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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and wife Casey boosted his record leading Florida during the pandemic in their debut appearances on the campaign trail in Iowa—where DeSantis leaned into his war on “woke” culture, attacking “identity politics” and the “pronoun sweepstakes,” as he aims to run to the right of former President Donald Trump.
DeSantis re-upped his attacks on progressives and “elites” in his first stump speech from Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, where he vowed to “impose our will on Washington, D.C.” and lead a “revival of American greatness.”
DeSantis spoke about his right-wing legislative record in Florida, noting he signed a six-week abortion ban, sent “illegal aliens to Martha’s Vineyard” and opposed corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies.
The Florida governor did not mention Trump by name during his Tuesday speech, but told reporters after the remarks concluded that he planned to “counterpunch” Trump, while hitting back at his former ally for suggesting New York had a better pandemic record than Florida, calling the statement “bizarre” and “ridiculous” while noting Trump and his family moved to Florida during DeSantis’ tenure.
After the Tuesday speech, which marked DeSantis’ first in-person appearance on the campaign trail since his botched Twitter announcement last Wednesday, DeSantis kicked of a series of four events across Iowa on Wednesday, starting with a speech at a welding company in Sioux City, where he repeated many of the same talking points and called Iowa, “the Florida of the North.”
DeSantis was joined on stage at both events by wife, Casey DeSantis, a former TV news reporter who has become a high-profile figure throughout his governorship.
Casey DeSantis on Tuesday lauded her husband’s pandemic record and said he fought “for our children to be in school, to breathe without a mask forced on their face” and ensured “people have the right to choose whether or not” to be vaccinated, calling DeSantis a “fighter . . . taking on the swamp.”
DeSantis formally launched his campaign last Wednesday, ending months of anticipation, in a Twitter Spaces live-stream plagued by glitches that prevented him from speaking for the first 20 minutes of the program. He entered the growing GOP field trailing Trump by more than 30 points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average, after Trump spent the preceding months bashing his former ally on everything from his personality to his war with Disney. The GOP field angling to take down Trump as the party’s standard-bearer is set to grow in the coming weeks as former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are expected to announce their campaigns for the White House, joining at least five other Republican candidates.
What To Watch For
DeSantis will speak in Council Bluffs, Pella, then Cedar Rapids on Wednesday before heading to New Hampshire on Thursday and South Carolina Friday. Trump will visit Iowa on Wednesday, starting with a radio appearance and a speech before the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale on Thursday, followed by a town hall with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday night.
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