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DeSantis: Resets to 'blah, blah, blah'
With no previous experience seeing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on the campaign trail—other than the filtered video clips from the news or social media accounts—I had a chance to check him out this weekend, just days before the first GOP Presidential Debate.
But when you are running for President—particularly if you’re a first tier candidate and running far behind the front runner—”fine” doesn’t cut it. Just two weeks ago Donald Trump spoke to a packed high school gymnasium 20 minutes down the highway. On this day, DeSantis managed to attract about 150 people in downtown Manchester, NH.
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DeSantis gave a solid stump speech, hitting many conservative chords like immigration, inflation, out-of-control government spending and, of course, anti-wokeism. He took questions, but gave typical non-answers that are a universal, bi-partisan trait of most politicians. (For example: he promised to save Social Security without giving any specifics as to how.)
DeSantis then dived into the audience (ok, he walked off a 12 inch riser) and eagerly engaged with an onslaught of selfie and autograph seekers. All around DeSantis and his team had a solidly executed event. (Of course I can be picky. DeSantis’s super PAC organization—who sponsored the event because his campaign wasted millions on dollars in the last few months—was over-staffed for the event and gave out expensive campaign swag like hats and t-shirts to anybody (like me).
By “solid”, I mean a (pre-grade inflation) “B”. DeSantis lacked humor or quick asides that engage audiences. He confidently moved from one topic to another, expecting and getting applause lines that were obviously part of a well worn stump speech. His performance was ”good enough” to play in the big league of presidential politics.
But if you read the media observers who cover DeSantis regularly on the campaign trail, it was apparently an improvement from the “old” Ron DeSantis, he recently reset his campaign by laying-off a reported 1/3 of his staff and replacing his campaign manager.
Apparently, when DeSantis opened up the event I attended by shouting “Live Free or Die”—the longtime state motto revered by New Hampshire conservatives—it was the first time he used it on the stump and it was interpreted as an attempt to better connect with voters as part of the reset. At another event this weekend he talked about enjoying the Red Sox when he was a college student living in New England. REALLY?! That’s where the DeSantis campaign is? Trying to relate to voters by using political and sports cliches to connect?
So just before the first presidential debate, DeSantis is shaping up to be a very ordinary candidate who is still learning—or relearning—the basics of political campaigning. Granted, politics is full of surprises and DeSantis maybe the surprise of the debate, but from my one experience he’ll just be one of the blah, blah, blah candidates on the stage Wednesday night. (Which, sadly, might just be enough to “win” the debate.)