed a lack of will to enact national protections for unborn children and said as president he would primarily encourage states to act.

SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser responded:

“A pro-life president has a duty to protect the lives of all Americans. He should be the National defender of Life. The American people have a clear consensus for protecting babies in the womb at least by the point they can feel pain at 15 weeks, while allowing states to enact stronger protections. The pro-life movement and the American people deserve a president who will boldly advocate this consensus and will work to gather the votes necessary in Congress.

“Gov. DeSantis’s dismissal of this task is unacceptable to prolife voters. A consensus is already formed for it is palpable and measurable. There are many pressing legislative issues for which Congress does not have the votes at the moment, but that is not a reason for a strong leader to back away from the fight. This is where presidential leadership matters most.

“While 25 states have enacted laws to protect unborn children in this new era, the remaining 25 states offer few to no protections. These states account for at least 600,000 or two-thirds of abortions annually. These unborn children and their mother deserve to be served and need an advocate in the White House who will work tirelessly to protect them.”

(NOTE: According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, here are the actual scientific facts concerning gestational development and capacity for pain:

“The science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24-25 weeks. Every major medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter consistently reached the conclusion that the abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus.

Rigorous scientific studies have found that the connections necessary to transmit signals from peripheral sensory nerves to the brain, as well as the brain structures necessary to process those signals, do not develop until at or after 2 weeks of gestation. Because it lacks these connections and structures, a fetus or embryo does not have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least this gestational age…

…Sound health policy is best based on scientific fact and evidence-based medicine. Gestational age bans alleging concerns about “fetal pain” reflect a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the science of gestational development and viability.”)

July 30, 2023: During a “Reboot” that Ron DeSantis’ allies had hoped would prove his terminally online campaign could change its ways, the governor has pivoted to more of the same – and key allies and donors are threatening to jump ship. (RollingStone)

Various big DeSantis donors have been furious that the campaign seemed to take its cues from internet culture wars over niche issues. But despite a large-scale shedding of staff, some of the most online staffers remain on board. Indeed, some have grown more vocal: The early days of the reboot have features a DeSantis staffer publicly feuding on social media with a Black Republican lawmaker. And despite pleas from allies to refocus away from the culture war, DeSantis has piclkedone fight with Bud Light and another over the teaching of Black History.

The “out-with-the-old, back-in-with-old” nature of the reboot has some donors asking if the problem isn’t the campaign, but the candidate.

“A top-to-bottom makeover and real accountability may be the only thing that save Ron DeSantis [in the primary], but even then you still have the governor at the top,” a high-roller Republican donor who’s been backing DeSantis tells Rolling Stone. “And it is getting harder and harder by the day to see not just his people as the problem, but him as the problem.”…

July 31, 2023: Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tossed aside criticism from a GOP political strategist who called him a “very flawed candidate” as his campaign looks for a reset. (The Hill)

DeSantis told Fox News’s Bret Baier in an interview that aired Monday that comments from strategist Ed Rollins are “obviously nonsense,” noting that he was first elected governor of Florida 2018 by only 1 point, but was reelected last year by nearly 20 points.

“You don’t win a state like Florida that big if you’re not doing things that are resonating,” he said…

…Rollin’s criticism comes as DeSantis has remained in second place in most GOP polling – but well behind Trump…

July 31, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he did not “pick the fight” over the state’s new curriculum on slavery, which calls for students to be taught that enslaved people “developed skills” that some used for their benefit, that has stirred widespread controversy. (The Hill)

DeSantis said in an interview with Bret Baier that aired Monday on Fox News that Vice President Harris has lied about what the state’s standards are. Harris slammed the curriculum earlier this month during a visit to Florida in which she accused “extremists” of trying to “push propaganda” to students while DeSantis has said the curriculum is being misrepresented…

…Harris is not the only prominent official who has criticized the standards, with the curriculum also yielding attacks from several Black Republicans serving in Congress.

Sen. Tim Scott, (R.S-C), another presidential candidate, denounced the standard on multiple occasions, saying that no “silver lining” exists to slavery and that the institution is “antithetical to who we are.”…

August 1, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) says he has no plans to meet with President Biden during his trip to survey the damage on the state’s Gulf Coast after Hurricane Idalia made landfall in the area earlier this week. (The Hill)

DeSantis’s office said having the two meet up could put strain on the state’s disaster response.

