Sunday, July 01, 2018

NOT OUR CONGRESSMAN, NOT OUR GOVERNOR -- Herr Trump accelerates Ron DeSantis’ political ascent (Herald-Tribune)

These two bogus conmen admire each other -- supercilious spooner U.S. Representative RONALD DEON DeSANTIS calls him "Donald."

Trump accelerates Ron DeSantis’ political ascent

By Mark Harper

Posted Jun 30, 2018 at 7:30 PM
Updated Jun 30, 2018 at 11:43 PM
Miami Herald -- Tampa Bay Tribune

KISSIMMEE — Adam Putnam, goes the common logic, has been running for governor for eight years. Ron DeSantis, some believe, has an even bigger goal in mind.

Where Putnam has campaigned almost exclusively from Florida, focused on Florida issues and surrounding himself with Florida fruit growers and county sheriffs, DeSantis goes on Fox News and Twitter to attack the Deep State in defense of President Donald Trump.

They debated last week, appropriately enough, in a setting that was a little bit Adam, a little bit Ron: A grand ballroom in a colossal Florida convention and resort complex in front of Fox News cameras and hardcore Republicans.

Putnam was and remains the favorite in the Aug. 28 GOP primary. He has raised about $25 million, doubling DeSantis’ $12 million, the latest campaign finance data show, and he’s worked the campaign circuit hard and long. Despite some public stumbles in recent weeks, Putnam remained in the lead in a mid-June Fox News poll of likely Florida voters, 32-17.

However, there were enough undecided voters, 39 percent, for DeSantis to see daylight.

But the race’s remaining two months will be a sprint, and DeSantis has left the blocks. Last week came a $12 million ad buy, reminding viewers that he’s “backed by the big man himself,” displaying photos of DeSantis and his wife Casey, with whom he has two small children, together with Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Then came Thursday’s debate as three Monday appearances will take him up and down the west side of the state with Fox News bullhorn Sean Hannity.

For DeSantis, it’s a long way from door-knocking Florida Congressional District 6 as an unknown, 33-year-old lawyer a mere six years ago.

Wins and losses

DeSantis, who turns 40 on Sept. 14, grew up on Florida’s west coast, went to Yale, then Harvard Law, and from there joined the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps.

DeSantis served in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Iraq at a time when Putnam, 43, of Bartow, represented west-central Florida in Congress.

During Thursday’s debate, when Putnam hammered DeSantis for being more concerned with Washington than Florida-focused, DeSantis retorted: “The truth is there are definitely times when I wish I could have spent more time in Florida. For example, the Christmas of 2006. I wasn’t home with my family. I was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, at the terrorist detention facility. Not as a detainee, as an officer. And then the next Christmas in 2007, I was in Fallujah, Iraq ... would have loved to been with my family, but sometimes duty calls.”

DeSantis left active duty and worked as a Jacksonville attorney before quitting to run for Congress in 2012. After winning, one of his first acts in Congress was voting against expanding the National Flood Insurance Program’s borrowing limit to pay flood-insurance claims from Hurricane Sandy, saying increasing the debt by $9.7 billion is “not fiscally responsible.”

A founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, DeSantis stuck to his debt-hawkishness when other Florida members lobbied the U.S. Department of Transportation for funds to extend the SunRail commuter train line into DeLand.

For tax cuts, though, DeSantis didn’t hesitate to extend the deficit. Last December he joined fellow Republicans in approving the tax overhaul despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office projected it to expand the deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years, without taking into account economic gains as a result of the cuts. Regardless, most Republicans consider the bill a big win for Trump.

Supporting Trump

When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced he would run for the presidency in 2016, DeSantis ran to replace Rubio. But he failed to break out of a pack and when Rubio decided to jump back into the race, DeSantis switched back to his House seat, winning easily.

In 2016, Trump’s inescapable force thrust itself upon DeSantis, who didn’t endorse “the big man” until after he’d clinched the nomination. And then it was tepid.

At a rally in St. Augustine on Oct. 24, 2016, standing at a podium marked with the name TRUMP, DeSantis spoke, deriding Obamacare then Hillary Clinton. “She lied!” he said.

DeSantis credited “Donald” for disseminating a list of conservative judges from which he would select a Supreme Court nominee, but never actually told anyone directly to vote for Trump.

But when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017, DeSantis had the president’s back. DeSantis tweeted it was the “right decision,” and would bring the FBI back to its “core mission and out of the political thicket.”

DeSantis and other Trump defenders have built a case that bias against the president has spoiled the Mueller special counsel investigation, and even in a debate for the Florida governor’s race, DeSantis couldn’t help but wade into the Trump-Russia matter.

It was enough to prod Putnam to say he’s interested in Ruskin, not Russia, in St. Petersburg, not the “other St. Petersburg.”

Back in Florida

Putnam is hardly the first political observer to note that DeSantis is more likely to appear on Fox News than in the communities of his home district.

In the spin room following Thursday’s debate, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran attacked DeSantis for demonstrating a lack of knowledge of Florida law and scant specifics on steering the state.

“Not one single vision, not one single issue did he have,” Corcoran said. “All he said, 19,000 times, was Trump, Trump, Trump. But that’s not a reason to elect someone to the third largest state in the greatest country in the history of the world.”

DeSantis, though, had spin-room support, too.

Future House Speaker Jose Oliva praised DeSantis’ ability to bridge both worlds, participating in a committee hearing in Washington Thursday morning and the gubernatorial debate in Florida Thursday night.

“I think it says a great deal about his capacity and his capability,” Oliva said.

Back in District 6, DeSantis is nearly as polarizing as Trump.

Liberals and some conservatives, too, say he’s been too ideological, too concerned with Fox News appearanceses.

A review of the congressman’s Twitter account in 2018 shows he tweeted nearly 130 times. Of those, more than 50 pertained to the Russia investigation, while just one, a tribute to a Navy pilot and Port Orange native who died in a crash in March, mentioned the name of a city in his district.

DeSantis, who recently sold his Palm Coast home and maintains a residence in Ponte Vedra Beach outside District 6, defends his district work.

Ultimately, even his backers suggest, his attachment to Trump is what’s propelled him to political prominence.

Tony Ledbetter, the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee chairman, anticipates appearances by Trump and other loyalists will help capture enough undecided GOP voters.

“Once they understand that President Trump has endorsed (DeSantis), and that’s who their candidate is, they’re gonna step up and vote for him,” Ledbetter said.

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