Ron DeSantis ends presidential bid ahead of New Hampshire primary, endorses Donald Trump

WASHINGTON — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended his Republican presidential campaign on Sunday, ending his 2024 White House bid just before the New Hampshire primary while endorsing his bitter rival Donald Trump.

The decision leaves Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley as the last major candidates remaining in the race ahead of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. This is the scenario Trump’s foes in the GOP have long sought, raising the stakes for this week’s contest as the party’s last chance to stop the former president who has so far dominated the race.

But as some Trump critics cheered, DeSantis nodded toward Trump’s primary dominance – and attacked Haley – in an exit video he posted on social media.

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“It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance,” DeSantis said in the straight-to-camera video, delivered in a cheerful tone, through forced smiles.

He continued: “I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee and I will honor that pledge. He has my endorsement because we can’t go back to the old Republican guard of yesteryear, a repackaged form of warmed-over corporatism that Nikki Haley represents.”

Haley fired back during a campaigning stop in Seabrook, New Hampshire, just as DeSantis announced his decision.

“He ran a great race, he’s been a good governor, and we wish him well,” she told a room packed with supporters and media. “Having said that, it’s now one fella and one lady left.”

SEE ALSO | Authorities ‘concerned’ about potential threats ahead of New Hampshire primary

DeSantis’ decision, while perhaps not surprising given his 30-point blowout loss last week in Iowa, marks the end of an extraordinary decline for a high-profile governor once thought to be a legitimate threat to Trump’s supremacy in the Republican Party.

He entered the 2024 presidential contest with major advantages in his quest to take on Trump, and early primary polls suggested DeSantis was in a strong position to do just that. He and his allies amassed a political fortune well in excess of $130 million, and he boasted a significant legislative record on issues important to many conservatives, like abortion and the teaching of race and gender issues in schools.

Such advantages did not survive the reality of presidential politics in 2024. From a high-profile announcement that was plagued by technical glitches to constant upheavals to his staff and campaign strategy, DeSantis struggled to find his footing in the primary. He lost the Iowa caucuses – which he had vowed to win – by 30 percentage points to Trump.

DeSantis’ allies said that private discussions began shortly after Iowa to decide how to bow out of the race gracefully.

The Florida governor notified top donors and supporters of his decision through a series of phone conversations and text messages between senior campaign officials to top donors and supporters on Sunday afternoon, according to two people who received such communications. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose the private conversations.

DeSantis had returned to Florida by then after a rollercoaster weekend that included stops in New Hampshire and then South Carolina ahead of another scheduled stop in New Hampshire Sunday evening that was ultimately canceled. The campaign also canceled a series of national television experiences earlier in the day, blaming the cancelation on a miscommunication with DeSantis’ super PAC.

DeSantis was physically worn after spending weeks on the campaign with little, if any, time off, even as he stormed across frigid Iowa and New Hampshire, often without a winter coat.

He ultimately decided that he needed to endorse Trump given his popularity in the party, despite the deeply personal feud between them.

“While I’ve had disagreements with Donald Trump, such as on the coronavirus pandemic and his elevation of Anthony Fauci, Trump is superior to the current incumbent, Joe Biden. That is clear,” said DeSantis, who is in his second and final term as Florida’s governor, which ends in January 2027.

The endorsement was a stunning tail-between-his-legs moment for DeSantis, whom Trump has mercilessly and relentlessly taunted in deeply personal terms for the better part of a year now.

For Trump, whose team includes many former DeSantis staffers, the attacks have often felt more like sport than political strategy. Trump and his aides have blasted the governor as disloyal for running in the first place, mocked his eating habits and his personality and accused him of wearing high heels to boost his height.

DeSantis’ team joined Trump in attacking Haley as news of his departure rippled across the political landscape. Some doubt Haley, who was seen as splitting Republican votes and preventing a head-to-head match up between Trump, would benefit from DeSantis’ decision.

“She will not be the nominee,” key DeSantis supporter Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told AP. “She will not be the president of the United States.”

Trump had already shifted his focus to Haley in recent weeks, but minutes after DeSantis’ announcement, the former president’s campaign released a new memo highlighting the pressure on Haley to win New Hampshire.

“Now that we are a mere 48 hours from the primary, the tone has shifted mightily. We see it, you see it, but make no mistake, if Nikki Haley loses in New Hampshire – there are only two options,” wrote senior advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles.

Click here to read to the full article at 7 News

Coldhearted? In frigid Iowa, DeSantis, Haley bash California

GOP candidates can’t stop talking about the Golden State. Biden, it appears, is not a motivating ‘villain.’

DES MOINES — Despite the Iowa caucuses taking place 1,700 miles from California — and the temperature being much colder — the Golden State, its elected leaders and its policies were a constant target in the lead-up to the nation’s first presidential nominating contest Monday.

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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) could be a “hedge fund maven,” given how much money she has made in the stock market while in office, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told Iowans. He accused his GOP rival Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, of telling more lies and being “more liberal than Gavin Newsom.”

Haley, meanwhile, said she is as afraid of a Kamala Harris presidency as she is of another term for former President Trump.

Bashing California, one of the most liberal states, is a grand tradition in the GOP. But Republican presidential candidates may be taunting the state and its politicians more this cycle because they are a better target than President Biden.

“Biden isn’t as motivating a villain as other Democrats might be,” said Dan Schnur, a politics professor at USC, UC Berkeley and Pepperdine. “So the Republican candidates are essentially running a negative campaign against California.”

As proof, Schnur pointed to DeSantis’ attack on Haley during a debate last week.

