In New Hampshire, DeSantis says FL ‘provides a ray of hope’ for the nation — but not for all

The governor’s second trip to the Granite State comes just days before he is expected to officially announce his candidacy for president

By: - May 19, 2023 7:12 pm

Ron DeSantis speaking in Bedford, N.H. on May 19, 2023 (photo credit: screenshot from YouTube)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spent his Friday in New Hampshire. It was his second visit to the Granite State in the past two months, and comes just days before he is expected to officially enter the race for the presidency in 2024.

As part of a policy roundtable discussion in Bedford, a suburb of Manchester, the governor provided a recital of some of his accomplishments, and then prescriptions in what sounded like a preview of the case he will soon make to the rest of the country — that there is a need to restore sanity and normalcy to American politics and American society, and that he is the man who can do so.

“If you look nationally, people are very pessimistic about what’s going on with the country – understandably so,” DeSantis said as he sat between Jason Osborne, the New Hampshire Republican Majority Leader, and Rep. Debra DeSimone, two of the 50 members of the New Hampshire Legislature who endorsed his candidacy earlier this week.

“A lot of people think that our best days of the country are behind us, but I think Florida provides a ray of hope that it doesn’t have to be this way. It can get better. It’s going to require a lot of fight. It’s going to require that we do a lot of different things. I mean, we need to restore a sense of sanity to our society in a variety of different ways.”

That “ray of hope” may be a winning message for the governor as he crisscrosses the country in a presidential run. Conservatives,  particularly, will likely admire the policies DeSantis has pursued in his red state, but the initiatives also have provoked anger and concern from Democrats and other critics in Florida.

A poll published this week by two progressive organizations show that a majority of Floridians aren’t happy with the direction that the state has gone in after the Legislature passed a number of controversial measures over the past two months on issues such as a 6-week abortion measure, an anti-legal immigration bill, a gun measure to allow concealed weapons without a state license, and a host of restrictions such as removing books in classrooms and school libraries, defunding diversity, equity and inclusion programs, restricting how college kids will learn in “general education courses” and numerous other concerns related to trans kids and LGBTQ+ communities.

Meanwhile, many Floridians are looking for help on rising property insurance rates, car insurance rates, rising health insurance costs, and spiraling rental and housing issues.

The survey of 2,713 registered voters in Florida, taken by Florida Watch and Progress Florida, shows DeSantis’ approval rating is now at 50%, and his disapproval rating is at 49%. That’s a major change from the same survey conducted in February, when DeSantis had a 60%-40% approval/disapproval rate.

At his New Hampshire visit, DeSantis also said that “we also need to restore a sense of normalcy to our communities,” swiping at  progressive district attorneys for lax policies on crime throughout the country.

Though he didn’t name names on Friday, DeSantis has in the recent past blasted Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and he suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren last summer for “neglect of duty” after Warren signed pledges not to prosecute those seeking or providing abortions or gender-affirming cases. Warren continues to fight his removal from office through the court system. Though a federal judge stated in January that DeSantis violated Warren’s First Amendment rights and the Florida Constitution, the judge also ruled that he lacked the authority to reverse the governor’s action. The case is now before a federal appeals court.

That led into a passage about needing to “restore integrity to our institutions,” which gave DeSantis the opportunity to discuss the state of the U.S. military, and to criticize what he and other Republicans have said is a fixation on “woke” policies that are hurting our armed forces.

Photo of DeSantis in the Navy. Credit: 2018 gubernatorial campaign website.

DeSantis spoke often about his military background as a first-time candidate for governor in 2018, and it appears likely that he will feature that part of his biography as he runs for the Republican presidential nomination. He discussed his pride in serving in the U.S. Navy “even in places like Fallujah,” and contrasted it with the current military under President Joe Biden’s command.

“The military is going in the direction of politicization, when I see them focusing on things like drag queens for recruiting,” he said. “You’re like it really has lost its way and is it any wonder that recruiting is in the toilet right now? So I think that you need to restore a sense of mission and it’s all about being able to fight and win wars, and when you have that sense of mission and nothing’s going to detract you from it, man the morale goes through the roof. Because people think they’re part of something that matters. And right now I don’t see that happening.”

The governor also got personal in discussing his work ethic as a youth, saying that he was a “blue-collar kid” who worked minimum wage “odd jobs” to get through school. He said that during the summer between his senior year in high school and his first year in college, he took a job as an electrician’s assistant, waking up at 6 a.m. every day working five days a week, while his friends were “kicking back and kind of having fun before they went off to their endeavors.”

He said he learned a lesson about the government as well when he showed up for his first day at work that summer and was sent home because he wasn’t wearing OSHA-approved boots. He said that after he did purchase the correct shoes he still didn’t feel any safer but had became “a little bit poorer.”

And he added that the incident taught him that “government was telling me what was in my interest there, and in reality, it didn’t end up helping me, but I always felt like if you work hard, you’re going to be able to do well.”

DeSantis said he still believes that today, “but I also think that it’s a little more difficult today that maybe it has been in the past. And at the end of the day what our country needs to be about is this idea that it doesn’t matter where you start from, that people have an opportunity to do big things in this country, and that’s been true historically, and we need to make sure that it’s true again.”

DeSantis later spent some time at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, described by the Associated Press as a popular destination for presidential candidates. New Hampshire has historically held the first primary election in the nation.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.