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Ron DeSantis launches campaign hoping to overthrow Trump

Ron DeSantis launches campaign hoping to overthrow Trump


In a recent appearance in South Carolina, after Ron DeSantis touted his state’s economic and education policies and criticized a litany of ideological opponents, his wife took a seat next to him on stage, reflecting on her role as first lady of Florida.

I didn’t want to be that proverbial potted plant, said Casey DeSantis.

No fan, skeptic or critic would accuse him of that.

Ms. DeSantis, 42, is widely regarded as perhaps Mr. DeSantis’ most important adviser. At Governors Mansion, she advised on media strategy and assisted veterinary staff. She narrated some of her most eye-catching commercials and took on high-profile projects on issues including mental health, disaster relief and cancer, surviving a fight herself.

Now, as Mr. DeSantis enters the presidential contest, people who know Mrs. DeSantis or who met her during the budding campaign expect her to play a vital role in his most important run for president. to date, seeking to shape perceptions of the campaign, build relationships with party stakeholders and illuminate the personal side of her tough husband, who sometimes struggles to connect.

You have the first ladies who are a bit more in a supportive posture, they’re not the ones out there, said Steven Wright, the Republican Chairman of Dorchester County, SC, who met with Ms. DeSantis while the couples were swinging in the area. . And then you have the first ladies who look like Casey DeSantis.

Mrs. DeSantis visiting the Pine Island, Florida Fire Department during Hurricane Ian relief efforts in October. Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

In recent weeks, she’s gushed about gas station pizza in Iowa and highlighted her personal ties to South Carolina, the South’s first primary state (she attended the College of Charleston, where she participated to the equestrian team).

She met with local Republican officials and offered public insights into family life as a mother of three. When Mr. DeSantis spoke at a Republican dinner in Ohio last month, Ms. DeSantis also joined the trip, driving through his hometown of Troy, Ohio, where the family met the mayor.

It shows the human side of the governor and his personal side, Mr. Wright said.

And she and Mr. DeSantis recently hosted Bob Vander Plaats, an influential social conservative from Iowa, for lunch at the Governors Mansion.

They could release her to go alone to represent the governor at various campaign stops where he cannot be, Mr Vander Plaats said, citing his ability to be very poised in front of a crowd. He recalled that they had dined on a spring salad of arugula, prosciutto-wrapped scallops with green beans and a strawberry fruit salad dessert.

Mr. DeSantis met Jill Casey Black, a local reporter at the time, at a Florida driving range, he wrote in his recent book, The Courage to Be Free. They married at Walt Disney World, years before Mr. DeSantis went to war with Disney. (The Caseys family was what you might call a family of Disney enthusiasts, he wrote.)

Casey DeSantis has built a career as a television personality in Florida, though that experience hasn’t stopped her from echoing Mr. DeSantis by hitting the woke corporate media.

Ms. DeSantis with the crowd at an event for Iowa Republicans This Month in Cedar Rapids.Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

She’s acutely aware of public events, the news cycle, optics, said Stephen Lawson, who served as Mr. DeSantiss’ spokesman during his 2018 gubernatorial run. who he is and where he’s from and his story is centered around her, and I think Shell continues to play a pivotal role in how that story unfolds.

She is his main sounding board, he added.

In that 2018 contest, she narrated an ad that highlighted Mr. DeSantis’ loyalty to President Donald J. Trump by showing him encouraging his young child to build the block wall.

Last year, she recorded a moving spot straight to camera, her voice wavering as she described how her husband had helped her through cancer.

She also promoted a video that presented her political rise as divinely inspired.

Ms DeSantis has also been linked to the political drama, and some have questioned the reach of her ruling portfolio, questioning whether she has too much influence within the inner circle of governors.

She’s assuming an authority she doesn’t have, said Mac Stipanovich, a Republican-turned-independent who has been a longtime Florida strategist and lobbyist, though he said he shared his impressions rather than his knowledge. firsthand. Where does this woman’s strategic political genius come from?

People always wonder who is the closest person to Ron, who is someone who can get his ear? added Nikki Fried, now chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party and former agriculture commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for governor in the Democratic primary last year. The only name that ever came back, she said, was Caseys.

Lindsey Curnutte, spokesperson for the DeSantis team, did not respond to a request for comment.

But Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Florida Democrat who worked with the DeSantises as Florida’s director of emergency management, said he found Ms. DeSantis to be someone receptive to ideas and whose door was open. always open.

The first lady, who has a strong communications background, walks into a room and really captivates, said Moskowitz, who supports President Bidens’ re-election bid.

There’s a long history of politicians navigating the complexities of involving family members in their campaigns or administrations, including Bill and Hillary Clinton and Vice President Kamala Harris, whose sister was a key adviser during of his presidential primary campaign.

In New York, Chirlane McCray was the closest adviser to her husband, Bill de Blasio, when he ran for mayor and then during his time at City Hall, an arrangement that has sometimes sparked controversy.

In an interview, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who strongly supports Mr. Biden, defended the art of the political power couple, saying that when it feels natural, it is somehow irreplaceable.

You need someone who understands your goals, your motivations, what you can handle, what you can’t, all of that, and all of that is encompassed in a spouse on the right terms, Mr. de Blasio said. .

But he acknowledged that, depending on the couple, spouse counselors may also be too close to the situation.

There’s a huge tradition that spouses are very protective and defensive of their relative in power, he said. Sometimes it can create blindness or some kind of knee-jerk reaction, or a feeling of revenge that isn’t always productive.

It can be a beautiful pattern, it can be a powerful pattern, he added, or it can really backfire.

Nicholas Nehamas contributed reporting. Kirsten Noyes contributed research.




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