“In these rural communities, and so soon after the impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts,” DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said in a statement.

The hurricane made landfall Wednesday morning in Florida’s Big Bend area as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph sustained winds. Biden approved a disaster declaration for the state on Thursday as Idalia quickly dissipated into a tropical storm as it moved inland toward Georgia and the Carolinas.

The president and Florida governor have been in “constant contact” throughout the week, according to Biden…

August 4, 2023: Rightwing Florida governor and 2024 presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis was widely condemned after he said that if elected to the White House, he would “start slitting throats” in the federal bureaucracy on his first day in power. (The Guardian)

The president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Tony Reardon, called the hardline Republican’s comment “repulsive and unworthy of the presidential campaign trail.”

The president of the American Federation of Government Employees Union (AFGE), Everett Kelley, said: “Governor DeSantis’ threat to ‘start slitting throat’ of federal employees is dangerous, disgusting, disgraceful, and disqualifying.”

Among commentators, the columnist Max Boot called DeSantis’s words “deranged” while Bill Kristol, founder of the Bulwark, a conservative site, said that the governor was “making a bold play to dominate the maniacal psychopath lane in the Republican primary.

DeSantis is a clear second in the Republican primary but more than 30 points behind Donald Trump in most averages, notwithstanding the former president’s proliferating legal jeopardy including 79 criminal charges.

On Friday, a major poll by the New York Times and Sienna College in the first state to vote, Iowa, put DeSantis 24 points behind…

…DeSantis made his comment about slitting throats at an event in the second state to vote, New Hampshire, last Sunday.

“On bureaucracy, you know, we’re going to have all these deep state people, you know, we’re going to start slitting throats on day one and be ready to go,” DeSantis said. “You’re going to see a huge, huge outcry because Washington wants to protect its own.”…

…DeSantis has used his “slitting throats” line before, last week telling the rightwing columnist John Solomon he wanted to appoint a defense secretary who would “slit some throats” and be “very firm, very strong”…

August 5, 2023: One of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) most prominent donors told reporters in Friday that he would cut off funds to his 2024 campaign if he didn’t adopts a more “moderate approach.” (The Hill)

Robert Bigelow, the founder of Budget Suites of America and Bigelow Airspace, told Reuters in an interview that he explained to DeSantis’s campaign that the governor needs to shift his agenda to target moderates or he risks losing his support.

“He’ll lose if he doesn’t,” he said, referring to DeSantis’s chances against former President Trump. “Extremism isn’t going to get you elected.”

He added that his funding wouldn’t resume “until I see that he’s able to generate more on his own.”

“I’m already too big a percentage,” Bigelow claimed. “A lot of his donors are still on the fence.”

When asked what led him to the decision to curb funding, the entrepreneur points to what he called the governor’s “extreme positions” on policy, including the six-week abortion ban DeSantis signed into law. in April.

According to Reuters, Bigelow claimed six weeks is too short, as many women don’t know they are pregnant at that stage…

August 5, 2023: California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s camp on Saturday blasted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed rules for a long-touted debate, arguing that they are an attempt to hide his weakness as a candidate. (Politico)

“What a joke,” Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click said in a statement. “DeSantis’ counterproposal littered with crutches to hide his insecurity and ineptitude – swapping opening statements with a hype video, cutting down the time he needs to be on stage, adding cheat notes and a cheering section.”…

…POLITICO Playbook exclusively reported on Saturday the DeSantis team’s rules proposal, which includes a prerecorded video in lieu of opening remarks and a live audience instead of an empty room.

Newsom has publicly challenged DeSantis to debate him on policy for months, and the Florida governor told Sean Hannity on Wednesday that he would agree to the event. With DeSantis currently on the campaign trail, and Newsom floated a potential future candidate, a matchup of the two governors would symbolize a battle between how America could be run from opposing ends on the ideological spectrum – and the country’s dueling coasts…

August 6, 2023: In war, there are no casualties. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “war on woke” is not exception. (written by Dean Obiedallah, on CNN)

DeSantis, who is vowing that if elected president, he’ll make America more like Florida, has championed a wave of extremist legislation in his state. He has targeted the LGBTQ community, restricted academic freedom and banned diversity and equity programs, among other measures.

