Based on press reports, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is preparing to launch a campaign for president of the United States, and he may well have announced a campaign by the time this goes to print. The recent speculation over such a run has coincided with a barrage of negative attacks on DeSantis, from both former President Donald Trump and the legacy corporate media. Indeed, one might conclude that Trump and the media are playing off each other in some sort of symbiotic relationship. Trump wants to knock out DeSantis, and the liberal press would prefer the 2020 loser as the GOP’s 2024 nominee, knowing that Trump remains highly unlikely to win the swing states that carried him to victory in 2016.
READ MORE: DeSantis Dives Into the Muck
Among the negative hits on DeSantis are those that suggest aloofness or a failure to connect with people, including during his years in Congress. Such attacks are not only laughable and untrue, but, given the governor’s remarkable record in Florida, irrelevant. Florida now leads the nation in people moving into a state, new business formations, parental involvement in education, public higher education, and economic freedom. These achievements are attributable to DeSantis’ policy choices over the last four years, which Florida voters, including in blue areas of the state, resoundingly ratified in an historic landslide reelection for DeSantis this past November.
Since there are slim pickings to attack his record in Florida, partisans search for anything in his past that can detract from his success. As someone who served for six years with DeSantis in Congress, the past few months have reminded me of how media narratives can develop a life of their own.
First off, if DeSantis is guilty of a failure to socialize in D.C., for folks whose lives are outside the Beltway, since when is that a negative? The fact is that while in Congress, I and other House colleagues often met up with Ron, and we became friends. He and his wife Casey even asked me to take on the responsibility of being the godfather to their first child, and I have enjoyed visiting the DeSantis family in Tallahassee since we both left Congress.
DeSantis was very engaged in his work in the House. During his time on the Hill, his fight for freedom included taking on crony capitalism. His challenge to Disney’s preferential treatment in his state came as no surprise to those of us who saw him stand up to the interests of Florida’s sugar industry, which supported policies that made sugar more expensive for American families. He led in exposing the corruption of the Deep State, from the IRS tea party scandal to the infamous Russia hoax, and that work earned Trump’s admiration. I recall being out for dinner with Ron when Trump called him for some congressional feedback, with Ron relaying how Trump was referring to his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as “Magoo.” It wouldn’t be the last time that Trump would ridicule the people he himself chose for high-level positions.
Also in Congress, DeSantis drafted numerous bills that garnered dozens of cosponsors, including legislation to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, expose sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress, and allow the use of federal financial aid for programs such as trade apprenticeships that do not require a four-year degree. He also led on a term-limits amendment for members of Congress to the U.S. Constitution. One of his initiatives, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers — or “PAWS” — Act, attracted more than half of the House members as co-sponsors. Ron introduced this bill to authorize the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide veterans with service dogs as a modality in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Under a new format, the legislation finally became law in 2022.
As always seems to be the case with DeSantis, media critiques fall apart when the real facts come out. We are in for a fun ride over the next year. I expect the American people will get a good lesson in “setting the record straight” as the DeSantis campaign takes off.
Keith Rothfus represented Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District between 2013 and 2019.