A third Florida man has his eyes on the White House.
On Wednesday, after weeks of teasing an announcement, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez officially became the latest entry into the crowded Republican primary for president.
His speech at the Reagan Foundation the following day hit all the right notes—citing Miami’s “economic explosion” and “disciplined approach to spending” amid budget bloat in Washington—and there is little doubt that the mayor of Florida’s second-largest city will tout his role in the state’s booming economy.
Florida continues to stand out as a national model for conservative governance, with a low unemployment rate and record influx of new residents to prove it. But, before Suarez takes too much credit, voters would be wise to familiarize themselves with the mayor’s record, including how vehemently he fought against the very policies that have made Florida ‘Florida.’
After all, there would be no ‘Governor’ Ron DeSantis today if Suarez had had his way, only a ‘former Congressman.’ The mayor’s choice in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race was Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the progressive up-and-comer endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and backed by Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer.
Gillum’s radical campaign platform called for ‘Medicare for All,’ a 40 percent increase in the state’s corporate income tax, and other progressive priorities that would have slammed the brakes on the Sunshine State’s forward momentum. Yet Suarez campaigned for him ahead of Election Day and ultimately cast his ballot the same. (Two months later, he attended a special inaugural ball celebrating the victory of Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried, the Democrat who would run for the state’s highest office in 2022.)
Thankfully, DeSantis ended up in the Governor’s Mansion, while Gillum’s 15 minutes of fame ended on the floor of a hotel room under less-than-ideal circumstances. Floridians rejected Suarez’s advice and have been better off for doing so ever since.
Case in point: COVID-19.
Perhaps no issue has defined DeSantis’ reputation more than his handling of the pandemic. The governor remained unwavering in his commitment to freedom and personal responsibility, even as opponents smeared him as “Ron DeathSantis,” as lockdown lobbyists in Grim Reaper costumes stalked families at his re-opened beaches, and as media properties like “60 Minutes” devolved into baseless fever dreams aimed at undermining his vision.
Miami’s mayor was not on the side you might think.
In April 2020, Suarez opposed the governor’s plan to “soon” resume in-person learning, insisting that “it would be particularly dangerous” to re-open schools considering the “incredible amount of children who could be at risk.”
He criticized DeSantis in September 2020 for his “acceleration” toward re-opening Florida’s economy “a lot faster … than what we had planned.”
Suarez also complained in January 2021 that “we’ve been restricted from being able to put in mitigation measures,” such as public mask mandates, by the governor, despite having “tried to reach him on multiple occasions” to lobby for the power to do so. The mayor called for a national mask mandate as well, strictly enforced with “the threat of fines” and “even arrest.”
This is not the record of a small-government conservative.
His recent hasty characterization minimizing DeSantis’ subsidy fight with Disney as a “personal vendetta”—all while lobbing personal insults at the governor (he “struggle[s] with relationships” and won’t “look at people in the eye”)—makes one wonder if Suarez doesn’t have a vendetta himself, with a campaign to dilute Florida’s primary vote as its main vehicle.
In short, the 2024 presidential race’s newest candidate may sing the right tune on the campaign trail, but the Sunshine State is the beacon of freedom it is today not because of Miami’s mayor, but despite him.
Suarez told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan last month, “I’m someone who needs to be better known by this country,” and I agree, particularly by Republican primary voters—lest his happenstance proximity to Florida’s achievements be confused for actual contributions to them.
Brian Anderson is the president of the Saguaro Group, an Arizona-based research firm.
Arizona’s frontline status with the crisis at America’s southern border led to a surprise, influential visitor this week.
On Wednesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in his official capacity, traveled to the southern border in Sierra Vista, alongside his Attorney General, Ashley Moody, who has been instrumental in filing many lawsuits against the federal government.
DeSantis convened two roundtables with a number of sheriffs from Arizona, Florida, and other states, listening to their stories and talking about solutions to mitigate the worsening crisis at the border.
After the meetings at Cochise College, Sheriff Mark Dannels, a national leader on border security and local enforcement, escorted his out-of-state guests to the border, where they gained a fresh, first-hand perspective of the deteriorating situation.
