In Campaign Reboot, Struggling DeSantis Pitches Himself in New Hampshire as a Trump Who Can Get Things Done

Plus, ‘if you elect me, you get two terms, not just one.’

Caroline McCaughey/The New York Sun
Governor DeSantis, left, campaigning in New Hampshire with the former Massachusetts Senator, Scott Brown. Caroline McCaughey/The New York Sun

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, has been pursuing his “reboot” with a four-day stop in New Hampshire, but so far his pitch for his faltering campaign is unchanged: that he’s a more electable, more effective candidate than former President Trump. The question is whether enough Republican primary voters will finally abandon Mr. Trump and coalesce behind a DeSantis candidacy.

At Rye on Sunday at “No B.S. BBQ” hosted by Mr. Trump’s ex-ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator,  Mr. DeSantis said if elected he’d secure the southern border, fight “woke” indoctrination in schools, “drain the swamp,” and roll back regulations. He is expected to lay out his economic policy this week.

“I am the candidate who is more likely to beat Biden. I’m more reliable on policy. I think we’ve seen my record in Florida. And I am much more likely to get all this stuff done,” Mr. DeSantis said.

While President Trump continues to attack Mr. DeSantis on the trail with names like “Ron DeSanctus” and “Ron DeSanctimonious,” Mr. DeSantis refrained from personal attacks and stuck to criticizing Mr. Trump for his ineffectiveness in office.

“The reality is there were promises made about draining the swamp. That did not happen. Not at all. We ended the presidency with Fauci running the government. That is not draining the swamp,” Mr. DeSantis said. “If he’d drained the swamp like he’d promised he probably wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in right now. So I will get the job done and hold these people accountable.”

“I deliver on my promises. I will not say anything if I don’t intend to deliver on it,” Mr. DeSantis said.

Mr. DeSantis’s critique of Mr. Trump as ineffective is perhaps his strongest message in his effort to lure Trump voters away from the former president. It also echoes what Mr. Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr, said in May.

“If you believe in his policies, what he’s advertising as his policies, he’s the last person who could actually execute them and achieve them,” Mr. Barr said. “He does not have the discipline, he does not have the ability for strategic thinking and linear thinking or setting priorities or how to get things done in the system. It is a horror show when he’s left to his devices.”

Mr. DeSantis homed in on this point multiple times, saying he’d be ready on day one with his legislative slate, appointees, and executive orders. “We campaign in poetry but we govern in prose,” Mr. DeSantis said. “We’re working on the prose too because you don’t want to win the election and then not know what you’re doing. We’re going to know what we’re doing because that’s important.”

Mr. Trump is leading all Republican primary polls by more than double digits. Mr. DeSantis is the clear second-choice pick for Republicans, but businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Senator Scott have been moving up in the polls in recent weeks and nipping at Mr. DeSantis’s heels.

Mr. DeSantis appears to be taking a page out of Mr. Ramaswamy’s playbook when he speaks about dismantling the “fourth branch of government” administrative state, though he didn’t go as far as to promise to abolish the FBI or the Department of Education.

“We will also make sure our government functions the way our Founding Fathers intended. They did not create a constitution that had four branches of government,” Mr. DeSantis said. “We’re going to start slitting throats on day one.”

Mr. DeSantis arrived in New Hampshire after a trying week in which he began his “reset” by firing a third of his campaign staffers; He’s facing  criticism — justified or not — even from members of his own party over a proposed African-American history curriculum in Florida which suggests Black people got useful skills from being enslaved.

His rebooted, streamlined campaign pitch didn’t sound different from before, but attendees of the event were receptive, if not committed to supporting his candidacy.

“I think DeSantis and Ramaswamy are probably the two for me,” an attorney from Rye, Chris Guerin, tells the Sun. He says he voted for Mr. Trump twice, but doesn’t think Mr. Trump can win a national election. “I appreciate the policy, but the delivery has gotten old, and I think a lot of people are ready to move on,” he says.

Another attendee of the event asked Mr. DeSantis about the six-week abortion ban he signed into law in Florida, saying that abortion is the issue Democrats attacked Republicans for most in 2022 and that the Democrats won. Mr. DeSantis dodged with an answer about Democrats’ “extreme” position and the fact that he won reelection in Florida by 20 points.  

“I like what I heard today,” an entrepreneur from Portsmouth, Alex Choquette, tells the Sun, though he’s concerned about Mr. DeSantis’s tough-on-abortion stance. “You want to be behind a winner,” he says.

When asked by an attendee how Mr. DeSantis could overcome the stranglehold Mr. Trump has on the Republican base, Mr. DeSantis disputed the notion. “I don’t think he’s got a stronghold on the majority. I think he’s got a stronghold on some,” he said. “The fact that I’m taking the incoming from all of these people — not just him, but a lot of the other candidates, a lot of media — that shows people know that I’m a threat.”

Mr. DeSantis then added, “If you elect me, you get two terms, not just one.”

The New York Sun

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