Florida Gov. DeSantis makes presidential campaign stop in Bluffton

About a week after making the official campaign announcement, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Beaufort County in the first of three stops in the state.
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 6:46 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 3, 2023 at 5:20 AM EDT
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BLUFFTON, S.C. (WCSC) - About a week after making the official campaign announcement, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited the Lowcountry Friday in the first of three campaign stops statewide.

DeSantis set Bluffton as his first campaign stop Friday morning where it was standing room only at the Okatie Ale House where hundreds of people showed up to listen to his speech.

DeSantis hit on all of the major issues Republican primary voters are concerned about and described how Florida is dealing with them as well. That included gender issues, the budget and election integrity reform.

He laid out his plan to make America more like Florida by reducing the federal bureaucracy and returning faith to institutions like the military and the justice system. He also touted Florida’s budget saying they run surpluses while Washington just handed President Joe Biden a black check to spend trillions of more dollars.

“We run budget surpluses in the state of Florida. We don’t have an income tax. We’re not taxing people. We’re cutting taxes, but we’ve got a strong economy,” he said. “We manage our resources and finances very, very well. And our economy in Florida, if we were our own country, would be the 13th largest economy in the entire world.”

He said Florida has the second-lowest per-capita debt-to-person ratio in the U.S.

DeSantis says Florida has stopped “ballot box stuffing” but he’s willing to take advantage of weak laws in other states to win.

“But here’s what we have to do: Each state has different rules, and you know, states like Nevada, they have ballot harvesting. I’m going to tell you this, we’re ballot harvesting there, we’re going to do Zuckerbucks,” he said. “We’re going to do whatever we need to do to erase what the Democrats are doing. I’m not fighting with one hand tied behind my back. I am not telling people not to vote in these things. We need to exploit whatever we can.”

The Committee on House Administration defines ballot harvesting as the practice in which political operatives collect absentee ballots from voters’ homes and drop them off at a polling place or election office. The committee claims the practice “can be and has been abused across the country,” citing the North Carolina State Board of Elections calling for reelection.

“Zuckerbucks” are the nickname for the donations distributed by a nonprofit from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to election offices in 2020, which left some Conservatives suspicious that those donations may have tilted the outcome of the presidential race toward Joe Biden, the Associated Press reported.

The governor touted his fight against what he calls the “woke mob” and highlighted an effort in Florida to ban certain LGBTQ+ books and content in schools, saying he’ll never back down and pointed to his fight with Disney as proof.

He says Florida was a battleground state when he took office but it is now “a conservative bastion.” Under his leadership, he says, America could be the same way.

“For the first time since the era of the Civil War, there is not one single, solitary Democrat elected to a statewide office in the Sunshine State,” he said. “That is what you call winning and we are winning in Florida.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida made the first of three South Carolina stops in the Lowcountry Friday morning as part of his 2024 presidential campaign.

While DeSantis did mention Republicans generally, there was no mention of any primary opponent. Most notably, he did not mention his growing feud with former President Donald Trump, even as Trump took shots at him even while the rally was going on.

South Carolina voters will be crucial in deciding which of the Republican candidates will make it to Super Tuesday and which ones will drop out after the first few primary contests.

To that end, DeSantis is likely to try and convince voters that his approach in Florida should be the road map for the country.

This will technically be his first campaign stop in South Carolina as a presidential candidate, though he was here in April promoting his book ahead of his campaign launch.

While former president Donald Trump is the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination, DeSantis is not without his supporters. He’s already locked up a pair of endorsements from state lawmakers. Dorchester County Rep. Gary Brewer and Summerville Rep. Chris Murphy are backing DeSantis and have been tapped to be part of his South Carolina leadership team.

Murphy says the state is going to be important to the Florida governor and, if Murphy has his way, he’ll be visiting the Tri-County often.

“This country has lost its moral compass and he is the exact person at the exact right time, and I believe once you listen to Governor DeSantis and you learn more about Governor DeSantis, that he will win South Carolina, he will win the Republican Primary next year and he will win the presidency of the United States. I am confident in that,” Murphy said.

Democrats have already denounced DeSantis’s visit. They are planning a press conference in Columbia to attack his record on abortion, immigration and health care.

“Ron DeSantis who is visiting our Palmetto State for the first time since his glitchy Twitter space launch has a MAGA Florida blueprint that represents the complete opposite of freedom,” South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Christale Spain said. “A majority of South Carolinians want freedom for women to choose what happens to our own bodies. They want the freedom to have affordable healthcare options. And they want the freedom to feel safe in their communities, no matter what they look like, or who they love.”

She said DeSantis has used his time as governor to “give us a preview of what he wants to do on the national stage,” which she claims is to “rip away the basic freedoms we hold dear as Americans.”

“It’s ominous how similar South Carolina Republicans’ far-right agenda in the legislature lines up with the DeSantis extreme rhetorics in Florida,” State Rep. Annie McDaniel (D-Fairfield) said. “A few months ago, DeSantis signed a low making it easier for criminals to carry guns. Beholden to the same special interests, South Carolina Republicans passed their own permitless carry deal against the will of parents and law enforcement officials.”

DeSantis is scheduled to visit Lexington at noon and Greenville at 6 p.m.. His wife, Casey, will also be attending all of those stops.