In a release sent out by the Florida Governor’s Office, Governor DeSantis used the visit to “highlight Florida’s successful actions to combat illegal immigration within the state and along the southern border.” Those measures include “new methods for combating human smuggling and drug trafficking across state lines and the relocation of illegal aliens who wish to be transported to so-called sanctuary states and cities.” DeSantis also announced that “Florida’s law enforcement agencies are offering trainings for other states that want to follow Florida’s lead on protecting citizens from the impacts of Biden’s Border Crisis.”
The second-term Sunshine State governor issued the following statement in conjunction with his mid-week stop in the Grand Canyon State: “Joe Biden is derelict in the performance of his duties and refuses to uphold the borders of our nation. In Florida, we’re stepping up even as the federal government falls down on the job. We enacted strong legislation to combat illegal immigration, sent law enforcement officers and equipment to the border, and have dedicated resources to divert migrants to sanctuary jurisdictions. Today we’re taking Florida’s no-nonsense approach to border enforcement nationwide.”
Dannels was extremely complimentary of the Florida team that descended on his county, appreciating their efforts to partner with him and other members of law enforcement, saying, “This is not about politics, folks. This is about doing what is right, which everyone in this room that works for government has taken an oath to do. So thank you guys for what you do. We pledge to you both and all our governors, all our sheriffs, all our law enforcement, our prosecutors, our county attorneys, our mayors to work united to fix these borders, secure our borders, and get America back.”
Another Arizona sheriff, P.J. Allred of Graham County, was at the table with the Florida chief executive and gave the following remarks: “When most people come from the south to come to the United States, my little county is probably not their destination, but they come through us and we feel them when they come through us. When we’ve encountered them after a pursuit through the desert, when they see us as law enforcement and the vehicles come to a stop, they run to us as law enforcement to get away from the coyotes that were carrying them. I appreciate all of you for being here, being interested in our country, our freedoms, our rights.”
At least two state legislators appeared to be in attendance for DeSantis’ southern Arizona check-in: House Speaker Ben Toma and Representative Gail Griffin. Toma tweeted a picture with DeSantis, writing, “My pleasure to help welcome Governor Ron DeSantis to Arizona and to share details of our border crisis. Glad to hear we share the same determination to secure the southern border once and for all.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
The field of Republican presidential hopefuls grows larger by the week. But do any of them stand a chance of beating Joe Biden next year?
The president’s approval ratings remain anemic. He can take comfort, though, by thinking back to what happened last year.
Every indication pointed to a Republican landslide in the 2022 midterms. Yet the polls and pundits were wrong. The GOP barely scraped together a House majority and actually lost a Senate seat.
Unless Republicans figure out what went wrong in November, they risk a similar humiliation in 2024 when their nominee takes on Biden. In this political mystery, there are all too many suspects. Many seem obvious: The GOP nominated bad candidates. Voters wanted to punish Donald Trump. Women alarmed by the overturning of Roe v. Wade flocked to the Democrats. Or maybe the polls were just wrong.
In a meticulous study for RealClearPolitics, the political scientist James E. Campbell considers and rejects each of those explanations.
If the nominees were so bad, why did they poll so well?
If voters wanted to rebuke Trump, why didn’t that hurt Republican numbers long before Election Day?
Most attempts to account for the “red wave’s” failure to swell fall short for the same reason. If voters soured on the GOP for whatever reason, polls should have picked up on their feelings. The trend should have been visible in advance.
Yet the polls weren’t exactly wrong, according to Campbell. They were inadequate.
A poll isn’t a prediction; it’s a survey of a limited number of respondents. Reputable polls try to survey the most likely voters. Last year, that led them astray.
Campbell proposes a “Breakwater Theory” of the 2022 election. In eight key states, which made the difference between the predicted red wave and the eventual red puddle, Democrats beat the polls by mobilizing unlikely voters.
Those eight states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Washington and New Hampshire — all had “Democrat-friendly easy and early mail-in voting rules,” Campbell notes. And Democrats maximized their opportunity by concentrating midterm spending in those states.
Seven of those eight states had Senate races, and as Campbell reports, “The Democratic Party and its supporting outside groups and individuals spent in excess of $700 million on these seven races, over $200 million more than Republicans spent.”
There is more in Campbell’s analysis. But the bottom line is that Democrats picked their battles more wisely than Republicans did.
Extra campaign spending and accommodating election rules brought out marginal Democratic votes that pollsters mostly missed. Those eight states were the breakwater that stemmed the red tide.
Two Republican countermeasures for 2024 require no imagination. The party has to target its spending better.