Some worry that his policies could lead travelers to take their vacations elsewhere and compel some college students to apply out of state in the quest for a quality education.

This could also exacerbate the stampede of educators fleeing the classroom in Florida at a time when the state is already facing the biggest teacher shortage in its history.

According to the Florida Education Association, when DeSantis first took office in January 2019, Florida had 2,217 teacher vacancies. As of January 2023, that number has since doubled to 5,294 vacancies in a state where teacher pay ranks the lowest in the country…

…His anti-“woke” message is prompting organizations and corporations to cancel conventions and other events that are an essential part of Florida’s vital hospitality economy. The NAAPC issued a travel advisory in May warning that the Sunshine State has come to be seen as “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals” under DeSantis.

It’s statement was followed by similar warnings by the League of United Latin American Citizens and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, advising about extreme policies that travelers from some communities might view as hostile.

It appear that a number of organization are heeding the admonition. Organizers of the Global Surgical Conference and Expo – which expected to draw around 7,000 people – moved its 2027 event from Orlando to Philadelphia. Orlando tourism officials told The Wall Street Journal that the group cited concerns over policies promoted by DeSantis.

The American Educational Research Association pulled its 150,00-person meeting in Orland after the passage of the DeSantis-championed Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which bars transgender female athletes from participating in women’s sports teams…

…Meanwhile, organizers of a “Game of Thrones” fan convention recently scuttled the event that was supposed to be held in Orlando after hearing from attendees that they did not want to go to an event in Florida…

August 7, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday rejected Donald Trump’s claim that he was the the true winner of the 2020 presidential election in his most forceful comments to date on the matter. (NBC News)

“Whoever puts their hand on the Bible on Jan. 20 every four years is the winner,” DeSantis told NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns in his first broadcast network interview since he launched his presidential campaign.

DeSantis continue to discuss all the ways he believed the previous presidential election was not perfect. But pressed further, he clearly stated that Trump lost.

“But respectfully, you did not clearly answer the question,” Burns said. “And if you can give a ‘yes’ or ‘no on whether or not he lost -“

“No, of course he lost,” DeSantis said, adding “Joe Biden’s the president.”…

…DeSantis’ comments come just days after Trump pleaded not guilty to charges that he broke the law by trying to overturn the 2020 election…

August 17, 2023: The First Republican presidential debate is less than a week away, and with frontrunner Donald Trump’s participation still up in the air, candidates are trying to nail down their strategies to make the most of the opportunity. (RollingStone)

Ron DeSantis’s preparation may include strategies on how to come off as personable, how to manage face-to-face confrontations with his opponents, and even how to defend Donald Trump – whom he must somehow defeat, of course, to actually win the nomination. The Florida governor’s potential strategy comes by way of a memo from a group associated with the PAC tied to DeSantis, which was obtained by The New York Times…

…The document outlines a strategy framed around Roger Ailes’ “Orchestra Pit media theory,” which proposes that headlines won’t be achieved by getting bogged down in policy discussions, but creating viral moments through directed attacks, emotional statements, and clippable quotes…

…In response to criticism that DeSantis lacks charisma and personality, the document advises invoking “a personal anecdote story about family, kids, Casey [DeSantis], showing emotion.”…

…The memo also addresses how DeSantis should defend Trump should Chris Christie attack him, advising him to say something along the lines of “Trump isn’t here so let’s just leave him alone. He’s too weak to defend himself here. We’re all running against him. I don’t think we want to join forces with someone on this stage who’s auditioning for a show on MSNBC.”…

For months now, DeSantis, like many other candidates, has struggled to find the nerve to publicly attack Trump, and it’s costing him. DeSantis has slipped dramatically in the polls and in recent weeks the campaign seems to be stuck in a perpetual “reset” that hasn’t seemed to have restored any confidence among donors.

The debate may be the last best chance the Florida governor has to positively market himself to a national audience before election season begins in full.