“The very worst thing Ron DeSantis could think of to say about Nikki Haley during the debate was that she might be more liberal than Gavin Newsom,” he said. “For an Iowa Republican — or any Republican, for that matter — that’s an absolutely terrifying concept.”

California was once a Republican stronghold, launching the political careers of Presidents Nixon and Reagan. But conservative attacks on the state have ramped up in the decades since Reagan left office.

In 2002, former President George H.W. Bush apologized for referring to American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh as “some misguided Marin County hot-tubber.” By 2012, California was the most disliked state, according to a survey of Americans by Public Policy Polling. About 44% of those surveyed said they viewed the state unfavorably.

Today, GOP fundraising appeals bleat about California residents — especially Hollywood celebrities and tech billionaires — fueling Democratic campaigns, despite the fact that the state also provides an outsize amount of political donations to Republican candidates.

This electoral cycle, DeSantis compared Haley to Newsom, whom he debated in November, at a CNN face-off last week in Des Moines. The Florida governor brought up Pelosi while lamenting the lack of rules on members of Congress during a campaign stop at Jethro’s BBQ in Ames.

“I just think we have a problem with Congress. … They’re almost detached from the people. They live under different rules,” DeSantis said, adding that he has not traded stocks since being elected. “They make a killing in the market … and I don’t think the congressmen should be able to be doing the stock trades. I think we need to reform that.”

Haley invoked Harris, the vice president and former U.S. senator and state attorney general, as she discussed why she believes Trump should not be reelected president.

“Y’all know it, chaos follows him. And we can’t be a country in disarray and have a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos, because we won’t survive it,” she told supporters in Ankeny. “You don’t defeat Democrat chaos with Republican chaos. And the other thing we need to think about: We can never afford a President Kamala Harris.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Iowans Propel Trump’s bid to be GOP pick

DES MOINES — Former President Trump has passed the first milestone in what his allies hope will be a quick march to a third presidential nomination.

Republican presidential candidate former President Trump speaks at an Iowa caucus site on Jan. 15, 2024. 
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

The voting by Iowa Republicans on Monday moved the country closer to a presidential contest unlike any other in U.S. history: A defeated former president facing four criminal cases and multiple felony allegations — including an effort to subvert the last election — taking another shot at the White House.

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Trump’s win in the Iowa caucuses came thanks to the resolve of his die-hard supporters, who turned out on a bitterly cold night that state officials described as some of the worst weather for a caucus in half a century.

Even before voting had begun at some caucus locations, the Associated Press and television networks projected Trump’s victory based on polls of voters entering the caucus sites and results from key precincts.

The swift announcement drew an angry reaction from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was projected to take second place, just a few percentage points ahead of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

In a statement from his campaign’s communications director, DeSantis accused the news media of “election interference.”

“The media is in the tank for Trump, and this is the most egregious example yet,” the statement said.

Speaking to his supporters, Trump said he was honored by the early call, congratulated his opponents and called for unity in the GOP.

“It would be so nice if we could come together and straighten out the world and straighten out the problems and straighten out all the death and destruction we’re witnessing,” Trump said. “It’s going to happen soon.”

He called President Biden “the worst president that we’ve had in the history of our country” and pledged to “seal up the border” and “rescue our economy.”

With nearly all the vote tallied, Trump was holding just over half the total, with DeSantis and Haley each pulling about one-fifth. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy was far behind in fourth place and was expected to drop out of the race.

The weather and the lack of suspense about the outcome did lead to sharply lower turnout than in 2016, when about 180,000 Iowans took part in the GOP caucus. This time around, Iowa Republican officials said about 100,000 voted.

The near-tie for second could mean that the Iowa result won’t have much effect on either the Haley or DeSantis campaigns’ ability to move forward to the next contest, in New Hampshire next week.

Despite her projected third-place showing, Haley claimed to have the momentum needed to overtake Trump in future contests and told her supporters, “I can safely say tonight, Iowa made this Republican primary a two-person race.”

“Seventy percent of Americans don’t want another Trump-Biden rematch,” she said. A rerun of the 2020 contest would result in another close election, but Haley said she would beat Biden “in a landslide.”

She’s well-positioned to overtake Trump in New Hampshire, where moderate voters and independents are a much larger share of the electorate than in Iowa.

After that, however, her prospects dim. Trump continues to have a huge lead in Haley’s home state, which votes in February, as well as in many of the 15 states that vote on March 5, this year’s Super Tuesday.

In California, for example, Trump currently has the support of two-thirds of likely GOP voters for the March 5 primary, according to a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, which was released Monday morning. Trump is on track to win all of the state’s delegates to the GOP convention, which amount to 14% of the votes needed for the nomination.

Democrats did not hold a presidential caucus Monday. The party flubbed the 2020 caucuses so badly that no winner was ever formally named. Amid concerns that Iowa’s overwhelmingly white population did not represent the nation’s changing demographics, Democrats last year decided to begin their nominating contest with primaries in South Carolina and Nevada.

After the race was called for Trump, the Iowa Democratic Party issued a statement outlining the case that Democrats plan to make against him.

As he campaigned in Iowa, “Trump showed us exactly what he would do to America if he gets the chance: ban abortion nationwide, cut Social Security and Medicare, make our communities less safe, and give handouts to the wealthy while raising costs on middle-class families,” the statement said.

Monday’s results showed that Trump retains the fervent backing of his loyalists. His margin of victory was on track to break the record for a contested Iowa Republican caucus, set in 2000 by George W. Bush.

Unlike a primary, where voters can cast a ballot at any time during election day — and in many states for weeks before the election — caucuses require voters to attend at a specific time, typically starting at 7 p.m., and stand in front of their neighbors to announce whom they back.