And as much as the GOP would like to see stricter election laws, it must play the game by the rules now in place. That means pouring resources into getting out the early vote and mail-in vote for Republican candidates, rather than conceding those categories to the Democrats.
But another smart tactic goes against one of the most cherished cliches of campaign consulting. With good reason, campaign professionals tell their clients to “hunt where the ducks are.” Look for voters where you already know you have support. Don’t waste limited resources hunting in unlikely places.
In 2016, however, Donald Trump defied the experts’ advice. He ran an old-fashioned in-person campaign, showing up in places that hadn’t seen a candidate from either party in years, if not decades. His roving rallies were in contrast to the familiar circuit Hillary Clinton followed. And they won him states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that hadn’t gone Republican since the 1980s.
COVID-19 worked to Joe Biden’s advantage in 2020. His presence on the campaign trail wasn’t much missed at a time when most Americans were avoiding public gatherings. And while Trump held some rallies, especially toward the end of the campaign, he couldn’t do what he had done in 2016.
The Republican nominee will have to do it in 2024.
Just as the GOP has to compete with Democratic mail-in and early-vote efforts, Biden will be competing in a sport he would rather not play if the Republican forces him to take to the trail in state after state.
Donald Trump enjoys that game. Ron DeSantis is young enough that he should play it well. The contrast between his youth and Biden’s senescence will only be more striking when voters witness it firsthand.
Yet the most important thing is that Republicans be as smart and enterprising about mobilizing less likely voters as Democrats were last year.
Even as they aim to beat him in next year’s primaries, Trump’s rivals must learn from his example. They have to find unlikely voters in unlikely places.
The road to the White House runs through factory towns and flyover country.
The 2024 Presidential Primary is already testing the unity of the Arizona Republican Party as former and current officials take sides months ahead of the state’s preference election.
Late last week, a group of Arizona Republicans wrote a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, asking him “to seek the presidential nomination of our Grand Old Party.” The letter came as DeSantis was embarking on a high-profile to the important primary state of Iowa and as rumors have indicated he may be close to jumping into the presidential race on the Republican side.
The letter, entitled “Arizona Republicans Ready to Win in 2024,” was headlined by Speaker of the House Ben Toma, and former East Valley Congressman Matt Salmon. House Majority Whip Teresa Martinez, Senator Ken Bennett, Senator Frank Carroll, Senator Steve Kaiser, Senator J.D. Mesnard, Senator TJ Shope, Representative David Cook, Representative Lupe Diaz, Representative Kevin Payne, Representative Beverly Pingerelli, Representative Justin Wilmeth, City Councilwoman Vicki Gillis; and former officials Frank Riggs, Shawnna Bolick, Regina Cobb, Jeff Dial, Sandra Dowling, Nora Ellen, Eddie Farnsworth, Robert Garcia, Rick Gray, Vince Leach, Jeff Weninger, and Steve Yarbrough.
The plea for DeSantis to join the presidential field was driven by the “damage being done to (Arizona) by the reckless policies of the Biden Administration.” The officials highlighted “the strains that open borders are placing on (Arizona’s) health, education, and public welfare systems;” “reckless overspending” and “rampant inflation;” “liberal attacks on our first responders and public safety programs;” America’s deteriorating “standing in the world;” and “political correctness and its many cousins, like censorship, Critical Race Theory, SEL, ESG scores.”
After listing the primary areas where President Joe Biden’s policies are bringing harm to their state, the Arizona signatories wrote, “These are just a few of the many reasons why Republicans must retake the White House in 2024 and why we must be led in that effort by someone who knows right from wrong, is not afraid to speak truth to power, will not be bullied by the left or their accomplices in the media, who has a track record of successful governance, and who can assemble the required national coalition of voters needed to win the Presidency and bring along strong majorities in the House and Senate.”
They added, “We believe you are the right candidate at the right time, with the required combination of personal attributes we will require to unite our passionate party.”
If DeSantis joins the growing list of Republican contenders for the White House, these Republican endorsements of his candidacy will be vital in a state that has featured some of the top national supporters of former President Donald J. Trump from 2015 to present. When Arizona Republicans voted in the March 2016 Presidential Preference Election, the top two candidates at that stage in the national endeavor for the most delegates were Trump and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Trump beat out Cruz by almost 7,000 votes. The eventual nominee for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, handily defeated U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the Grand Canyon State.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.