TALLAHASSEE — Conservative social media influencers have flocked to Florida for “freedom,” “freedom” and one more reason: Governor Ron DeSantis.
The Republican governor’s team is courting popular conservative media and online figures, an effort that comes as former President Donald Trump appears to be turning on DeSantis. Some of those whom the governor’s staff woos are heavily involved in amplifying the anti-vax movement and downplaying the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
In early January — the 6th no less — DeSantis hosted nine prominent social media stars in Tallahassee for a night that included stops at DeSantis’ office, dinner at the Governor’s Mansion and drinks at Level 8 Lounge, a rooftop bar popular downtown area near the Florida State House. . Almost all of them have recently announced very publicly on social media that they have moved to Florida.
“Thanks for dinner, @GovRonDeSantis. I am no longer an enemy of the state!” david rubin, a conservative TV host and YouTube personality, tweeted to his one million Twitter followers. He recently moved from California to Florida. “Florida is the future.”
Rubin, who was in the group with DeSantis on Jan. 6, posted the tweet from the Florida governor’s mansion with a photo of himself next to DeSantis.
The rally in Tallahassee came less than a week before DeSantis’ state of the state address that opened Florida’s 2022 legislative session. DeSantis focused his nearly hour-long speech on themes that energize the nation’s Republican base, including the state’s hands-off response to the pandemic and criticisms of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. country that is regularly condemned by Republicans.
“Sign out of the clown show in Washington DC,” tweeted Jordan Schachtel, a conservative reporter who was at the meeting in Tallahassee, of DeSantis’ speech to his more than 167,000 followers. “The leader of the free world speaks.”
The meetings were organized in part by DeSantis publicist Christina Pushaw, who sought to downplay the influencers’ role in a statement to POLITICO, saying they were Florida residents who “have always supported the governor’s pro-freedom policies”.
“It turns out that a governor who stands up for individual rights against federal tyranny is popular among conservatives,” said Pushaw, known as the administration’s right-wing whisperer.
Most of the Tallahassee trip participants did not respond to requests for comment, but Newsweek editor Josh Hammer and Fox News’ Lisa Boothe, who both live in Florida, sent identical emails in response to questions. from POLITICO: “You can quote me as: ‘Florida rocks.’
Many conservative media stars, most of whom have long been among Trump’s most vocal supporters, have lobbied DeSantis in recent months for the governor’s rejection of Covid-related warrants and the constant hammering of President Joe Biden. But support has grown in intensity in recent weeks, a spike easily seen on social media and podcasts across the conservative media ecosystem. This support is essential to help DeSantis further expand his footprint with Republican primary political influencers ahead of his re-election in 2022 and as he weighs a bid for the White House in 2024.
“It’s really fascinating to watch the rise of Ron DeSantis,” said Sara Gonzales, host of the Texas-based conservative network BlazeTV. “I say that of course, as a native Texan. Florida, under DeSantis, has made even Texas shaky on issues that really matter to the average conservative.
This attention comes as DeSantis has also drawn Trump’s ire. Trump has repeatedly said he would beat DeSantis in a GOP primary, and last week on the conservative One America News Network, politicians called who won’t say if they got the Covid-19 reminder. “gutless” – a comment widely seen as directed at DeSantis, who balked when asked about the issue but said he had been vaccinated.
Trump’s team would also like to highlight the role he played in making DeSantis a national Republican figure.
“The MAGA world has, in large part, followed President Trump to Florida as he prepares for the future,” said Taylor Budowich, a Trump spokesperson. “After introducing the world to Governor DeSantis in 2017 via a Tweet, Floridians have reaped the rewards of President Trump’s America First nominees.”
“Now, with DeSantis up for re-election, it’s an all-level effort to propel Governor DeSantis across the finish line once again,” he added, referring to the fact that DeSantis is running for governor again this year.
DeSantis, without naming Trump, also escalated the confrontation Friday by criticizing the former president’s early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. DeSantis said the administration is listening too carefully to Fauci on restrictions such as lockdowns.
“People like Fauci freaked out, they were tracking the data out of China, which is unreliable,” he said.
DeSantis also shut down Florida for a few months at the start of the pandemic, but was one of the first governors to lift restrictions in mid-2020.
“I think it would be a mistake for DeSantis not to race. The more Trump makes the mistake of tying vaccine success to his ego, the more he alienates and insults his base,” BlazeTV host Gonzales said. “Many people who supported Trump in the last election are hungry for someone who has the courage to speak out on their behalf without fear of repercussions, but also without the obvious baggage that Trump carries.”
“DeSantis fits that mold perfectly.”