November 4, 2023: After weeks spent locked in a bitter battle for second place, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will finally get the chance to grill each other in person over the Israel-Hamas war, Ukraine’s war with Russia and China’s growing global influence during Wednesday’s third primary debate in Miami. (CNN)

The two have been previewing the attack lines they might deliver on the debate stage in interviews, stump speeches and ads as they seek to distinguish themselves as the Republican candidate who would be the best alternative to former President Donald Trump. DeSantis accused Haley of having wanted to “roll out the red carpet” to China as governor in an effort to undercut her foreign policy bona fides, while Haley has painted the Florida governor’s increased attention on her as the desperate acts of stalling a campaign.

As the window to catch up to Trump closes, DeSantis and Haley have ratcheted up the tone and frequency of the attacks on one another. Wednesday’s event offers the pair, and the rest of the rapidly shrinking GOP field, one of their last chances to make their case at primetime before the caucuses and primaries begin early next year…

November 21, 2023: Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom are slated to go head-to-head on the debate stage next week, a culmination of moths of rising tensions between the two. (The Hill)

The long-teased event, hosted by Fox News, marks a climax in the ongoing feud between the governors, with Newsom criticizing DeSantis for sending migrants to California and the Florida governor taking aim at Newsom for people leaving California to move to Florida. The debate, which Fox is calling “DeSantis vs. Newsom: The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate,” will be moderated by leading prime-time pundit Sean Hannity, who hopes to provide viewers with an “informative debate” centered around issues that impact every American…

How the debate came to be

A feud between the two governors has been simmering for more than a year.

Newsom initially challenged DeSantis to a debate in September 2022, after the Florida governor chartered two planes of migrants that landed in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., sparking outrage from Democrats. In an interview with Hannity in June, Newsom also agreed to a debate with DeSantis moderated by the Fox News host.

“I’m all in. Count on it,” Newsom told Hannity at the time.

A spokesperson for Newsom told The Hill that the California governor has been “challenging DeSantis to debate for months,” adding that Newsom sent DeSantis a formal debate offer.

Eventually, DeSantis officially accepted the challenge in August…

November 21, 2023: Bob Vander Plaats, a key evangelical leader in Iowa, officially announced his endorsement of Florid Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday. (CNN)

“I’m thrilled to throw my personal endorsement and support behind Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida,” he said in a Fox News interview.

Vander Plaats, the CEO and President of The Family leader, has clashed with former President Donald Trump and urged Republicans to move on from the former president while heaping praise on DeSantis. A longtime GOP powerbroker, he has thrown his weight behind the eventual winner of the past three Iowa caucuses not to feature a Republican president.

Vander Plaats said he had leaned toward DeSantis from the outset of the primary due to his strong performance in the 2022 midterm elections, winning Florida by a sizable margin while Republicans around the country largely underperformed expectations. But he said DeSantis “closed the sale” during his appearance at The Family Leader’s Thanksgiving Family Forum event in Iowa last week.

“He was very clear about, we need a president who can serve two terms, not one term. We don’t need a president that’s gonna be a lame duck on day one,” Vander Plaats said.

In a tweet, DeSantis thanked Vander Plaats for his endorsement, characterizing support from the Christian leader as a sign that Iowa evangelicals “can trust me to fight and win for them.”…

November 25, 2023: Conservative political analyst Karl Rove predicted that the Iowa Caucus will be “do or die” for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), dubbing a victory for the first primary essential for his hopes of defeating former President Trump in the 2024 GOP primary. (The Hill)

“Iowa is do or die. He’s putting a lot of effort there,” Rove said in a Fox News interview Saturday. “He has the support of the popular governor Kim Reynolds. He won the support of a key leader in the evangelical community, Vander Plaats.”

“And yeah, he’s got to run,” he continued. “If he comes in third in Iowa, it’s very problematic for him because it doesn’t get better for him in the next two sets of contests.”

DeSantis has put most of his campaign resources in the Hawkeye State as the Jan. 15 caucus draws near, raiding hopes that the could down Trump – the campaign’s favorite – and set up a path to the nomination.

