55 Things You Need to Know About Ron DeSantis



He has called his election in 2018 “the most consequential election in the history of our state.” His margin of victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum was a scant 32,000 votes in a state with a population of more than 21 million people.


He resolved to rule like somebody who had won big. “I had my transition folks give me a list of all the powers of the governor — the constitutional powers, statutory powers, customary powers. What can I do on my own? What did I need the legislature for?” he said last year in a speech in Tallahassee at a Boys State convention. “You’ve got to be cognizant of where all these pressure points are.”


The terms of three liberal justices on the state supreme court ended at the same time as his tenure as governor began, and he replaced them with more conservative justices, which “reduced a roadblock to getting my legislative agenda to ‘stick,’” as he has put it. He’s since put four more such justices on the court. He’s an admirer of Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. He’s called Thomas “our greatest living justice” and lauded him for his “steel-infused spine.”


In his first 14 months as governor, he prioritized Everglades restoration, boosted teacher pay, pardoned the Groveland Four in a longstanding case of racial injustice, enabled the state’s legalization of medical marijuana and appointed a Democrat to lead the Division of Emergency Management. “We got elected by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin,” Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican congressman who chaired the DeSantis transition, recently told TIME’s Molly Ball, “so the goal … was to grow the universe of DeSantis supporters in the state of Florida and do better with nonwhite voters, independents, suburban voters and young people.”


Covid changed him.

“As a country, as a culture, Covid divided us,” said David Jolly, the former Republican congressman from the Tampa Bay area who now is an independent and an MSNBC analyst, “and he had to choose sides.” He did.

After instituting at the outset a month-long stay-at-home order, he permanently and pugnaciously reversed course, pledging no more lockdowns, insisting schools be open and in person, touting vaccines at first but then banning any mandates. Mocked and loathed by the left, he became a hero to the right. Fueled ever since by the scorn of his foes, he’s doubled and tripled down on an imperious, anti-“woke” culture-war-as-public-policy posture — the anti-LGBTQ, anti-critical race theory and-DEI rhetoric and legislation, the heavy hand on the education battlefront from K-12 to higher ed at New College in Sarasota, the flying of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, the six-week abortion ban, the ongoing fight with Disney even as it unnerves donors and C-suite execs …


He removed from office the elected top prosecutor in Tampa, citing a pair of statements Andrew Warren had signed along with scores of other prosecutors around the country that criticized the criminalization of abortion and health care for transgender people. “This,” Warren told POLITICO, “poses a unique threat to democracy.”


In an unprecedented move, DeSantis last year unilaterally redrew Florida’s congressional districts to be more Republican, diluting in the process Black voting power.


He’s almost entirely shunned mainstream reporters and talked nearly exclusively to right-of-center outlets like Fox News or mostly sycophantic startups.


“Florida’s Governor Has a Pair,” said golf balls he sold on his campaign website during his reelection bid last year.


There were more than 225,000 more Democrats than Republicans in Florida at the beginning of DeSantis’ time as governor. There are now more than 380,000 more Republicans.


“We have rewritten the political map,” he said in his victory speech last November.


“He has to resist becoming the protagonist in his own Greek tragedy,” Tallahassee fixture Mac Stipanovich told POLITICO late last year, suggesting DeSantis’ greatest nemesis isn’t Trump. “It’s hubris.”


“I don’t really spend a lot of time being self-reflective,” he told POLITICO in his office in the summer of 2020. “My view is: What more can I be doing?”


One of his top aides in the governor’s office once compared him to the robot from the movie “Short Circuit.” Johnny 5 takes in information at comical speeds while calling for more. “Input! More input!”


He had three chiefs of staff in his three terms in Congress.


He’s had three chiefs of staff so far in his five years as governor.


The extended DeSantis orbit is littered with disgruntled former aides. “They use people like toilet paper,” a top Republican strategist once said to Vanity Fair of DeSantis and his wife. There’s an unofficial “support group.”


He’s been called by Trump to this point “Ron DeSanctimonious,” “Meatball Ron,” “Tiny D” and also sometimes … “Rob.” This will only intensify.


“He’s been running for president,” Democratic former Florida state senator Annette Taddeo told POLITICO in 2021, “since the minute he got elected.”


No. He’s been running for president for a lot longer than that. “His goal was to be the president of the United States,” one of his Little League teammates once told the Tampa Bay Times. “I never doubted,” said another, “that he could be president.”

Sources: POLITICO, POLITICO Magazine, TIME, NBC News, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Times, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Associated Press, the Baffler, the Washington Post, the New York Post, the Daily Mail, the Yale Daily News, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Florida Politics, Florida Phoenix, Business Insider, Al Jazeera, ProPublica, Dreams From Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama, by Ron DeSantis; and The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival, by Ron DeSantis.