There’s plenty of speculation on his presidential prospects in 2024, but in the meantime, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is looking mighty strong as the Sunshine State’s 2022 gubernatorial election approaches. A political committee backing the Republican for re-election “has raised more in August than those supporting his Democratic opponents have brought in all year,” Florida Politics reported on Aug. 31.
“Friends of Ron DeSantis reported raising $4.92 million from Aug. 1 through [Aug. 27],” the website states. “By comparison, Friends of Charlie Crist and Florida Consumers First, committees respectively supporting Democratic candidates [Rep.] Charlie Crist [D-FL] and [state Agriculture Commissioner] Nikki Fried, raised a combined $3,249,970 this year through the same date.”
It’s the second straight impressive month for the committee, which took in more than $4 million in July. Politico reported Aug. 10 that:
“DeSantis, who has not yet formally declared his 2022 reelection bid, last month brought in political contributions from every state in the country and several United States territories as well as from members of the military serving overseas, according to campaign finance records. DeSantis’ nearly 400-page July campaign finance report represents a massive expansion of DeSantis’ fundraising footprint, driven by his increased use of email to solicit contributions.”
Jacob Ogles at Florida Politics points it out: The Ron DeSantis Express is sitting on an awful lot of money.
“There’s a possibility the total intake for the committee (dating back to before DeSantis’ 2018 gubernatorial campaign) could exceed $100 million this or next month,” Ogles writes. “The bottom line? Even after paying $682,920 in bills this month, the committee sits on $52,604,242 in cash on hand.”
As Politico noted, DeSantis’ popularity comes in great part due to his politically adept pro-individual rights stance against strict coronavirus social curbs and vaccine mandates. It goes without saying this is a winning formula far beyond Florida.
The 2022 Florida governor’s race is shaping up to be an interesting trial run for possible larger DeSantis ambitions. His two Democrat opponents fit a similar profile to the leading 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidates.
In Crist, you have an aging careerist politician (he’s only 65, though he comes off as much older) with a checkered past who somehow manages to not only keep his place at the political trough year after year but advance up the ladder as well. Who does that remind you of? And in Fried we see a pragmatic blue “woman candidate” pledging to overthrow a “corrupt, rigged system and build a state that gives power back to us,” as her official campaign website puts it. Think a mix of Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Fried has been uncomfortable fully embracing the progressive label in practice. In Florida, that should be understandable. But it rather predictably marks her as a disappointment in the eyes of the never-satisfied leftists in the Democrat base.
Fried addressed the Democratic National Convention in August 2020, and attention focused on the “just how liberal is she?” question. The Tampa Bay Times noted that Fried described herself as “very socially liberal, but fiscally conservative” and revealed progressive unease at her financial backers:
“Her support includes powerful Florida corporations and lobbyists that have traditionally bankrolled Republican campaigns in Florida. Her political committee, Florida Consumers First, has received $25,000 donations from utility companies like Florida Power and Light and TECO and from Disney. Political committees tied to the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business interests have contributed at least $230,000 to her committee.”
In a June opinion piece for The Times, Mac Stipanovich, a former Republican strategist, made an astute observation on the Democratic battle to face DeSantis in a general election. “Slugging it out with Crist on the center-left ground that is his historical sweet spot does not look promising,” Stipanovich wrote. “Fried needs separation, some room of her own. She cannot move to the right in a Democratic primary, so look for her to go left into the open lane.”
If this occurs, it will eerily mirror the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. The leading female candidate will tack left while the older white male centrist contender will cling to what passes for a “center” in the increasingly radical party while claiming that only he can defeat DeSantis in a state like Florida.
It might well serve nicely as a dress rehearsal for a cash-flush rising Republican powerhouse who certainly seems to have bigger future campaigns in mind.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.