At the 1,657 precinct-level caucus sites around the state, supporters of the candidates delivered speeches, often expressing the grievances and anger that have animated many Republican voters about the border, pandemic-era lockdowns and perceived bias against conservatives.

In preelection polls, Trump voters were far more enthusiastic about their candidate than were backers of the other candidates, and that enthusiasm carried over to caucus night.

“There is a great awakening happening across the country right now,” said Kathryn M. Heilesen, a certified public accountant in Denison, in western Iowa, who was a caucus captain for Trump. She did not clarify her reference to the “Great Awakening,” a phrase that dates to 18th century evangelism in the U.S. but in recent years has been picked up by devotees of QAnon conspiracy theories.

Heilesen’s vote for Trump was a matter of faith but also of prophecy, she said. “And you just need to listen to the prophets — if you listened to them in 2016, they predicted this,” she said.

Although the population of Crawford County, where Denison is located, is almost 30% Latino, the caucus turnout was almost entirely non-Latino white voters.

Nearly half of Trump’s supporters described themselves as “extremely enthusiastic” about their candidate, according to a Des Moines Register-NBC-Mediacom poll of Iowa voters conducted last week. By contrast, only 9% of former United Nations Ambassador Haley’s backers were similarly excited, as were 23% of voters for DeSantis.

Trump led among all demographic groups tested in the poll but was especially strong among voters who identified themselves as evangelical Christians and the 4 in 10 likely caucus voters who labeled themselves as backers of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. Among Trump backers, 60% called themselves either “ultra MAGA” or “regular MAGA,” the poll found.

About half of Haley’s backers identified as “anti-MAGA,” while 1 in 10 said they were MAGA supporters.

DeSantis voters fell between those two poles, with more than half saying they were neutral toward the MAGA movement, the poll showed.

Kurt Moore, 54, a DeSantis supporter in Ames, home to Iowa State University, said he hadn’t caucused in past elections because “sometimes you know you’re not going to change anything.” This time, he said, he would have “driven through a blizzard” to take part.

“A lot of us think we’re coming to an end as a country if we don’t take a new direction,” he said. “We have a great country … only if we don’t destroy it. Now with all these people flooding across the border … people’s tax dollars [are] being used to house illegal aliens in schools. We don’t know what a man or a woman is. It’s a mess, and we have to fix it.”

Voters are “willing to go out in 2-degree weather to fix it,” he added, looking at the roughly 120 people gathered in an elementary school cafeteria for their caucus.

Nearby, Ami and Rolf Duvick said that they supported DeSantis because Trump had backed lockdowns during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In a nutshell, we really liked Trump, but DeSantis led way better when it came to COVID,” Ami Duvick said.

In Iowa, as elsewhere, Haley appears to have consolidated the support of those who have rejected Trump, including disaffected Republicans, independents and some Democrats who crossed over and participated in the Republican caucus, which Iowa’s rules allow.

She appeared to be doing best in precincts with high percentages of college- educated voters, a result consistent with the preelection polls that showed her having her strongest support among two groups that have consistently resisted Trump: suburban voters and white women with college degrees.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

‘I’m game’: Florida’s Ron DeSantis Agrees to Debate Gavin Newsom

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has agreed to debate California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“Absolutely, I’m game,” DeSantis told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday. “Let’s get it done. Just tell me when and where. We’ll do it.”

Newsom’s campaign told KCRA 3 that it’s offered DeSantis either Nov. 8 or Nov. 10.

“Governor Newsom has been challenging Desantis to debate for months and sent him a formal debate offer last week,” a statement from Newsom’s campaign reads. “Desantis should put up or shut up. Anything else is just games.”

The California governor has been challenging the Florida governor for months now. In September 2022, Newsom called out DeSantis on Twitter shortly after DeSantis accused Newsom’s brain function of being muddled due to his hair gel.

“Hey @GovRonDeSantis, clearly you’re struggling, distracted and busy playing politics with people’s lives. Since you have only one overriding need — attention — let’s take this up to debate. I’ll bring my hair gel. You bring your hairspray. Name the time before Election Day @CNN,” Newsom said in his tweet.

Earlier this year, both governors butted heads over two planes carrying migrants being flown in from Florida to Sacramento.

DeSantis was recently named the second keynote speaker for the California Republican Party’s convention happening this September. He is also running for president in 2024.

Newsom has repeatedly stated that he is not running for president in 2024. He is also in his last term as California governor.

Click here to read the full article at KCRA

The Intensifying Newsom–DeSantis Rivalry

A 2024 general election between the two of them — as hypothetical as that is — would be a fascinating battle in the nation’s culture wars.

Last Fourth of July weekend, Gavin Newsom ran ads in Florida urging “all of you living in Florida to join the fight. Or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom.”

The rivalry between the governor of California and the governor of Florida, who each have four more years in office, has become increasingly fraught in recent months. Newsom has called Ron DeSantis a “small, pathetic man” for sending migrants to California, which he describes as “kidnapping.” DeSantis has been similarly personal. On the Mark Levin Show, the Florida governor suggested Newsom’s “obsession” with the Sunshine State might stem from the fact that his in-laws “moved from California to Florida during our administration, and they left during his administration.”

A few weeks ago, on Fox News, Sean Hannity asked Newsom if he would agree to a two-hour debate with DeSantis. “Make it three,” Newsom replied. “I would do it one day’s notice with no notes. I look forward to that.”

DeSantis said Newsom should stop “pussyfooting” around and throw his hat in the ring to “challenge Joe.” Newsom insists that he supports Biden entirely and has no intention of running for president.

A 2024 general election between the two of them — as hypothetical as that is — would be a fascinating battle in the nation’s culture wars. Both men are more ideological than either Biden or Trump. And in terms of strategy, Newsom and DeSantis are more similar than they’d like to think.

