Ron DeSantis arrives at the Iowa caucuses displaying public confidence and a sense of humor


JOHNSON, Iowa (AP) — Laughter erupted in a suburban Des Moines sports bar when someone told Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that he and his family had recently returned from seeing Orlando iowa The Hawkeyes lost 35–0 in the Citrus Bowl.

“Oh, sorry about that,” DeSantis said in a dry response Sunday. He let the crowd roar before saying, “My powers as governor are limited. “I have a non-interference clause in bowl games.”

Teasing sports fans about a tough loss is standard political banter. But DeSantis, long seen as an outspoken and sometimes vulnerable presence, has been coming across as a looser and more personable figure among many potential supporters in Iowa in recent weeks.

“He’s not as tough as I’ve seen before. He seems more relaxed, more relaxed,” said Jody Jacklin, 60, of Johnston, who has seen DeSantis several times in Iowa. “He looks like he’s enjoying himself.”

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Jacklin, a retired financial administrator for John Deere, remained undecided Sunday but leaned toward supporting DeSantis.

DeSantis entered the presidential race with high expectations as the conservative governor of a large state who rose to national prominence for promoting COVID-19 lockdowns and banning race- and gender-affirming programs. Had come. But His messed up campaign announcement at Twitter, now called New Florida School Curriculum This included teaching that enslaved Americans developed skills that could be “applied to their personal advantage” and even mocking the lift provided by their cowboy boots.

He has decided to deliver a more concise message in the final weeks of the campaign and has cut his standard speech by more than 20 minutes. At several campaign stops he was accompanied by Republican Representatives Thomas Massie and Chip Roy, who served with him in Congress, and recounted anecdotes, including how he skipped Washington festivities to talk about the legislation over sandwiches. Gave.

“Maybe it’s too late. Or maybe it’s just happening at the right time,” Republican strategist Ellen Carmichael said of the change in approach. “But DeSantis is light as air, fun. “Wouldn’t you want that to happen now?”

DeSantis recently told reporters that reaching out to voters, especially in Iowa, has helped him.

“It takes a lot of time, but I think it’s worth it,” DeSantis told reporters after the event in Dubuque. “I feel like I’m a better father and husband. “I’m a better governor, a better candidate and I’ll be a better president as a result of going through this.”

Early in the campaign, his focus was on the “woke” war and he would drop the term—used by conservatives to ridicule race- and gender-based conversations and analysis—on occasional one-hour programs. 10 times in. Then came “Beat the Elite”, which had a similar tone.

There was a “fight”. win. “Lead,” was intended to point to DeSantis’ policy victory against teachers unions and unpopular forces on the left. walt disney companyAnd His wide margin of re-election In 2022. The three-word mantra was emblazoned on buses used by his campaign and the super PAC Never Back Down. Late last month, the campaign announced “Stop the Swamp” as its latest theme.

Now, his closing message has been condensed into one blunt line, intended to rile up Haley and Trump’s would-be supporters.

“Donald Trump is running on his issues. Nikki Haley is running on the issues of her donors,” he said over the weekend in stops from far northeast Iowa to the Des Moines metro area. “I’m running on your issues.”

Trump has mocked DeSantis for more than a year, initially for acknowledging his endorsement as a gubernatorial candidate in 2018 before running against him, but also for apparent mistakes and awkward moments on the campaign trail. . Haley has criticized DeSantis for TV ads in Iowa supporting him while falsely claiming she reneged on a pledge not to escalate the issue. South Carolina gas tax, accusing him of “lying because he’s losing.”

DeSantis stuck to the main themes of his record in Florida, saying American cultural strength has declined at home and abroad. He still uses acronyms like “DEI” at his events for diversity, equity and inclusion, which are familiar to many conservatives.

But he is spending more time with voters even without cameras. he saw Iowa’s loss in the Citrus Bowl At a home in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny. And unlike the beginning of his campaign, DeSantis now usually responds to questioners cordially, “What’s your name?” Instead of getting entangled in his answer.

It’s a far cry from that moment in early November, when a woman revealed during a Q&A in Denison that her four adult children were in the Iowa National Guard and had been deployed to war zones six times. He asked him, “What are you going to do to upgrade the army without relying on our children?”

The only GOP candidate with combat zone experience, DeSantis never stopped thanking his family for their service — often automatic for candidates and something he now typically does. Instead he began to respond by attributing low morale to poor recruiting due to the Pentagon’s policies on abortion and diversity.

“I hope people have shown him that kind of harshness is not good,” said Bill Deiter of Dubuque, who remained undecided after seeing DeSantis on Saturday. “That’s not how you connect with people.”

Sitting at a table with his competitors at an event on The Family Leader in November, DeSantis shared his and his wife Casey’s experience with abortion. During a CNN program with audience questions last week, he talked about his service as a judge advocate general, or JAG, officer in the Navy, a position that took him into the Iraq War.

He also spoke respectfully about President Joe Biden’s administration supporting post-Hurricane Ian in 2022. “The White House under Biden, they worked with us to put people first,” he said, when asked if that was something he would emulate. He wants to defeat the Democratic President.

Katrina McCabe, who works at a construction company, saw DeSantis speak at the Elks Lodge in Decorah on Saturday and then agreed to caucus for him. He said he was genuine and honest, trustworthy and the “most normal” candidate.

“He would relax a little sometimes,” she said. “I’m sure it’s very stressful and nerve-wracking to be in front of people like that. But I think he did a really good job and he seemed very open, honest and straightforward.”

Fingerhut reported from Council Bluffs, Iowa. Associated Press reporter Michelle L. in Decorah, Iowa. Price contributed to this report.

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