Perhaps it was the setting — former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s ‘No B.S. BBQ’ with burgers and beer– but at times, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) sounded like he was channeling his inner “Larry the Cable Guy” as he addressed the crowd.
DeSantis is in the Granite State for four days, part of an effort to reboot his campaign and, it appears, refocus on the First in the Nation primary. A New York Times/Siena College national poll released Monday morning shows former President Donald Trump with 54 percent support, and DeSantis with just 17 percent. No other candidates were above 3 percent.
Again and again, in both his stump speech and answers to questions from the audience, he reiterated his message that while other elected officials made political promises, he delivered results.
On the southern border, for example, DeSantis told the crowd of 200 or so who gathered in Rye Sunday afternoon, “Finally, after all these promises, after all these years, we need somebody that’s gonna get the job done.”
And, DeSantis added, “How often do you elect people who over-promise and under-deliver? We made bold promises, and not only did we meet those commitments, we delivered more than what we promised.”
The 44-year-old Florida governor- not known for his comic repartee- even worked in a couple of zingers targeting Hunter Biden. “Look, our kids are six, five, and three years old, so there’s not going to be any cocaine in the White House,” DeSantis said. “Maybe some fingerpaint… although, you know, my six-year-old daughter’s drawing is better than Hunter’s, and he’s getting a million dollars for his. I don’t know how they pulled that off.”
NHJournal tweeted that quote during the speech, prompting a retweet from DeSantis’ wife Casey with the commentary, “Can confirm…”
While DeSantis had some criticism for Biden and the Democrats, his remarks featured a steady drumbeat of critiques for previous officeholders who hadn’t kept their word to the voters –all unmistakeable references to former President Donald Trump.
On COVID, DeSantis said the “easiest thing would have been to just say, ‘Well, whatever these doctors or bureaucrats say.’ That’s not leadership. You get elected to be the executive. You do not subcontract out your leadership to [Anthony] Fauci or any of these other bureaucrats.”
“We were not going to let the state of Florida descend into some type of Faucian dystopia where people’s livelihoods were destroyed and their rights curtailed,” DeSantis added. “I had to make a decision as a leader — am I going to look out after the interests of the people I represent? Or may I going to worry about my own political hide.”
On the border, DeSantis said he would declare a national emergency.
“We’re mobilizing all available resources, including the military,” DeSantis said. “The invasion is going to stop. Yes, we are going to build a border wall because I think that’s necessary. But I will also be the first president who’s willing to lean in against the Mexican drug cartels. If they are breaking into our country, we will authorize deadly force.
“If they’re trying to bring fentanyl into our communities, that’s going to be the last thing they do. Because at the border, they’re going to be shot stone-cold dead.”
Trump still maintains a solid lead in every recent poll of New Hampshire Republican primary voters. The latest poll, released by the organization American Greatness, found Trump with 41 percent of the vote, 30 points ahead of DeSantis at 11 percent. Next in line were former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) tied at eight percent.
Several attendees told NHJournal they are Trump supporters, but they are giving DeSantis a hard look over concerns about electability.
“I think Trump’s in a lot of trouble,” one New Hampshire Republican who asked not to be identified told NHJournal after the speech. “He had a strong message, and he offered reasonable solutions.”
Sandra Kelly, a Massachusetts Republican and Tea Party activist who drove up for the DeSantis event, had high praise for Trump. “He was so good for four years,” she said. Now, however, she’s worried he just can’t win. “I don’t know if the independents will ever vote for him.”
Several Republicans also mentioned DeSantis’ reference to being able to serve eight years if elected president, while the constitution limits Trump to one more four-year term.
Asked by a local Rye resident how he planned to “show Trump supporters you’re the better candidate,” DeSantis laid out his case.
“I’m the candidate that’s more likely to beat Biden. I’m more reliable on policy. I think you’ve seen my record in Florida, and I’m much more likely to actually get all this stuff done,” DeSantis said. “There were promises made about draining the swamp. That did not happen. We ended the [Trump] presidency with Fauci running the government.
“That is not draining the swamp.”