- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2022

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Nearly three weeks after a blowout reelection win, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is ramping up his appeal as a presidential contender while his allies lay the groundwork for a White House run.

The 43-year-old Republican hasn’t indicated publicly yet that he plans to run for president, but dropped a big hint Wednesday with the announcement of his forthcoming autobiography: “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival.”

The autobiography will focus on Mr. DeSantis‘ life “growing up in a working-class family, playing in the Little League World Series, working his way through Yale University and Harvard Law School, volunteering for the Navy after 9/11 and serving in Iraq,” the publisher HarperCollins said Wednesday.

It also offers a taste of what Mr. DeSantis’ leadership would look like on a national level.

“What Florida has done is establish a blueprint for governance that has produced tangible results while serving as a rebuke to the entrenched elites who have driven our nation into the ground. Florida is proof positive that we, the people are not powerless in the face of these elites,” Mr. DeSantis writes in the book.

Mr. DeSantis joins other 2024 White House hopefuls who have published autobiographical books, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

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But many Republicans seeking an alternative to former President Donald Trump are looking past the array of former Trump administration officials and are eyeing the Florida governor as the candidate with the best chance of beating the Democrats in the next presidential election.

Among the reasons Mr. DeSantis is considered a top GOP prospect is that he polls well ahead of Mr. Pence and other Republicans, and in some cases is more popular among Republican voters than Mr. Trump, who announced Nov. 15 that he’s seeking the GOP nomination in 2024.

The political group Ready for Ron has collected 110,000 emails and phone numbers of supporters for a DeSantis campaign to mine for donations and volunteers if he decides to run.

Meanwhile, state GOP lawmakers say they support introducing legislation in next year’s session that would ensure Mr. DeSantis can remain governor if decides to get into the presidential race.

Despite the strong whiff of a forthcoming presidential campaign, Mr. DeSantis has brushed aside questions about 2024, saying earlier this month that “people need to just chill out a little bit on some of this stuff” because he had just been reelected as governor.

But his mammoth win over Democrat Charlie Crist, who he defeated by 20 points on Nov. 8, has ramped up the buzz in GOP circles about his strength as a national candidate, and his new book signals he is interested in elevating his political profile well beyond Florida.

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He’s also been weighing in on national and international matters, most recently praising Chinese protests against the country’s “zero COVID” policy and calling on Congress to go after Big Tech if it attempts to ban the Twitter app, now that Elon Musk has taken over.

“If Apple responds to that by nuking them from the App Store, I think that would be a huge, huge mistake and it would be a really raw exercise of monopolistic power that I think would merit a response from the United States Congress,” he said.

Mr. Musk said he would support Mr. DeSantis if he runs for president.

Dan Backer, a campaign lawyer and Ready for Ron official, said Mr. DeSantis would have to decide about running by Labor Day at the latest, to ensure he can get on the primary ballot in every state.

“I’m a Floridan and I want him to finish the work that he‘s doing and he‘s doing great,” Mr. Backer said. “But my hope is that he doesn’t wait too long, that he gets in maybe in the second quarter.”

Mr. DeSantis is unlikely to decide until after the end of the state legislative session, which begins in January and wraps up in March.

State lawmakers are prepared to introduce legislation that would clarify Mr. DeSantis‘ ability to remain governor if he runs for president. The current law would require Mr. DeSantis to resign from office because the 2024 presidential term would overlap with his term as governor, which ends in 2026.

“I would like to make sure our governor has the opportunity to pursue that if he chooses and not necessarily have to leave the governorship if he‘s not successful,” Paul Renner, the Republican speaker of the Florida House, told Fox13 in Tampa Bay.

Mr. Backer, meanwhile, is suing the Federal Election Commission to ensure he can provide the contact list to Mr. DeSantis, which he plans to grow to more than one million people.

The case is in legal limbo as commission members debate whether it would be considered a contribution to a political candidate and that Mr. DeSantis would have to pay for it, even though he has not indicated formally that he‘s considering running for president.

Mr. Backer said Ready for Ron is operating like a draft committee, and building “a universe of people who want him to run.” The group is made up of paid staff, volunteers and vendors who would be in place to help a DeSantis presidential campaign.

“We are filling up pretty robustly,” Mr. Backer said. “Right now, he’s not testing the waters. As far as we’re aware, he’s not even thinking about it. But other people are, and right now is where you have to be organizing and planning and building leadership and building data and creating something that can help propel a potential candidate to success.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

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