Stopping Trump in Iowa is key to letting a DeSantis path open, his campaign wrote in a leaked memo early this month…

December 7, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) won the fourth Republican primary debate, according to a poll of debate watchers. (The Hill)

The 538-Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that 30 percent of respondents who watched the Wednesday debate said that the Sunshine State governor won. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) came in second, at 23 percent, followed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) at 19 percent and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at 16 percent.

Debate watchers were also asked who preferred the worst. Ramaswamy topped the field for this question, at 37 percent, followed by Christie at 31 percent. DeSantis and Haley received 9 and 7 percent, respectively…

December 9, 2023: A week before announcing his campaign for President in May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a slate of bills that altered the lives of transgender people in his state. (CNN)

Now, with just over five weeks before Republicans begin to weigh in on the presidential nominating fight, DeSantis has wielded those new laws to draw sharp contrasts with his GOP rivals and to appeal to social conservatives who could be key to sparking a strong finish for him in the Iowa caucuses.

The intense effort to push these issues to the forefront was laid bare minutes into Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate when DeSantis, in a response to a question about his slipping poll numbers, accused former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley of opposing one of those laws: blocking transgender children from certain medical procedures that he likened to mutilation. Haley denied the charge.

The next morning, DeSantis pivoted again to the topic, when asked whether he would send troops to the Middle East to rescue US hostages. He then continued to press his cause on the road for the next 48 hours.

“You have one conservative candidate running in this race and that is me at this point. That’s just one reality,” DeSantis said later Thursday in Iowa. “When we can’t even as Republicans agree that it’s wrong to chop off the private parts of a 14-year-old kid, what is going on in this party”?…

December 10, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hit former President Trump over his pledge to build a border wall at the U.S. southern border and have Mexico pay for it, saying Tuesday “he didn’t utilize the levels of power that he had.” (The Hill)

“I am going to build the border wall, and I remember in 2016 – I went to the rallies with Donald Trump. He said he was going to build the wall and have Mexico pay for it, and that didn’t happen. And why didn’t it happen?” DeSantis said during a CNN town hall.

“Well, one I think he got distracted and he didn’t do it on day one. But two, he didn’t utilize the levels of power that he had,” he continued.

Less than 500 miles of border wall were constructed during the Trump administration, including in areas that had preexisting barriers, according to U.S. News & World Report In February 2021, President Biden ended the Trump administration’s emergency order that helped push the U.S. southern border wall construction.

DeSantis said the construction of the border wall could be raised through remittance fees. The Florida governor noted that most Republicans blamed Biden for the undocumented immigrant crossing the U.S. southern border, but he directed some of the blame Trump as well.

“If Trump had built the border wall, it would have been very difficult for Biden to bring in all those people. That’s why you want a wall. It’s a physical fact of life, that even an open border president would not be able to get around, so I will get the job done,” DeSantis claimed…

…DeSantis is trailing behind Trump in national and early state polling of the 2024 GOP primary, including in Iowa, where he largely centered his campaign.

December 11, 2023: Republican presidential hopeful Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took aim at former President Trump for suggesting his choice to debate Hillary Clinton after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was released in 2016 was braver than soldiers’ experiences on the battlefield. (The Hill)

“Trump denigrates military service by claiming it is ‘braver’ that he debated Hillary Clinton than what soldiers endure on the battlefield,” DeSantis wrote on X, formerly Twitter, responding to a clip from Trump’s speech at the New York Young Republican Club annual gala Saturday night.

“Debating isn’t ‘brave’; it’s the bare minimum any candidate should do. Hiding from debates, on the other hand, is an example of cowardice,” DeSantis added…

December 12, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) accused former President Trump of flip-flopping on his position on abortion on Tuesday at a CNN town hall in Iowa. (The Hill)

DeSantis cited Trump’s speech at the annual March for Life in 2020, in which the then-president said that every child is a gift from God.

“Was he not being honest in January of 2020? Or has he just flipped his position to now what he’s saying in 2023?” DeSantis said, referring to Trump. “I think that’s a huge problem because we know people come at this from different angles.”

“But you should be consistent on your beliefs,” he added.

DeSantis was referring to Trump’s criticism of six-week abortion bans. Trump has called DeSantis’s own six-week abortion ban in Florida “a terrible mistake.”