Consider their handling of corporations when they come under the influence of their political enemies. When Disney, under pressure from LGBT activists, proclaimed its aim to defeat DeSantis’s education-reform bill, the governor moved to strip the corporation of its 56-year-old “independent special district” status. Similarly, when Walgreens, in response to the Dobbs ruling, decided not to dispense the abortion drug mifepristone in certain states, Newsom suspended the state’s multimillion-dollar contract with the company.

“We stand for the protection of our children,” DeSantis said. “We will fight those who seek to rob them of their innocence. And on that point, there will be no compromise.”

Newsom justified his actions in the same terms: “California will not stand by as corporations cave to extremists and cut off critical access to reproductive care and freedom.”

With immigration, DeSantis has gone on the offensive — busing and flying migrants to blue states, including California. Newsom has acted with similar aggression on other culture-war issues. The transgender “sanctuary” bill he signed into law encourages children to come to California from out of state to receive trans drugs and surgeries. And trans isn’t the only tourism on offer. Newsom also funded a billboard campaign in other states, encouraging women to come to California to end their pregnancies. One ad promoting abortion even used a Bible verse.

Both Newsom and DeSantis are generally quick on their feet. Both present themselves as family men. And both have spoken about their faith-based values. DeSantis is a practicing Catholic. Newsom is definitely not, though he has spoken about the important “Jesuit values” he picked up while in college at Santa Clara University.

Their political differences are perhaps most obvious in their contrasting responses to the pandemic. And it’s on this that DeSantis could do serious damage to Newsom in any televised debate. In 2021, a year after Newsom’s first shutdown, masks were still mandated, indoor dining was limited, and schoolchildren were ordered to get the Covid vaccine (which was later walked back) in California. Meanwhile, Florida had no restrictions and banned private employers from mandating Covid vaccines.

According to the February PPIC Statewide Survey, 58 percent of California adults approve of Newsom’s handling of his job. However, it’s not clear that would carry over to the national level. In March, a Quinnipiac University poll of registered California voters found that 70 percent of voters, including 54 percent of Democrats, felt that Newsom shouldn’t run in 2024.

Click here to read the full article in the National Review

Inside the Deepening Rivalry Between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom says there’s no chance “on God’s green earth” he’s running for president in 2024, but he wants to make clear that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running, is “weak” and “undisciplined” and “will be crushed by Donald Trump.”

DeSantis, meanwhile, likes to mock Newsom’s apparent “fixation” on Florida while insisting that the Democratic governor’s “leftist government” is destroying California.

Welcome to one of the fiercest rivalries in U.S. politics, featuring dueling term-limited governors who represent opposite ends of the ideological spectrum and lead two of the nation’s largest and most influential states. Newsom and DeSantis almost certainly won’t face each other on any ballot in 2024, but in many ways, they are defining the debate from their corners of America as the presidential primary season gets underway.

Newsom addressed both his contempt for DeSantis and loyalty to President Joe Biden — even after Tuesday’s revelations that the president’s son, Hunter, reached a deal with federal prosecutors on federal tax offenses and a gun charge — in an interview just as the Florida governor launched a two-day fundraising trek spanning at least five stops across California. The Golden State has become one of DeSantis’ favorite punching bags as he tries to avoid a direct confrontation with his chief Republican presidential rival, Trump, and the former president’s escalating legal challenges.

“He’s taking his eye off the ball,” Newsom said of DeSantis’ escalating attacks against him. “And that’s not inconsistent with my own assessment of him, which is he is a weak candidate, and he is undisciplined and will be crushed by Donald Trump, and will soon be in third or fourth in national polls.”

Representatives for DeSantis did not make the governor available for an interview. Beneath the war of words, however, strategists in both parties suggest there may be a mutually beneficial dynamic at play. As they jab at each other’s policies and personalities through comments in the press and on social media, the governors are scoring points with their respective political bases, raising money and expanding their national brands.

Both men issued fundraising appeals Monday going after the other by name.

But it’s not all helpful.

Newsom, in particular, is facing nagging questions about his presidential ambitions less than a week after DeSantis dared him to “stop pussyfooting around” and launch a primary challenge against Biden.

The California governor, whose second and final term concludes at the end of 2026, has seen his national profile grow since he easily beat back a recall attempt in 2021 and cruised to reelection last fall. He finished the midterm campaign with roughly $16 million in the bank. And in March, he channeled $10 million to a new political action committee he’s calling the Campaign for Democracy.

All the while, Newsom’s team has been moving deliberately to avoid the perception that he’s running a shadow presidential campaign just as Biden ramps up his political activities.

For example, Newsom’s new PAC is initially focusing on challenging Republican leaders in deep-red states that are largely irrelevant in the 2024 presidential race. He campaigned in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi in April on his first trip associated with the PAC.

Newsom is expected to avoid battleground states or key presidential primary states for the foreseeable future, his allies say.

At the same time, the California governor and his team have been in regular contact with Biden and his top aides, including Jen O’Malley Dillon, who managed the president’s 2020 campaign and serves as deputy White House chief of staff. A Biden campaign official said the president’s team coordinates closely with Newsom.

“Newsom is not going to run against Joe Biden and never would. But life is long, and Newsom is one of the prominent national Democrats. It’s part of that role to have these big national battles,” longtime Newsom adviser and friend Nathan Ballard said of the feud with DeSantis.

“There is the 2024 election, and then there is a 2028 election,” Ballard added.

Indeed, veteran Democratic consultant Roy Behr, whose clients included former California Sen. Barbara Boxer, said the two governors are engaged in what could become an early preview of the 2028 presidential contest.

