Exclusive — Ron DeSantis: As Florida Governor ‘I Could Build Off’ Rick Scott’s, Donald Trump’s Success

Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, right, waves to supporters with his wife, Casey, at an election party after winning the Republican primary, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Orlando, Fla.
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) won the GOP nomination for governor in Florida, a major victory for President Donald Trump and grassroots conservatives over the GOP establishment.

DeSantis’s historic victory comes in large part thanks to President Trump’s endorsement and strong support–including several tweets and a rally the president held for the congressman’s gubernatorial campaign in Tampa–as well as amid a rising anti-establishment fervor in the Sunshine State. In the other top-of-the-ticket race, Gov. Rick Scott easily won the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)–a Democrat running for re-election in a state President Trump won big in 2016 against Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Scott is already polling several points ahead of Nelson in that race, and that along with DeSantis’s surge towards Tallahassee has Republicans down-ticket jumping for joy in a state otherwise viewed as a purple battleground.

“I think there’s three main reasons,” DeSantis said on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel this past Saturday when asked why he was so far ahead in the polls of the GOP establishment-backed Adam Putnam. “I’m an Iraq veteran. Putnam is a career politician who’s been elected since age 22 and has not had any career outside of politics. Number two is I’m a principled conservative leader. I’ve fought entrenched interests. He’s somebody who is more of a transactional Republican, more of an inside. And then, finally, I’m endorsed by the President of the United States. He’s somebody who didn’t like Trump. He’s trying to say he was [a Trump supporter], and now he’s kind of vacillating back and forth, and I think people see the phoniness there and people view me as someone who’s been leading and has been working to help this president succeed.”

The fact that the race was called so early after the polls in Florida’s panhandle closed at 8:00 p.m. ET–it was called within 15 minutes–shows how big a win DeSantis really had in Florida on Tuesday night as he prepares for the general election in a state that’s been trending more and more in the GOP’s direction in recent years.

President Trump won Florida both in the primaries–upsetting incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) there in the presidential race–and then again in the general election, swooping in and taking those critical 29 electoral votes away from Clinton. DeSantis told Breitbart News Saturday he views it as critical for Florida to have a Trump ally at its helm in the governor’s mansion moving forward into 2020–not a leftist Democrat.

“Florida is going in a good direction right now, and that’s partially because of the president’s policies, but obviously Gov. Rick Scott has been strong, particularly on economics,” DeSantis said. “If I come in, I could build off that. Florida will be even stronger economically as we meet some of our challenges, so when people go to the polls in 2020 they’re going to feel a lot better about what’s going on. If you have a Democrat governor who comes in and tries to raise taxes and do a lot of welfare spending and things like that, that’s really going to shoot Florida in the foot. It’s going to forfeit some good incentives right now for people to relocate businesses here, and so it would be a less prosperous state, and that would end up hurting the president because it would be on his watch, it wouldn’t be his fault – it would be the Democrats’ fault, but a liberal Democrat nominee would have more ground to tread there. But also, just the fact that if you have a liberal Democrat governor, they’re going to be engaging in non-stop anti-Trump virtue signaling–that’s going to be one of the main pieces of their agenda, just the virtue-signaling. They will virtue-signal, the liberal press will be all over it every step of the way, and that’s not exactly how to build a better Florida. But that’s exactly what they will do.”

DeSantis, 39, is one of the GOP’s fastest rising stars. He was first elected in suburban Jacksonville’s sixth congressional district in 2012, and has served in the House for three terms now. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and a frequent defender of President Trump against the left and the establishment–as well as being a military veteran, having served in Iraq in the U.S. Navy, and he was awarded the Bronze Star.



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