Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives remarks on the Heritage Foundation’s fiftieth Anniversary Leadership Summit on the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on April 21, 2023 in National Harbor, Maryland.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is slated to launch his presidential campaign Wednesday evening, putting his mix of pro-business conservativism and culture-war populism to the test on the national level.
DeSantis, 44, is ready to announce his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Twitter, during a live conversation with Elon Musk that is ready for six p.m. ET. The announcement will cement DeSantis as the highest Republican rival to former President Donald Trump, who has held a consistent polling lead over the first field.
DeSantis worked to ascertain himself as a champion of economic growth even before he pushed to quickly lift Covid lockdown policies within the name of revitalizing Florida’s ailing businesses. He has since taken credit for the state’s low unemployment rate, its population growth and its economy outpacing the national average.
At the identical time, he has plunged into political battle with a few of his state’s top employers — most notably Disney — and signed laws targeting private business practices, a few of which has since been blocked within the courts.
DeSantis apparently sees no contradiction between his pro-business posture and his heavy-handed governance. “Corporatism isn’t similar to free enterprise,” he said in a speech last September, “and I believe too many Republicans have viewed limited government to mainly mean whatever is best for corporate America is how we wish to do the economy.”
But some experts expressed skepticism in regards to the governor’s tightrope walk.
“The Disney case kind of exemplifies this tension in DeSantis as a candidate,” said David Primo, a professor of political science and business administration on the University of Rochester. “There’s this hydra-like element to what he’s attempting to do.”
A spokesman for DeSantis’ campaign-in-waiting didn’t immediately reply to CNBC’s request for comment.
DeSantis himself has little business experience. A Yale- and Harvard-educated lawyer, he joined the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and served at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq. He worked as an attorney after his active-duty service led to 2010, and in 2012 was elected to Congress. Once there, he quickly established himself as a member of the far-right Tea Party movement.
DeSantis was the lead sponsor of 52 bills in Congress, none of which became law, Spectrum News reported. One in all them was the “Drain the Swamp Act,” aimed to appreciate Trump’s campaign slogan by strengthening lobbying bans on officials after they leave government service.
A founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, DeSantis also introduced laws that might axe the payroll tax for retirement-age Americans, and he backed one other bill to exchange most federal taxes with a national sales tax. Critics say such proposals, which popped up again in Congress this yr, would burden low- and middle-income Americans.
DeSantis resigned from Congress to run for governor in 2018 and, buoyed by an endorsement from Trump, narrowly defeated his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum. DeSantis’ aspirations for higher office were apparent amongst his loyalists that very same yr, Politico reported.
“He appeared to be like a mainstream Republican — pro-business, very conservative on social and economic issues,” said J. Edwin Benton, a professor of political science on the University of South Florida.
“And hastily he had the ambition to change into president. And to accomplish that he knew he needed to carve out a distinct segment for himself.”
DeSantis seized the national highlight throughout the coronavirus pandemic in September 2020, when he lifted all of Florida’s social distancing restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses.
He also acquired more power for himself. By the next May, DeSantis had lifted all local Covid restrictions. Six months later, the governor banned private employers from imposing vaccine mandates.
Along the way in which, DeSantis held that his actions were aimed toward protecting Florida businesses’ freedoms.
“No one should lose their job resulting from heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to guard the livelihoods of the people of Florida,” he said in a November 2021 press release.
DeSantis’ stance clashed with public health experts’ views on the time and drew heavy criticism, especially after Florida weathered record-breaking waves of Covid cases and deaths in 2021. But while the state suffered the third-highest variety of Covid deaths within the country, its death rate per 100,000 people was lower than in states with much stricter lockdown rules, resembling Recent York and Recent Jersey, per Recent York Times data.
DeSantis has claimed victory, making his Covid response a key piece of what he now calls the “Florida Blueprint” for economic success.
Even within the midst of the pandemic, DeSantis and his allies had trained their sights on other polarizing social issues that roped in Florida businesses.
In 2020, he quietly signed controversial laws that required some private corporations to make use of the E-Confirm system to examine employees’ immigration status. He strengthened those rules earlier this month, signing a bill that makes E-Confirm mandatory for any employer with 25 or more employees.
In 2021, DeSantis signed a law that allowed Florida to punish large social media corporations, resembling Facebook and Twitter, that banned political candidates. The laws got here months after those and other corporations kicked Trump off their platforms within the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. A federal appeals court has since ruled that the social media law is unconstitutional.
In probably the most recent legislative session, DeSantis signed a bill that stopped union dues from being robotically deducted from public employees’ paychecks. The Florida Education Association accused DeSantis of punishing them for opposing his policies, and critics have been quick to indicate that the bill doesn’t apply to unions representing first responders. Police and firefighters’ unions had endorsed DeSantis’ reelection bid.
DeSantis has also waged war against socially conscious ESG investing strategies, decrying the trend in his latest book as “an try and impose ruling class ideology on society through publicly traded corporations and asset management.”
ESG, a broad concept that generally refers to investing strategies that prioritize environmental, social and governance aspects, has change into a major goal for conservatives searching for to root out progressive influence in corporate culture.
DeSantis signed a bill in early May barring state and native officials from making ESG-based investment decisions. It was only his latest motion against ESG.
The ESG moves played into the governor’s argument against corporate influence and favoritism — themes he would employ again in his ongoing fight against Disney.
The Disney saga
Apparel promoting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sit on a table before a book tour event on the North Charleston Coliseum on April 19, 2023 in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Sean Rayford | Getty Images
The battle centers on laws banning classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3. Critics, who also noted the bill’s vague language could apply to older students, have nicknamed it “Don’t Say Gay.”
Amongst those critics was Bob Iger, Disney’s current CEO, who was not leading the corporate when he tweeted in February 2022 that the bill “will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.” Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek got here out against the bill lower than two weeks later and announced donations to pro-LGBTQ rights organizations. After the bill was signed, Disney vowed to assist repeal the law.
DeSantis and his allies soon after targeted Disney’s special tax district, an arrangement that because the Sixties has allowed the corporate to effectively self-govern its Orlando-area parks. In April 2022, DeSantis signed a bill to dissolve the governing body, formerly often known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
The move set off fears that the neighboring counties could be on the hook for the district’s expenses and debts. In February, the Florida legislature convened a special session and produced a bill that kept the district intact, but modified its name — and let DeSantis handpick its five-member board of supervisors.
The following month, the governor’s board members accused Disney of sneaking through Eleventh-hour development deals to thwart their power over the district. Disney says it followed the proper process in crafting those deals, and that it sought them with a purpose to protect its investments in Florida amid the politically uncertain landscape.
The board voted to nullify those development contracts. Iger, who returned as Disney’s CEO in November, noted in a recent earnings call that other Florida corporations also operate inside special districts.
Disney sued Florida, accusing DeSantis of orchestrating a “targeted campaign of presidency retaliation” that now threatens the corporate’s business. The law was “designed to focus on Disney and Disney alone,” the corporate said in its federal civil suit. The board has countersued in state court.
The fight shows no signs of stopping, and returns to the highlight with each recent business update from Disney, resembling the corporate’s recent announcement scrapping plans to construct an worker campus in Florida.
The ESG and Disney fights “reflect ways for DeSantis to appeal to that populist base while at the identical time keeping the final thrust of Florida policy very business friendly,” Primo, the political science professor, told CNBC.
He’s “banking on having the ability to do each,” Primo said.