December 12, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) knocked former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday as being “really reflective of the old failed Republican establishment of yesteryear” as he seeks to make his pitch as the viable alternative to former President Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination. (The Hill)

“Even a campaigner as good as Chris [Christie] is not going to be able to paper over Nikki being an establishment candidate. I mean, she’s getting funded by liberal Democrats from California, like a founder of LinkedIn, people on Wall Street, like the head of JPMorgan,” DeSantis said during a CNN town hall in Iowa…

…Haley has previously defended corporate donors expressing interest in her and said during the fourth GOP presidential debate, “I don’t ask them what their policies are, they ask me what my policies are.”

“And I tell them what it is. Sometimes they agree with me, sometimes they don’t. Some don’t like how tough I am on China. Some don’t like the fact that I’ve signed pro-life bills. Some don’t like the fact that I may oppose corporate bailouts. That doesn’t matter. That’s who I am.” she said…

December 19, 2023: Internal turmoil is threatening to torpedo Ron DeSantis’s already struggling presidential campaign as he heads toward a make-or-break moment in next month’s Iowa caucuses. (The Hill)

Over the weekend, a Washington Post report detailed chaos within DeSantis’s super PAC, Never Back Down. Hours later, a top strategist left the operation – just four weeks before voting kicks off in Iowa with what might be the most critical contest for the Florida governor.

A complaint filed Monday by the nonprofit watchdog Campaign Legal Center also alleges that DeSantis “illegally coordinated” with the super PAC and that Never Back Down went against an “explicit legal requirement that super PAC’s must remain ‘independent’.”

These developments add to a string of setbacks and shakeups for DeSantis’s campaign as he struggles to hold on to second place in the Republican presidential field, with former President Trump in the lead and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on the rise…

…Top Never Back Down adviser Jeff Roe announced his departure from the super PAC just after the Post’s story on Saturday.

“I cannot in good conscience stay affiliated with Never Back Down (NBD) given the statements in the Washington Post today. They are not true and an unwanted distraction at a critical time for Governor DeSantis,” Roe said in a statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

The super PAC is notably an outside group that’s taken on much responsibility for the DeSantis campaign…

December 28, 2023: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said in a Thursday interview that, if elected president, he would fire special counsel Jack Smith, who brought two indictments against former President Trump, on “day one” of his hypothetical term in office. (The Hill)

DeSantis made the case for why he was the best candidate to win the GOP nomination in 2024 in a Fox News interview with Jason Chaffetz. After referencing Trump’s legal battles in the upcoming year, DeSantis said he would be able to keep focused on holding people accountable, including Smith.

“I think that a guy like me as the nominee will be able to keep the focus on Biden, keep the focus on the Democrats’ failures,” DeSantis said, “but then, more importantly, after you win the election, start holding these people accountable, who have weaponized the legal system to go after their political enemies.”

“And that starts with day one, firing somebody like Jack Smith. That goes to dealing with people who are violating constitutional rights at the state and local government area,” he added…

…Smith brought two cases against Trump – one for his efforts to derail the transfer of power and remain in office after losing the 2020 presidential election, and another for alleged willful retention of national security information and refusing to comply with requests to return the documents to the federal government. There is a slim chance that both cases will have concluded by the time voters head to the polls on Election Day next November.

January 10, 2024: Florida RonDeSantis on Wednesday promised to “bring a reckoning” to former White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci if DeSantis is elected to the White House. (The Hill)

“We cannot allow Anthony Fauci to escape accountability,” DeSantis wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “I am the only candidate who will bring a reckoning for what tyrants like Fauci did to our country during COVID.”

Fauci participated in a two-day interview with lawmakers on Monday and Tuesday this week. In the wake of the first interview, the Republican-run House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic posted takeaways on X…

…Democrats blasted the GOP for distorting Fauci’s closed-door testimony…

January 10, 2024: Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis vowed to issue a mass deportation of migrants coming to the United States if he is elected president. (The Hill)

DeSantis said at the CNN GOP presidential debate in Iowa on Wednesday that migrants are coming from “all over the world” and represent a “ticking time bomb” for the country.

“They all have to go back. We have to enforce the rule of law in this country,” he said.