“It’s not inconceivable that four years from now, these two guys could be their respective parties’ nominees,” he said. In tangling with DeSantis, who is 44, the 55-year-old Newsom is building his national brand and visibility and is “certainly trying to create opportunities for himself.”

Sacramento-based Democratic consultant Andrew Acosta said he expected the ongoing rivalry to continue given that it’s beneficial for both politicians with their core supporters. He described Newsom and DeSantis as “frenemies.”

“They both get points off it,” Acosta said. “There is a hard core of voters on both sides who think this is great.”

While polling shows that many Democrats don’t want the 80-year-old Biden to seek a second term, Newsom said there are no circumstances in which he would challenge the sitting president of his own party.

“Not on God’s green earth, as the phrase goes,” Newsom said in the weekend interview, adding that he would be with Biden on Monday and hosting a fundraiser for him Tuesday. “I have been pretty consistently — including recently on Fox News — making the case for his candidacy.”

On Tuesday, Newsom reaffirmed his support for Biden shortly after news surfaced that the president’s son, Hunter, reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors on charges he failed to pay federal income tax and illegally possessed a weapon.

“Hunter changes nothing,” Newsom told the AP, noting that he was spending the day with Biden.

DeSantis did not plan to make any public appearances during his California fundraising tour, which included stops in Sacramento and the Bay Area on Monday and continues Tuesday with events planned for San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles.

Over the weekend in Nevada, DeSantis noted that he’s seen a surge of “disgruntled Californians” moving to Florida.

“Why would you leave like a San Diego to come to say, Jacksonville, Florida? I see people doing that,” DeSantis told thousands of conservative activists at a weekend gathering close to the California border. “It’s because leftist government is destroying that state. Leftist government is destroying cities all over our country. It’s destroying other states.”

Former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt, who hosted the weekend event and leads the pro-DeSantis super PAC, said the policy contrast between the leaders of Florida and California is “a debate that our whole country needs to have.”

“California has been the model for many leftist policies. I would take the contrast between Florida’s policies and its results led by Gov. DeSantis and the California policies, any day of the week,” Laxalt said in an interview. “We can already see what leftist policies do.”

Both DeSantis and Newsom took office in 2019 and won reelection for their second and final terms in 2022. While in office, both have been buoyed by multiple billion-dollar budget surpluses and the help of statehouses controlled by their own party that supercharged their agendas.

In California, Newsom expanded the state’s Medicaid program to cover all eligible adults, regardless of their immigration status. He signed a raft of legislation to make it easier to get an abortion, including authorizing $20 million in state spending to help people from other states travel to California. When the U.S. Supreme Court declined to strike down an abortion law in Texas that was enforced by private lawsuits, Newsom signed a similar law in California — only he made it about guns.

And earlier this month, he proposed amending the U.S. Constitution to institute what he called a “reasonable” waiting period for all gun purchases, a ban on so-called assault rifles, universal background checks and raising the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21.

“I think Gavin Newsom is a very useful foil for Ron DeSantis, quite frankly,” said Lanhee Chen, a California Republican who attended one of DeSantis’ five California fundraisers this week. “The more kinds of crazy things that Newsom does — at least, crazy in the eyes of Republican voters — the more I think Ron DeSantis frankly benefits as somebody who’s seen as a counterweight to that.”

In Florida, DeSantis has leaned into cultural conservative issues in what he calls his “war on woke.”

Earlier this month, his administration flew groups of migrants from Texas to Sacramento to draw attention to the influx of Latin American immigrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. He did the same last fall, sending dozens of immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, which he often highlights during his stump speeches.

DeSantis also signed and then expanded the Parental Rights in Education bill — known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans instruction or classroom discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in Florida public schools for all grades. He seized control of Disney World’s governing body after the company publicly opposed the law.

The Florida governor this year also signed a law banning abortions at six weeks, which is before most women realize they’re pregnant. And he took control of a liberal arts college that he believed was indoctrinating students with leftist ideology.

While DeSantis does not have the legal entanglements that Trump faces, Newsom said Democrats may be wrong to assume the former president would be an easier candidate to defeat in the 2024 general election.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Trump heavily favored over DeSantis among California Republicans, poll shows 

Former President Donald Trump is favored over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis among registered Republican voters in California in the 2024 presidential primary, a new poll from Emerson College Polling and Inside California Politics shows. 

54.5% of registered Republican respondents said they would most likely vote for Trump in the presidential primary, nearly three times as many who said they would vote for DeSantis (18.7%).

The poll was conducted from June 4 – 7, before a federal indictment against Trump became public.

Former Vice President Mike Pence was the top choice for 11.8% of those polled, with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley rounding out the top four with support from 5.7% of respondents.

However, among California voters, both Trump and DeSantis trailed President Joe Biden by more than 20 percentage points in hypothetical matchups.

53.5% of respondents favored Biden over Trump, who was the preferred candidate for 31.7% of respondents. If that matchup were to repeat itself in 2024, 9.6% said they would vote for someone else and 5.2% said they were undecided.

A similar percentage, 53.7%, favored Biden over DeSantis, who was the preferred candidate for 28.4% of respondents. In that matchup, 10.3% said they would vote for someone else and 7.6% said they were undecided. 

Biden Sweeps 2024 Democratic Primary Poll

As the incumbent president, Biden is easily the favorite in the 2024 Democratic primary among registered Democrats polled. 

Biden was the top choice for 73.3% of registered Democrats polled.

Robert Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine activist and nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, was the second most popular choice with 16.2% favoring him. 6.6% of respondents said they would vote for author Marianne Williamson.

4.6% said they would vote for someone else.

