The Post’s panel of experts weigh in on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ entry into the presidential race, and what he promises — or needs to do — on various issues:
DRAINING THE SWAMP
Andrew C. McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor
The most impressive part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rollout was his discussion of the administrative state and the need to push back against governance by abusive, unaccountable bureaucrats.
DeSantis demonstrated impressive command of the Constitution’s structure: Law is supposed to be made by Congress, which answers to the voters, but legislative power has been steadily usurped by executive agencies, resulting in regulatory creep that has eroded property rights and liberty generally.
In Florida, DeSantis was a model of standing athwart suffocating bureaucrats, even as then-President Donald Trump deferred to them in the COVID crisis.
We desperately need that in Washington.
DeSantis also had a good grasp on the trajectory of Supreme Court jurisprudence in this area — predicting that the justices would cut back on legal doctrines that endow administrative agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, with too much power.
Sure enough, the morning after the governor’s announcement of his candidacy, the court issued a critical ruling that reins in the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act — just as it did last year with respect to the Clean Air Act.
Finally, DeSantis did not mince words about the imperative of addressing the FBI’s dizzying array of abuses in recent years.
Personally, though many disagree, I do not believe FBI Director Christopher Wray is one of the more culpable players in that saga; but it is Wray’s job to fix the problems and the problems persist — he’s failed in that sense.
DeSantis made clear that, as president, he’d appoint a new director who would hopefully have eight years under DeSantis and a strong attorney general to make big, necessary changes.
WIDE OPEN ON THE ECONOMY
Ike Brannon is a senior fellow at the Jack Kemp Foundation and has worked on several Republican presidential campaigns
There’s little benefit to a candidate in providing much in the way of specific economic policies, and since today’s GOP has an increasing number of populists who have little regard for the party’s traditional limited-government stance, a lack of specifics is even more prudent.
Where DeSantis has spoken on a hot-button policy, he has largely avoided saying anything controversial.
For instance, while he voted to increase the retirement age for Social Security from 67 to 70 as a member of Congress, he has rejected any change to benefits as governor, which is in line with Donald Trump’s statements on the issue.
DeSantis voted for the 2017 passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut corporate tax rates and individual rates.
As governor he provided a two-year reduction in Florida’s corporate tax rate, but today the rate is at its previous level of 5.5%.
He recently signed a bill that would provide what is claimed to be $1.3 billion in tax relief via a series of sales-tax holidays and passed several other holidays earlier in his tenure.
However, economists find that these provide little savings to consumers, as retailers invariably respond to the sharp increases in demand that these engender by keeping prices higher during those holidays.
He has said little about trade, monetary policy or a variety of other economic issues that will likely come up during a campaign.
That’s fine for now, but DeSantis should be thinking about a coherent plan to show how he’d move on from the high inflation, high spending, high regulation Biden years
SCHOOL CHOICE CHAMP
Corey DeAngelis is a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children. Nathan Cunneen is a communications strategist at AFC and a former beneficiary of Florida’s school-choice programs.
DeSantis is a stalwart supporter of school choice.
He signed HB1 into law this year, cementing Florida as the national leader in education freedom by expanding education savings accounts to every family in the state.
For the first time in history, every Florida student will have access to about $8,700 that they can use for tuition at a non-public school, tutoring, curriculum or transportation expenses.
Education freedom was a major policy priority for then-Rep. DeSantis during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
In fact, a widely circulated article cites “School Choice Moms,” black women who crossed party lines to vote for DeSantis, as a primary reason for his narrow victory.
Since his initial election as governor, he has delivered on those promises and expanded opportunities for Florida students.
Over the same period the state has expanded school choice, Florida Republicans have achieved supermajorities in each legislative chamber, and DeSantis won his 2022 reelection by nearly 20 points.
DeSantis’ support of school choice is well reasoned. Since adopting school choice and other reforms, Florida’s scores on the Nation’s Report Card have risen from 47th in 2000 to 4th in the nation today.
Studies show Floridian students using school-choice programs are up to 99% more likely to attend college.
And landmark research on Florida’s programs shows increases in school choice benefit public-school students as well, especially lower-income students.
DeSantis included school choice Wednesday among his top three priorities if elected: “We need national school choice.”
Expect school-choice tax credits to be a major policy focus for the DeSantis campaign
Dalibor Rohac is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
While foreign-policy questions were not central to Ron DeSantis’ campaign launch, the presidential hopeful was correct to criticize the Biden administration’s “lax” policy on China and warn against efforts to involve Beijing and Xi Jinping in a negotiated settlement of the war in Ukraine.
Likewise, most Americans share his hope that the war will end before January 2025 — and will not involve US troops “enmeshed” in Ukraine or Russia.
Yet hope is no substitute for a strategy, nor for articulating what bringing the conflict “in for a landing” means in practical terms.
Back in April, DeSantis rightly warned against a Verdun-like stalemate in Ukraine.
What he needs to do as a contender for the presidency is to make a compelling case that the only way to prevent such an outcome, and indeed to bring the war to a durable end, is to move beyond the Biden administration’s timid, half-hearted approach.
Europeans must step up too, but the United States is ultimately the only country in a position to provide Kyiv with what it needs to finish the job.
Faced with an increasingly Ukraine-weary Republican electorate, DeSantis must explain why Russia’s defeat is a necessary prerequisite for America’s success in our strategic competition with China as well as the most effective deterrent against Beijing’s overreach in Taiwan.
BATTLE ON ‘WOKE’
Bethany Mandel is co-author of “Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation.”
As he has during his time in office, DeSantis took aim at wokeness in his first day as a candidate, defining it as “basically a form of cultural Marxism.”
He declared, “It’s an attack on the truth. We have no choice but to wage a war on woke. So how does that work for a president? Some of it may be the bully pulpit.”
He went on, “There are probably ways to make a difference. When you look at ESG and some of the things that are going on with major financial institutions and corporate America.”
Some have criticised DeSantis activism, saying that free-market conservatives shouldn’t battle corporations.
But I think DeSantis has shown there is a clear ideological argument.
He took credit (where it was due) for reopening Disney’s park in Florida long before its counterpart in California was allowed to do so.
He boasted, “Nobody probably has made Disney more money than me because they were open during COVID.”
That is the DeSantis playbook: He will fight for the right to businesses to operate freely, but he will use his power to prevent them from using their influence to indoctrinate children.
The DeSantis message on wokeness is clear: The rights of businesses do not extend to our children.