Florida Governor Ron DeSantis felt at home in Salt Lake City on Friday where he gave speeches and raised money for his campaign. Utahns are more like the governor in demeanor and dress and tend to prefer a leader who projects good family values. It’s no state secret that the DeSantis campaign is barely at a healthy idle. At the same time, the MAGA-fueled former president, Donald Trump, is a straight-up blur, barreling past everyone else into the primary season.
But DeSantis seems to believe that slow and steady will win the race in what he calls a state-by-state election. “You know, we’re focusing on Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. And then, as we get into Super Tuesday, which of course, is Utah, and that really requires being on the ground, it requires building out the organization, and we’re doing that.”
He has Florida: Will Utah join the list of early endorsements? He has a lot of homework before he snags the Beehive State as his own; a Noble Predictive Insights poll of Utahns found Trump leading DeSantis 41% to 23% in a 2024 presidential primary matchup.
The Campaign Speech
DeSantis was introduced by Utah State Senate President Stuart Adams and flanked by 17 other state lawmakers in the capital as he touted his accomplishments and how they can translate across the nation. “Our country is in decline,” DeSantis said. “We see it, we feel it. I don’t think that that decline is inevitable. I think that decline is a choice.”
He wound through the reliable talking points of getting the “woke” out of the military, pulling the economy out of the Biden death spiral, and keeping overtly sexual topics out of the classroom. “I govern in bold colors, not pale pastels.” And, of course, he isn’t flying a rainbow flag.
True to form, DeSantis did not belittle or drag other GOP candidates through the muck to make his point. But he did say that Republicans “don’t get a mulligan in 2024,” referring to Trump. He went a bit further – without being rude – saying that presidents who serve two terms in office get things done.
DeSantis is somewhat proficient in managing his message. He has smartly taken a page out of Trump’s famous playbook in labeling his policies and priorities: “Mission First” is his plan to build a force that is “lethal, ready, and capable.”
And he played well to those gathered: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “My fighting faith is faith in God,” DeSantis said. “Politics has a role, but I don’t think it should be the number one divide in our country.”
DeSantis Needs Cash
Faith is powerful. But where’s the money? Presidential campaigns come with billion-dollar price tags – and the governor has all but spent his cache of political monies. In May, Utahns ponied up $113,000 in donations, and with the help of a few close allies, they may have done it again. Utah Senate President Stuart Adams hosted a “Pioneer Day Barbecue” for DeSantis in the Salt Lake suburb of Pleasant Grove after the speeches and visits with dignitaries concluded. The cost was a $1,000 donation for individuals, or one could opt for the VIP ticket for $6,600.
“They’re both great candidates,” Adams claimed. “But I believe Gov. DeSantis deserves a shot. I wouldn’t say anything bad about President Trump.” If Trump were to win the GOP primary, Adams would have a tough four years of mean tweets. Adams is joined by State Sen. Todd Weiler, who officially endorsed DeSantis at the event: “There are two things I look for in a candidate. I want someone who embraces the same core values I do and has the possibility of winning.”
Weiler reminded everyone of the 2016 longshot win by Trump:
“Eight years ago, Scott Walker was the leading Republican candidate, and Donald Trump was in seventh place. We know how that turned out.”
DeSantis Eyes Super Tuesday
Super Tuesday predicts success: Winners crow and losers bow out and endorse. For the 2024 season, that significant day is March 5. These Super Tuesday states offer up the most crucial number of delegates heading into the official nominating convention. And as DeSantis knows full well, it’s a state-by-state game. If he wins Utah, he has 40 delegates to take to Milwaukee and the great GOP stage.
DeSantis is confident he will be in Milwaukee to accept the nomination: “I think ultimately this is about the vision for the future. And some people are going to have a different vision for the future. And you get into the arena of ideas, you battle it back and forth, and may the best candidate win.”
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