Democratic Politicians’ Approval Rating

Despite the strong support from California voters in the two seemingly most likely 2024 matchups, Biden’s approval rating among respondents (43.9%) was only about 4 percentage points higher than those who said they disapproved of the job he was doing as president (39.6%).

Vice President and California native Kamala Harris fared slightly worse than the president. 37% of California voters polled said they approve of her job performance while 41.8% said they disapprove. 

44.7% of respondents said they approve of Governor Gavin Newsom. 39.4% said they disapprove. 

Click here to read the full article at Fox40

DeSantis Aims to Outdo Trump on Immigration

The former president’s pledge to end birthright citizenship is a new low but unlikely to be the end.

Donald Trump was the most anti-immigrant U.S. president in nearly 100 years. He oversaw a family separation policy at the border that traumatized countless children and lost track of hundreds of parents; slashed refugee admissions to record lows; gutted access to asylum; and much more.

But for some of the most influential U.S. nativists and white nationalists — people Republican presidential candidates have decided they need to court during and after the primary season — Trump’s crackdowns were not enough. Some see greater potential in his top rival for the 2024 nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Can DeSantis successfully co-opt Trump’s trademark issue? DeSantis is trying to paint the MAGA leader as soft on immigration.

At the end of May, he attacked Trump as pro-amnesty for his onetime support of a failed GOP bill that would have legalized some immigrants brought here as children in exchange for more border militarization and cuts to legal immigration. And last weekend, DeSantis met with families of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks as they criticized Trump’s decision to host a Saudi-funded golf tournament.

On Tuesday, Trump sought to reclaim his position as the No. 1 anti-immigrant crusader by reviving one of the most extreme ideas explored during his presidency: an executive order ending birthright citizenship.

The proposed order, which he promised to sign his first day in office if reelected, would face immediate legal challenges for its clear violation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. His plan relies on a tortured reading of the amendment from pseudo-intellectuals at California’s Claremont Institute, such as Trump’s former lawyer John Eastman, a key player in the effort to overturn the 2020 election who also wrote an unhinged article questioning Vice President Kamala Harris’ citizenship (it led to an editors’ apology).

If the Supreme Court ruled in Trump’s favor — not impossible to imagine — it would defy more than a century of legal precedent. And it would create a shadow population of millions of U.S.-born people who could be jailed and deported. In the eyes of restrictionists, it would all be worth it for a decline in “anchor babies,” their slur for the U.S.-born children of people who lack legal immigration status.

But restrictionists are skeptical that Trump would follow through on his promise given his record of sloppy executive orders and their chaotic implementation. Past orders were often blocked by courts.

“I fear this will be one more example of him writing up an executive order and either it fizzles out or they don’t pursue it with the seriousness and professionalism it deserves,” Mark Krikorian, a lead architect of the 21st century movement to strangle legal and illegal immigration, told me. He frowns on Trump’s occasional expressions of support for legal immigration.

“He’s not even a restrictionist,” he complained to me, criticizing Trump’s failure to stop guest worker and other visa programs. Krikorian heads the Center for Immigration Studies, classified as an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center despite Krikorian’s claims to the contrary. He prefers DeSantis over Trump.

So do some open white nationalists, who cheer on his policies and rhetoric online and see them as signs that he’s more hostile toward overall immigration, which is important for those who fear demographic change.

DeSantis recently signed Senate Bill 1718, which turned Florida into the most anti-immigrant state in the nation. It makes it a felony to give undocumented people rides, jobs or shelter; requires employers to verify workers’ immigration statuses and invalidates certain out-of-state driver’s licenses for undocumented people. DeSantis also banned sanctuary cities in his state.

Some of DeSantis’ actions were on the wish list of Trump’s senior advisor Stephen Miller, whose ideas were shaped by Krikorian’s Center for Immigration Studies and other groups created by John Tanton — a well-connected white supremacist who fathered the modern nativist movement. But although Miller did push Trump in a more hardline direction on overall immigration, he wasn’t able to implement the full Tanton agenda because of his inexperience and an uphill battle in a White House with more moderate voices on the immigration issue, such as Jared Kushner.

Miller remains loyal to Trump. But DeSantis is positioning himself as more in line with Miller than Trump himself, who sometimes caved to pressure to temper his harsh positions, such as when he called off family separations at the border in response to national outrage.

Trump’s promise to end birthright citizenship seeks to correct the notion that he’s the less ruthless candidate. One shudders to imagine how DeSantis will try to one-up Trump’s threat. “Those two guys are in a white nationalist arms race,” Chris Newman, legal director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told me.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Gov. Ron DeSantis Flaunts Florida, Blasts California’s Left-Leaning Leaders in Simi Valley Speech

Though DeSantis is not yet an official GOP presidential candidate, his trip to California offered him an opportunity to rub elbows with Golden State Republican donors and tacitly point out what would set his potential presidency apart from a second term for Donald Trump.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Southern California on Sunday and delivered a speech that while billed as a book talk, had all the trimmings of a presidential campaign in a state that will play a key role in determining the GOP candidate.

The majority of the speech, which took place in front of a large and friendly crowd at Simi Valley’s Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, consisted of DeSantis contrasting what he sees as the manifold successes of Florida against the failures of California and liberals writ large.

The event was ostensibly a celebration for his upcoming book “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival,” but it also offered DeSantis an opportunity to rub elbows with the Golden State’s Republican donors and tacitly point out what would set a DeSantis presidency apart from a second term for Trump.

In the hour-long talk DeSantis lambasted the education, COVID, taxation and public safety policies in such deep-blue states as California and New York and pointed to his leadership in Florida as the perfect foil to that of left-leaning governors.