DeSantis said President Biden has failed in keeping the border secure and is not ensuring that laws will be “faithfully executed.” He later defended his stance on mass deportations after co-moderator Jake Tapper sought to clarify with him if any of the millions of people who have entered the country illegally would be allowed to stay.

“The number of people that will be amnestied when I am president is zero,” he said. “We cannot do amnesty in this country.”

He argued that amnesty would only further incentivize people to come into the country illegally…

January 10, 2024: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis accused former United Nation’s Ambassador Nikki Haley of being more liberal than California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) during Wednesday’s Republican presidential primary debate in Iowa. (The Hill)

“I debated the governor of California, Gavin Newsom,” DeSantis said near the beginning of the CNN debate in Des Moines. “I thought he lied a lot. Man, Nikki Haley gives him a run for his money, and she may be even more liberal than Gavin Newsom is.”

DeSantis was responding to whether he believed former President Trump has the character to be president.

“As Republicans, you need someone who is going to be in there and fight for you,” he continued. “Anytime the going gets tough, anytime people come down, she caves.”…

January 13, 2024: Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis claimed that if the border deal struck between Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and Democrats passes, it would become “dead on arrival” if he were elected to the White House in November.

“Well, when I’m president, that’ll be dead on arrival,” DeSantis, the governor of Florida, told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham Friday. “You know, some of these Republicans are just so out of touch with the voters.”

Johnson told reporters Friday that the negotiations were hard-fought, but a “strong top-line” agreement had been met. Both conservatives and many Democrats were unhappy with the spending allocated to securing the U.S-Mexico border.

January 14, 2024: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday vowed to stay in the presidential race for the “long haul” despite a poor showing in the final Iowa poll before Monday’s caucuses. (CNN)

“We’ve got a huge number of people that have committed to caucus, and we expect that these are the people that turn out,” DeSantis told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” before a slate of events in Iowa.

His comments follow the release of a Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom poll that found former President Donald Trump holding a wide lead over his Republican presidential competitors among likely GOP caucusgoers in Iowa.

Overall, 48% of likely caucuses say Trump would be their first choice, 20% name former South Caroline Gov. Nikki Haley, and 16% DeSantis, with the rest of the field below 10%.

But DeSantis maintained Sunday that while “some of these voters appreciate what [Trump] did” they still “understand that there’s some drawbacks here about nominating him in 2024.”…

January 14, 2024: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis once looked like the Republican Party’s future. Now, a national career that conjured White House dreams is in danger of fizzling before it really began.

His plight is not just about a rising Republican star’s struggle to adapt to the biggest stage with political skills that initially were not ready for prime time. It’s a revealing story about the GOP itself, its fixation with former President Donald Trump and whether grassroots Republican really want to the efficient, conservative government DeSantis promises or prefer the ex-president’s furious brew of grievance and spectacle.

The Florida governor is spending Sunday braving the icy roads in a last-ditch fight to claim the strong second-place finish in Monday’s caucuses he probably needs to stay in the Republican nominating race. In December, he predicted he’d win the first-in-the-nation contest. But, a Des-Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom poll released Saturday night brought him bad news.

His campaign is arguing that his slip into a numerical third place, albeit within the margin of error, behind former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and far behind the runaway front-runner Trump won’t actually predict caucus results. He is relying on Iowa’s long history of late twists and a ground operation his super PAC spent months building to drive out voters in the extreme weather forecasted for Monday…

January 15, 2024: It’s been a long time since virtually anyone in the elite of right-wing media, the national Republican Party, or conservative grassroots leaderships thought Ron DeSantis was going to win much of anything in this presidential campaign. But Iowa was the 2024 state that was supposed to be his biggest gimme. (Rolling Stone)

On Monday night, even that fantasy came crashing down. Trump dominated Iowa, so much that the Associated Press called the race barely 30 minutes after caucuses began. Entrance polls showed Trump 30 points ahead DeSantis and Nikki Haley, who have been jostling for second place – numbers that closely matched the caucus results as of 10:30 pm.

