Rochester, New Hampshire
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday unveiled his economic agenda, a broad mix of conservative and populist guideposts that puts corporate boardrooms, federal bureaucrats, China and President Joe Biden’s domestic policy on notice.
The platform, which his 2024 presidential campaign has dubbed the “Declaration of Economic Independence,” nationalizes many of the concerns the Republican has raised as governor about the country’s direction under Biden. At the top of the list is severing economic ties with China, a focus that echoes a key priority of his top rival for the GOP nomination, former President Donald Trump.
“We are today declaring our economic independence from the failed elites and policies that have harmed this nation’s middle class,” DeSantis said at an event Monday. “We will diversify, and we will expand our economy. We will reward hard work and ingenuity. We will usher in a new era of growth, prosperity, and civic pride. We are a nation with an economy, not the other way around.”
The rollout of his economic agenda comes as DeSantis, who is known for his battles in the culture wars but less on kitchen table issues, pivots from focusing his candidacy on past victories in Florida and toward offering Republicans his vision for the country. It follows a reset of his presidential campaign amid dwindling resources and concerns from donors and supporters that his pitch has yet to sway GOP voters.
According to a fact sheet released by his campaign, DeSantis, if elected, will “unleash our domestic energy sector,” typically shorthand for easing regulations on oil, gas and coal industries, while eliminating incentives championed by Biden for people to purchase electric vehicles. He promised his plan would bring 3% economic growth, a level of expansion the country has not regularly seen in two decades.
As he has repeatedly promised, DeSantis would also slash federal bureaucracies that he claims are stymying small businesses and holding back the economy to the benefit of corporations, though his proposal did not outline which agencies might be on the chopping block.
Leaning into more populist ideas, DeSantis also proposed a ban on individual stock trading by members of Congress and executive branch officials. Earlier this month, bipartisan legislation was introduced by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley to ban stock trading and ownership by Congress, executive branch officials and their families.
The word “woke,” a near constant fixation of DeSantis that has fueled past confrontations with corporations and guided his economic policies as governor, is largely and noticeably absent from the agenda. It is referenced just once: a vow to continue to fight “woke corporations” using environmental, social and governance policies to guide their businesses, something he has attempted to curb in Florida.
DeSantis said he would, as president, work with the private sector to accelerate and develop vocational and apprenticeship programs “with a goal to become number one in the world for skilled trades by 2030,” as well as extend the individual tax rates and initiate a “purging” of tax carve outs and loopholes pushed by lobbyists.
The proposal also said DeSantis will “not be afraid of using his veto pen” when it comes to government programs “wrought with waste, fraud, and abuse.”
As he refocuses his message, DeSantis faces an uphill climb to convince Republicans its time to move on from Trump. In the latest New York Times/Siena College poll, Trump’s lead over DeSantis and the rest of the Republican field appears unwavering. In the national survey, 54% of Republicans would pick Trump to represent the party in 2024, with support for DeSantis well behind at 17%. No one else escaped low single digits.
Perhaps more troubling for DeSantis is that voters remain unconvinced that he gives the party a better chance of beating Biden or that he would be a more effective executive – the two key arguments of his candidacy. On the question of electability, 58% of Republicans said Trump has better odds of beating Biden while 28% said that of DeSantis. About two-thirds of Republicans surveyed remain convinced Trump would have an easier time getting things done.
DeSantis pushed back against the idea that Trump has a “stronghold” on the majority of the party during a Sunday visit to the Granite State.
“I don’t think he’s got a stronghold on the majority. I think he’s got a stronghold on some. But I think the vast majority of Republican primary voters are either definitely going to vote for someone else or willing to, you know, if you make the case,” DeSantis said.
“I’m the candidate that’s more likely to beat Biden. I’m more reliable on policy. I think we’ve seen my record in Florida, and I’m much more likely to actually get all this stuff done,” he added.
Republicans appear eager for a candidate who can nudge the country in a different direction. About 70% of likely Republican primary voters considered the nation’s economic conditions “poor,” per the New York Times/Siena College poll.
DeSantis is aggressively touring early nominating states as he attempts to gain more favor with voters. Last week, he swung through Iowa on a six-stop bus tour with the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, speaking at more intimate events with voters. In New Hampshire on Sunday, he made two retail stops at a diner in Derry and a lobster pound in Seabrook, in addition to fielding questions from voters at former US Ambassador Scott Brown’s “No B.S. BBQ” in Rye.
DeSantis will continue to campaign in New Hampshire Tuesday before heading back to Iowa for more events with Never Back Down on Friday.