Why Florida Republicans 'expected the downfall' of 'aloof' DeSantis’ presidential campaign: report

Why Florida Republicans 'expected the downfall' of 'aloof' DeSantis’ presidential campaign: report
DES MOINES, IOWA - AUGUST 12: Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his wife Casey, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) celebrate as the DeSantis' children Madison and Mason playing carnival games at the Iowa State Fair midway on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former U.S. President Donald Trump, are visiting the fair to greet fairgoers prior to the state to hold its caucus in 2024. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination was destined "to have difficulty" because "building relationships" is not his "strong suit" and he was "more interested in his own ambitions than governing," individuals familiar with DeSantis told The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey.

"Interviews with more than 30 people in Florida and Washington who worked closely with DeSantis — many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe their interactions with him — indicate that expectations were lower among some who knew him closely in Tallahassee — and that they always expected the candidate to be the challenge," Dawsey writes.

"The more he is met by people, the more they are not going to like him," State Senator Joe Gruters (R-23rd District) recalled of DeSantis to Dawsey. "The more he's out there, the more his numbers go down. It's not a good long-term scenario for him. I fully expected the downfall of his campaign a long time ago."

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Though DeSantis' "sharpest critics agree that he has been ruthlessly effective at times and has run a mostly disciplined governor's office," Dawsey explains that "Florida Republicans described an aloof governor who believed in 'sticks and no carrots,' according to a senior Florida official, and whose idea of negotiating was 'my way or the highway,' in the words of another. An insular governor who infrequently talked to some senior members in his own Cabinet, including his top law enforcement officials, or other leading Republicans. A congressman who seemed to avoid any opportunity to make friends with others in the delegation. A politician who rarely tried to connect with donors and supporters and seemed to not enjoy being around crowds or attending events. A governor who sometimes declined to participate in a lot of the customary niceties in politics, such as thank you notes and calls to donors."

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Dawsey notes, "Most members of the Florida congressional delegation have endorsed" the GOP's frontrunner, twice-impeached thrice-indicted ex-President Donald Trump.

"Building relationships" is not DeSantis' "strong suit," former DeSantis allies said.

For instance, Dawsey points out that "in Florida politics, one incident is repeatedly discussed — and was confirmed by people with direct knowledge of the matter to The Post. At a Florida airport with former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, a gubernatorial candidate in the 2018 election cycle, Graham came up and spoke to DeSantis. He stared ahead, leaving his earphones in and acted like he did not recognize her, according to three people familiar with the incident. Graham later told people it was one of the most bizarre moments of her political career."

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Dawsey continues, "Several people supporting DeSantis publicly told The Washington Post in interviews that they had to be supportive because of Florida business interests but had little affection for him."

Dawsey adds, "While the Florida legislature passed much of the governor's agenda, the governor sometimes frustrated lawmakers who believed he was more interested in his own ambitions than governing, according to multiple Republicans who work in the statehouse."

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Dawsey's analysis is available at this link (subscription required).

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