Ron DeSantis, Federalist?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! There’s a lot of Ron DeSantis in today’s newsletter, but let’s do the most important bit first: Here’s the Florida governor on his decision to get married at Disney World. “Casey’s family was what one might call a family of Disney enthusiasts,” DeSantis writes in his newly released memoir—about which more in a minute. “My only condition was that no Disney characters could be part of our wedding.”

Up to Speed

  • Four years after her historic election as Chicago’s first openly gay and first black female mayor, Lori Lightfoot suffered a more ignominious historic event Tuesday, becoming the first mayor of Chicago to lose her reelection bid in 40 years. Facing a blizzard of attacks from both her left and right in an election dominated by concerns about high levels of violent crime, and abandoned by influential police and teacher’s unions that each endorsed one of her opponents, Lightfoot failed even to make it out of the city’s nine-candidate jungle primary, placing third with under 17 percent of the vote. “You will not be defined by how you fall,” Lightfoot said in a Tuesday evening concession speech. “You will be defined by how hard you work and how much you do for other people.”
  • The two top finishers in the mayor’s race were former Chicago public school chief Paul Vallas and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who finished with approximately 34 percent and 20 percent of the vote respectively. Vallas and Johnson will head to an April 4 runoff election. While both played a role in Lightfoot’s defeat, their head-to-head will represent a stark political choice for America’s third-largest city: Vallas is campaigning as a tough-on-crime centrist Democrat, which helped earn him the endorsement of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, while Johnson, a true-blue progressive, is backed by the Chicago Teachers Union.
  • In the final stage of his takeover of Walt Disney World’s special taxing district, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday appointed conservative allies to govern the district’s five-member development board. The move follows a long-running feud between the two parties, including Disney’s public opposition to DeSantis’ education bill—dubbed by his critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill—and the governor’s former decision, now superseded, to liquidate the independent district that has allowed Disney to govern itself for more than five decades.  
  • During a new Fox Nation special called Who is Ron DeSantis?, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told host Brian Kilmeade he considered DeSantis a “really effective governor” and thinks it time for him to seek higher office. But Bush walked those comments back in an email to Politico this week. From Politico’s Gary Fineout: “Bush stated that ‘I was praising, not endorsing.’ In that same email, he did not answer a question on who he wanted to see become the Republican nominee.” Yet right after DeSantis’ gubernatorial inauguration this year, Bush “said DeSantis would be a ‘great alternative’ to former President Donald Trump and that the governor has a ‘proven track record’ and ‘great platform’ to run on if he chose to jump into the race for president.”
  • Bush’s walkback came after Trump allies online used the clip of “Bush endorsing DeSantis” to argue that DeSantis was too cozy with the former Republican “establishment” to support in the 2024 presidential primary. 

DeSantis Puts His Book Foot Forward

Ron DeSantis isn’t running for president yet, but get back to him on that. The Florida governor is hitting the road nationally in the coming weeks, the New York Times reports, in all the places you might expect from a soon-to-be Republican candidate: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and perhaps South Carolina, plus a speech this Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

He’s also got a book out, as all soon-to-be candidates these days are expected to. The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Renewal, which hit stores yesterday, is an opportunity for the rising Republican star to articulate his full political vision, rattle off his accomplishments as governor, and flesh out an answer to a question that, despite years of headlines, remains surprisingly elusive: Who actually is Ron DeSantis?

When it comes to that last question, The Courage to Be Free is disappointingly vague. Even by the standards of campaign autobiographies, DeSantis is highly parsimonious with details about his early life and political formation, sharing almost nothing that isn’t meant to bolster one credential or another on his political resume: his blue-collar Florida upbringing and early passion for high-school and college baseball, his early distaste for America’s elite brought on by college at Yale and law school at Harvard, his thirst for national service that manifested first in his service as a Navy JAG officer, then as a Freedom Caucus member of the House of Representatives, then as a victorious outsider candidate for governor in 2018. Even rare light moments like DeSantis’ account of meeting his wife Casey at the driving range are spoiled somewhat by a politician’s tendency to boast. (“Not every guy would have had the gumption to make an introduction and strike up a conversation with someone so striking.”)

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