“I think we’ve gotten it right on all the key issues and I think these liberal states have gotten it wrong,” he said. “I think it all goes back to this woke mind virus that’s infected the left.”

DeSantis said that most Americans oppose “woke ideology” and have “voted with their feet” in terms of which states’ philosophy they prefer.

“If you look over the last four years, we’ve witnessed a great American exodus from states governed by leftist politicians imposing leftist ideology and delivering poor results,” he said. “And, you’ve seen massive gains in states like Florida, who are governing according to the tried and true principles that President Reagan held dear.”

The hour-long speech was met with cheers and applause from attendees at the Reagan Library, part of nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the former president’s conservative principles and legacy.

“This was a spectacular, top-notch presidential speech, so he has definitely set the stage that he is a contender,” said Ann-Marie Villicana, an executive chairman member of the Reagan Library. “At one point I blurted out loud ‘we need to move to Florida’.”

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Although DeSantis has yet to formally toss his hat in the ring as a presidential candidate, many interpreted Sunday’s speech, and his evening GOP fund-raiser down the freeway in Orange County, as early-stage campaigning.

Simultaneously, Trump amped up his campaign over the weekend, casting himself Saturday as the only Republican candidate who can build on his White House legacy but shied away from directly critiquing his potential rivals — including DeSantis.

Trump, giving the headlining address at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, told a cheering crowd that he was engaged in his “final battle” as he tries to return to the White House.

“We are going to finish what we started,” he said. “We’re going to complete the mission. We’re going to see this battle through to ultimate victory.”

While CPAC was once a must-stop for candidates mulling Republican presidential runs, DeSantis and other major likely contenders skipped this year’s gathering as the group has increasingly become aligned with Trump. Indeed, it’s the Reagan Library that has become a popular stop for potential GOP contenders, from recently announced candidate Nikki Haley to former Vice President Mike Pence, among others. Trump himself has not spoken there.

Though DeSantis, seen as Trump’s biggest potential rival, is frequently a subject of name-calling and other attacks in Trump’s social media posts and in interviews, he wasn’t mentioned directly in Trump’s address before conservative activists, who earlier in the day applauded when an old video clip of the Florida governor was shown in a montage.

He took only a veiled jab at DeSantis, calling out those who have proposed raising the age for Social Security or privatizing Medicare — positions DeSantis has expressed support for in the past, but has since abandoned. “We’re not going to mess with Social Security as Republicans,” DeSantis recently said.

Trump told the crowd, “If that’s their original thought, that’s what they always come back to.”

DeSantis, meanwhile, was on the other side of the country for his Reagan Library address and an appearance at a reception and dinner for the Republican Party of Orange County Sunday evening. Tickets for the event ranged from $500 for general admission to $1,500, which includes an autographed copy of the governor’s book and photo opportunities.

“He knows the red states are not going to be a problem, so I think he’s testing out his message to the to the blue states,” said Anngel Benoun , an executive chairman member of the Reagan Library. “He was trying out several different topics in order to see what got a good response, what got a lukewarm response and what got the standing ovation.”

DeSantis indeed succeeded in eliciting a standing ovation, not only at the end of his speech, but also in the middle when he spoke about how gender and sexuality is taught in the classroom.

“They should not be teaching a second-grader that they can choose their gender; that is wrong and that is not going to happen in the state of Florida,” he said, prompting audience members to rise to their feet.

The governor also denounced teaching critical race theory in schools, called California’s slow return to in-person learning during the pandemic a “disgrace” and said that teachers unions in California have a “pernicious influence” and are pursuing a “partisan agenda.”

Under DeSantis’s leadership Florida was one of the first states to fully resume in-person schooling in August 2020. In contrast, many California schools remained virtual for the majority of the 2020 to 2021 school year.

“He focused so much on education, so that also tells me he’s going to be trying to grab back the female vote that Trump couldn’t get,” said Benoun.

Trump won only 39% of the female vote in 2016 and 44% in 2020. DeSantis, on the other hand, snared 52% of the female vote during his 2022 gubernatorial victory– an achievement he flaunted on Sunday alongside his record-breaking margin of victory.

“We went from winning by 32,000 votes in 2018 to winning by over 1.5 million votes in 2022, he said. “It was the largest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate received in Florida history.”

DeSantis also bragged about capturing over 60% of the Hispanic vote, saying he did this because he didn’t pander to particular racial groups, but treated everyone as an individual.

He did not, however, discuss his polling among Black voters.

“That could be a big problem for him,” said Benoun. “Because, remember, Trump got the highest percentage of the African American vote of any Republican candidate.”

In fact, DeSantis did not mention the word Black throughout his entire speech, even though he touched on many race related issues including summer 2020 riots.

“We saw destructive riots in the summer of 2020 that were aided and abetted by feckless leftist politicians at the local level. We saw businesses trashed we saw billions in damages. We saw dozens of people killed, all without standing up for law and order,” DeSantis said. “We let it be known that would not be tolerated in the Sunshine State.”

DeSantis also did not mention Trump directly, but did emphasize attributes of his leadership that are different from the former president’s, Benoun pointed out.

If DeSantis does declare his candidacy, Trump will be a key rival. A recent Berkeley IGS survey of registered Republicans found DeSantis to be leading a field of potential and declared 2024 presidential candidates — trailed closely by Trump.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

The Republican Presidential Nomination Could Run Through California. Yes, California

This weekend’s visit from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis highlights the state’s importance to GOP contenders.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is heading into hostile territory this weekend, making a campaign-like swing through California as he seeks to peel off donors and voters from former President Donald Trump in a deep blue state that could be an unusually powerful factor in next year’s Republican primary.

