PALM COAST, Fla. – When the late-season storm, Hurricane Nicole, followed its predecessor Ian along the northeast coast of Florida and battered the coast in early November, Governor Ron DeSantis wasted no time. and went into action.
Using his emergency powers, DeSantis had state workers spread dozens of dump trucks filled with sand on a makeshift dune to allow open highways along the Atlantic Ocean to reopen within 24 hours of being closed to traffic by nature. .
Restoring normal services after a hurricane is the absolute minimum for someone running the Sunshine State, but the speed and efficiency with which DeSantis moved further polished his reputation as a “can do” politician who doesn’t allow the rules bureaucracies get in the way of action. – if they emanate from Tallahassee or Washington.
The two-term governor, who scored an impressive 20-point re-election victory just days before Nicole arrived, garnered national approval for his attempts to oppose Washington’s mandates during COVID-19 and especially for his efforts. to keep schools open. Beleaguered residents of New York and other states flocked to Florida during the shutdowns, and many decided to stay.
Now, DeSantis is moving swiftly on a couple of other fronts to further position himself on the national stage that most political observers believe will lead him to seek the nation’s highest office.
Polls show him as one of the main challengers to former President Donald Trump, who has fallen in recent weeks since announcing his own effort to retake the White House. The $200 million DeSantis raised for a reelection he never came close to losing shows he would be a formidable contender in the 2024 Republican primary.
and a Joint Yahoo News/YouGov survey Taken December 1-5 and released Friday, it shows DeSantis leading Trump by 5 percentage points. The poll followed recent negative publicity surrounding the former president over his poor record supporting candidates in the November midterm elections, as well as having dinner with an outspoken white supremacist and also saying in a social media post that he was in favor of setting aside the Constitution and having it to himself.” reinstated” as president.
“He’s the governor of one of the most diverse states in the country and he just won a landslide re-election,” says Whit Ayres, president of North Star Opinion Research. But, Ayres notes, paraphrasing former Tennessee Governor and Senator Lamar Alexander, the leap from running for state office to running for president is like going “from eighth grade basketball to the NBA Finals.”
DeSantis is making sure to stay out of the daily chaos that Trump breeds within the party. While other Republicans have tangled up trying to comment on Trump’s remarks, DeSantis has largely avoided mentioning the former president.
When an Insider reporter asked him about Trump during a visit to Key Biscayne last week, Noting that Trump was a Florida resident and a DeSantis constituent, he responded: “I also have 22 million more…and we like to take care of everyone and say we’re focusing on getting things done, doing our job, and that’s a great thing. to make.”
But DeSantis is also making sure his policies maintain the support of the Republican voter base that gave Trump his White House victories. He has redoubled his attacks on the “woke” left and its perceived enablers within corporate America.
Michael Binder, a professor of political science at the University of North Florida and director of the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory, says DeSantis knows that there are Trump supporters who like him, too.
“The last thing you want to do is divide those voters before you have to,” Binder says. “He’s actually handling it pretty well.”
In a move likely to sit well with the conservatives who dominate the GOP presidential primary, the state last Friday withdrew $2 billion of its funds from investment firm BlackRock over the company’s stated commitment to environmental investing. , social and good governance. Florida joins other red states like Louisiana and Missouri in the moves.
“Using our cash … to fund BlackRock’s social engineering project is not something Florida has ever committed to,” said Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer. “It has nothing to do with maximizing returns, and it’s the opposite of what an asset manager gets paid.”
Patronis said the state will redirect about $600 million in short-term equity and another $1.4 billion in long-term equity to other companies over the next year.
DeSantis announced in August that the state would fight what he called “woke” capitalism that includes corporate America’s support of social policies like supporting LGBTQ employees and committing to climate change goals. BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink has become a champion of so-called ESG investing, although his $8 trillion in assets under management are widely distributed and include stakes in fossil fuel companies.
“Corporate power has been increasingly used to impose an ideological agenda on the American people through the perversion of financial investment priorities under the euphemistic banners of environmental, social and corporate governance and diversity, inclusion and equity,” DeSantis said. after the state board voted in late August to divest from funds that favor ESG investments.
“I was on the ESG thing from the beginning” with the resolution by the State Board of Administration, of which DeSantis is a trustee, says Leonard Gilroy, Reason Foundation’s vice president for government reform.
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The Florida movement continued a similar step by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and more than a dozen red states have taken similar approaches with their pension funds and other holdings. It is part of a broader effort by Republicans to demonize the left-wing agenda that is expected to be a central prop of the party’s new control of the lower house of Congress.
BlackRock said it was “surprised” by the Florida move, and Fink, speaking at the Deal Book Summit hosted by The New York Times last week, said of ESG investing: “I think stakeholder capitalism is not political. He didn’t even wake up, I just think it’s capitalism.” .”
The action follows last year’s publicized dispute with Disney, one of the state’s largest employers and also an economic giant that impacted more than $75 billion in the state in 2019.
Last April, the Florida Legislature passed and DeSantis signed legislation to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special governance arrangement that allows Disney to operate with a degree of autonomy over the entertainment giant’s opposition to a law that limits classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender. identity. The bill was widely described by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
But the provisions of the law were set for July 2023. And as the deadline approaches, there are reports in Florida that DeSantis and the legislature may try to soften its impact or limit the financial exposure it could bring to Floridians.
While there is considerable dispute about what it would mean for residents of the counties in which Disney has its properties, many believe Florida taxpayers could well be in trouble for as much as $1 billion in debt Disney now owes. The company provides numerous services to residents and others within its district.
DeSantis, through his spokesman, disputed those reports, and others who support the measure have rejected the notion of any concessions from the Republican legislature.
“Gov. DeSantis does not do U-turns,” press secretary Bryan Griffin said in a statement on Twitter following the story that first appeared in the Financial Times. “The governor was right to defend the elimination of the extraordinary benefit granted to a company through the RCID. We will have a level playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly does not owe special favors to any one business.”
But some see the Disney problem as one DeSantis will want to resolve before taking his own brand of Republican politics down the road next year, especially if it threatens his image as a smooth-talking man.
“If he literally did nothing, then you’re opening yourself up to this image of the smug kid,” says Binder. “Florida taxpayers can be in trouble for really significant amounts of money and there are Republicans paying taxes in those counties.”
The timing may work for a compromise, as Disney recently ousted its former CEO Bob Chapek, who spoke out against the classroom education law. Instead, the board brought back former CEO Bob Iger, who, while supportive of LGBTQ provisions, has been less public on the matter.
One thing is for sure. DeSantis is likely to enjoy broad support in a state that is a must for any presidential hopeful. And DeSantis can count on a friendly legislature, firmly in Republican hands, as he fills out his résumé with accomplishments ahead of a White House campaign.
The two leaders of the state House and Senate, respectively, recently backed the idea of changing Florida’s “quit running” law that requires state officials to leave their posts if they run for federal office.
The measure was reinstated in 2018, but House Speaker Paul Renner recently told reporters it was a “great idea” to revise the law. And Senate President Kathleen Passidomo echoed the sentiment, saying it was a good idea, according to The Associated Press.
“If an individual who is the governor of Florida is running for president, I think they should be allowed to run.” she said.