The quick call incensed the DeSantis campaign, who was trounced despite hosting four times as many events in Iowa since the start of last year as the former president. “It is absolutely outrageous that the media would participate in election interference by calling this race before tens of thousands of Iowans even had a chance to vote,” Andrew Romeo, his communications director, said in a statement. “The media is in the tank for Trump and this is the most egregious example yet.”

Team DeSantis went all in on Iowa for a payoff that included not only losing the state, but also enduring more than a year’s worth of abuse from Trump that seemed gratuitous and uniquely malicious, even by the standards of a modern U.S. presidential race…

January 16, 2024: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is getting right back to work on Tuesday, a day after his second-place finish in the Iowa Republican caucuses, making his case to voters at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire after a brief stopover in South Carolina. (CNN)

DeSantis is facing major headwinds in the Granite State, where former President Donald Trump, who lapped the field in Iowa, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have led him in recent polling. That is due, at least in part, to New Hampshire’s more politically diverse primary electorate, which includes independents who can vote in intraparty contests.

The town hall comes at a pivotal point for DeSantis. As his campaign struggled to make headway in Iowa, he attacked the same conservative media hubs that had once championed. That criticism might get more traction in New Hampshire. So, too, the DeSantis campaign hopes, will his increasingly sharp attacks on Trump.

“As the next president of the United States, I am going to get the job done for this country,” DeSantis said Monday night in Iowa, before jabbing the front-runner. “I am not going to make any excuses, and I guarantee you this: I will not let you down.”…

January 21, 2024: DeSantis suspends presidential campaign before New Hampshire primary. DeSantis, once seen as Donald Trump’s greatest opponent for the Republican presidential primary, was unable to peel away enough of Trump’s supporters (KBSY.com)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is suspending his presidential race two day before the New Hampshire primary, he announced with a video posted to X on Sunday.

DeSantis, once seen as Donald Trump’s greatest opponent for the Republican presidential primary, was unable to peel away enough of Trump’s supporters for his own campaign.

“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” he said in the video, endorsing Trump for the presidency.

The Florida governor came up short with a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last week, narrowly ahead of South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, and had already thrown in the towel for New Hampshire, instead of spending the weekend campaigning in Haley’s home state, whose primary election is in five weeks. New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary comes Tuesday.

He officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign on May 24, 2023, in a social media announcement that was plagued with technical glitches.

Early primary polls suggested DeSantis was in a strong position.

Heralding his state as a place “where woke goes to die,” DeSantis has framed his campaign around a desire to bring the conservative policies he championed in Florida to the national stage. He has made a name for himself battling with Disney over the entertainment giant’s opposition to a bill dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans instruction or classroom discussion of LGBTQ issues in Florida public schools.

Under his governorship, the state has also banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy an blocked public colleges from using federal or state funding on diversity programs…

January 24, 2024: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) dropped out of the Republican presidential primary Sunday, marking the end of a stunning rise and fall for a candidate once seen as the most formidable rival to former President Trump. (The Hill)

“Following our second-place finish in Iowa, we’ve prayed and deliberated on our way forward,” DeSantis said in a video message posted on X, a few hours ahead of an event he had scheduled in New Hampshire. “If there was anything I can do to produce a favorable outcome, more campaign stops, more interviews, I would do it. But I can’t ask our supporters to volunteer their time and donate their resources if we don’t have a clear path to victory. Accordingly, I am today suspending my campaign.”

“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” the governor continued. “While I have had disagreements with Donald Trump, such as on the coronavirus pandemic and his elevation of Anthony Fauci, Trump is superior to current incumbent Joe Biden. That is clear.”

DeSantis went on to signal his support for Trump while hitting former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley…

January 24, 2024: Former President Trump had praise for former GOP primary rival and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday, hours after the governor dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Trump. (The Hill)

“I’d like to take time to congratulate Ron DeSantis, a really terrific person… for having run a great campaign for president,” Trump said at a New Hampshire rally Sunday. “He ran a really good campaign.”

“I will tell you, it’s not easy,” he continued. “They think it’s easy doing this stuff, right? It’s not easy.”

“I appreciate that,” he said of the endorsement. “And I also look forward to working with Ron and everybody else to defeat crooked Joe Biden. We will have to get him out.”…

Posted in 2024 Presidential Campaign