It’s an awkward stop for the California-bashing DeSantis, made more so by a fresh round of taunting Friday from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“You’re going to get smoked by Trump,” Newsom said in a statement issued ahead of a planned speech by DeSantis at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The tenor of Newsom’s statement is likely a preview of what could end up as an ugly fight if, as expected, DeSantis tries to wrest the mantle of the GOP away from Trump — with California and its 5.2 million Republican voters representing a major battleground.

A March 2024 vote and an open GOP field offer California’s beleaguered conservatives a chance to step off the statewide sidelines and into the fray of a national fight.

“I don’t remember the last time we mattered,” said Carl DeMaio, a Republican activist and former San Diego council member. “It’s an immense opportunity.”

The contours are already taking shape. DeSantis will be in California over the weekend to speak at the Reagan Presidential library and then collect cash, both opportunities to make inroads with the state’s GOP base. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Vice President Mike Pence have both stopped by the Reagan library — an indispensable proving ground for Republican hopefuls — in recent months. None of them have officially entered the 2024 presidential race but all are expected to.

Lanhee Chen, who ran for state controller in 2022 and has worked for multiple GOP presidential candidates, recounted a Republican campaign official recently seeking his input on how to navigate California’s sprawling geography and media markets.

“California is a different beast,” Chen said. “A lot of the campaigns are trying to wrap their heads around how they should think about it.”

It could feel like a sea change for California Republicans, who have been locked out of statewide office for a generation and are outnumbered two-to-one by registered Democrats. National Republicans swing through California’s red precincts to vacuum up dollars but rarely do any actual campaigning. This cycle could be different.

“There are lots of opportunities for each of these candidates to rack up delegates in California,” said California Republican Party Chair Jessica Millan Patterson, “and I think you’re going to see them coming through the state, not just to raise money but to meet people, get the vote out and make their case.”

By the time the 2016 GOP nominating contest rolled into California, former President Donald Trump had already vanquished his rivals. In early 2023, polling gives DeSantis a substantial lead over the former president. Republican candidates seeking an edge could be compelled to campaign and advertise in a solidly blue state, and not just in the typical conservative strongholds: Delegates will be available deep in the belly of the beast.

“I don’t think Republican voters are even cognizant that this is coming, because it’s just never happened before,” said Matt Shupe, a Republican political consultant. “I’ve been pretty fired up talking about this because this is going to affect the party, from the lowest levels to the highest levels, until March.”


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Part of the calculus will involve California’s decentralized nominating process. Most of the state’s delegates are allocated by House district, with the top vote-getter in each district receiving three. California Republican Party officials intentionally made the change many cycles ago to open up a statewide formula that had helped catapult favorite son Ronald Reagan into the White House.

“When we were changing the party rules back in the year 2000, hoping that we might someday play a role like this — it’s certainly surreal that day has arrived,” said Jon Fleischman, who was the party’s executive director at the time. “It only took 23 years.”

That means candidates have 52 separate chances — one for each congressional seat — to pick up votes. Winning a solidly red San Diego seat will be just as valuable as carrying a plurality of San Francisco’s 29,000 Republicans.

“It creates a dynamic where a candidate could say ‘you know what, I’m going to campaign in the Central Valley and hire grassroots people in the Central Valley and just do that,’” Fleischman said.

Republican voters in California run the gamut from Orange County denizens with beachfront views to residents of northern rural counties who hope to create their own state. But Chen said the Republicans he interacted with on the trail had similar views to Republicans in other states. He said he observed bigger contrasts within California.

California Republicans have resoundingly supported Trump, voting for him in record numbers. Supporting him was a prerequisite for leadership in the state party.

But that support is wavering. A recent statewide poll found DeSantis bested Trump by double digits in a head-to-head matchup and scored markedly higher favorability ratings. Republicans around the state described a fluid situation in which some voters unflinchingly back Trump, others are ready to move on, and many are still weighing their options as the field develops.

“It varies so widely. Some people still love Trump and he’s the only one, and a lot of other people are like: ‘absolutely not, DeSantis is our person,’” said Fresno County Republican Party Chair Elizabeth Kolstad.

State Sen. Melissa Melendez was a steadfast Trump supporter who traveled to the White House to discuss immigration in 2018 and represents the Republican stronghold of Riverside County. In a recent interview, Melendez declined to commit to Trump. “Some people have their favorites already decided, but a lot of it is going to come down to what their policies are,” Melendez said, citing stances on China and immigration.

The donor class is also unlikely to unite behind the former president. Gerald Marcil, a fixture of the California Republican donor circuit, said he admired Trump’s record and voted for his re-election. But he is not backing Trump this time around. He likes DeSantis, an impression that was solidified after dining together.

“I think we have to go with Ron DeSantis on this one,” Marcil said, adding he feared a crowded field would hand the nomination to Trump because he begins with an unwavering base. “We’ve got to coalesce and get down to one or two other possibilities.”

Similarly, Orrin Heatlie — a core organizer of the failed 2021 effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom — said the grassroots Republicans he speaks with are “swinging heavily towards Ron DeSantis.”

“He has a clear message and basically aligns with their beliefs and their politics,” Heatlie said. “I think Donald Trump is a distraction.”

Some Republicans are balancing genuine admiration for Trump with other political considerations. Republican Assemblymember Devon Mathis, who is vociferously advocating for former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, said he believed Trump had done a good job but wanted someone who could serve out two terms. Mathis also warned of the down-ballot ripples.

“A lot of people want to stay loyal to the former president, and there’s a lot of people who feel like he got robbed,” Mathis said, but “as much as some people don’t like to admit it, Trump was pretty toxic for our delegation. Every single ad was tying Republicans to Trump, in every target seat in California.”

Click here to read the full article in Politico

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