PELLA, Iowa—If President Joe Biden is reelected, Democrats will “pack” the Supreme Court, eliminate the Electoral College, and make the District of Columbia a state, ensuring their party has two reliable additions to the U.S. Senate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned during a May 31 presidential campaign speech.
Republicans “are not going to get a mulligan in the 2024 election” if they don’t win across the board, from school boards to the White House, he told about 250 Iowans at Sun Valley Barn, a wedding venue in Pella about 45 miles southeast of Des Moines.
DeSantis says he’s the man with the “courage to lead [and] the strength to win” in November 2024 and ensure that Democrats' plans don't succeed.
The speech was DeSantis’s third of the day after speaking in Sioux City and Council Bluffs. He formally began his presidential campaign the night before at an evangelical church in Clive, a Des Moines suburb, and ended it in Cedar Rapids, delivering another stump speech at Hawkeye Downs Speedway & Expo Center.
The governor declared his candidacy on May 24, following five months during which he visited 14 states and four countries while not formally campaigning. His Iowa swing kicks off a 12-city tour across three early-primary states. After stumping in New Hampshire and South Carolina, DeSantis will return to Iowa on June 3 for a fundraiser with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).
As DeSantis spoke in Cedar Rapids, former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, arrived in Des Moines, where he had a full slate of campaign events scheduled for June 1.
Unlike on the night before, DeSantis didn't engage with media in a post-stump conference in Pella, a picturesque town of windmills founded by Dutch settlers on the undulating prairie, now in the green velvet of foot-tall corn to be harvested in fall.
In what is becoming one of the themes of his campaign, DeSantis, 44, maintained that it's going to take a Republican president at least two terms to undo the damage the Biden administration has done to government institutions, the education system, and more.
Trump, who will be 77 on June 14, is term-limited to four years if elected in 2024. Plus, as DeSantis notes in his speeches, he can win a general election against Biden, whereas, he implies, the former president cannot.
Would Finish What He StartsDeSantis said that if elected, he would “liberate the domestic energy industry, reinvigorate the military,” and fire FBI Director Christopher Wray “on day one.”
The governor said he would “reverse Biden’s border policies,” declare a national emergency, and “shut down the border” with Mexico until the federal government regains control.
“I have been hearing about [the border and immigration] from Republicans all my adult life,” he said. “We will be the ones, this will be the administration, that finally puts this issue to bed.”
As president, he would clamp down on spending and spend on what matters: the military, education, and children, said the father of three—with his oldest being 6 years old.
DeSantis said that with him as president, the whole “debt deal” issue would be ended and the federal government would be tamed to live within its means, like states and local governments must. He didn't detail how he would win the confidence of Congress to pass his bills.
“The country was careening toward bankruptcy before they made the deal and the country is still careening toward bankruptcy after the deal,” he said, referring to the debt ceiling package that has passed the House and is now headed to the Senate.
DeSantis said he will revamp and scale back the “fourth branch of government” by applying “constitutional accountability to the bureaucracy” to ensure that “the administrative state is brought to heel.”
Among ways he’d begin to do that is by immediately requiring “every federal agency to reduce the number of employees in Washington,” where they live in their own world with little relevance to those they serve, he said, noting that five of the nation’s seven wealthiest counties per capita are suburbs in the District of Columbia.
“But fixing the bureaucracy is not enough,” DeSantis said, noting such policies and actions are certain to draw heat from Democrats and “legacy media, the praetorian guard of the bureaucracy.”
It will require a two-term presidency to accomplish this, he said. As the campaign unfolds, he will be introducing policies that would get it done, he added.
“You got to be right on policy. But being right on policy is not enough. You got to show leadership. Big things can be done. All is not lost,” DeSantis said.
But first things first: “You can’t do any of this stuff unless you win,” DeSantis said. “There is no substitute in this business for victory.”
Not a Two-Man RaceJim Vanzee of Pella came to take stock of the young governor. “I look for someone who is genuine—there is a lot of untruth out there,” he said. “And somebody who can do, perhaps, what they say.”
Vanzee hasn’t made any decisions about his vote yet, with Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Republican primaries still eight months away. “There are eight candidates; more will end up coming here,” he said.
Robert Corry of Grinnell, a native Bostonian wearing a Red Sox cap, said he also won’t make up his mind until the February caucuses, where, he said, he’s often come in thinking one way and leaving thinking another.
Asked who he’d vote for today, “At this point, I suppose him,” Corry said. “A solid guy, youth, energetic, great leadership in his state.”
But he also doesn’t believe all he hears and reads. “I like to see things myself ... We are very blessed in Iowa," he said. Most people watch TV to gauge candidates. But in Iowa, the candidates come to you.
Corry noted the “top criticism” that he hears about DeSantis is “literally, he is not a glad-handing politician."
He said that it's fine by him if a candidate's biggest problem is that he "can't be fake."
Maclane Heinen, a student at William Penn University in nearby Oskaloosa, spent his spring break in Florida and came back with a tan, with a hat with the Florida state flag, and as “a big fan of Ron DeSantis.”
“It’s a done deal for me,” he said. “I like everything that he has done. He speaks really well. He says it how it is.”
Marion County Republican Party Committee Chair Steven Everly spoke with DeSantis after the speech. "I told him I thought he was doing a great job," he said. "I like to see him in my county and I hope to see him again."
However, even if Everly and fellow GOP county committee member Tanya Walker have made up their minds on their top candidate, both said they wouldn’t tell.
“I have my personal favorite but we will work with every campaign,” Everly said, noting that other GOP candidates such as Tim Scott, Nikki Hailey, Larry Elder, and Vivek Ramaswamy have been through Pella and will likely return through the summer.
He said that it isn't surprising who finished first and second in a “loose poll” of committee members. But some people would not expect Ramaswamy to have been third.
“He’s very impressive,” Everly said.
That was also Walker’s exact wording in describing Ramaswamy.
She also said that former Vice President Mike Pence could be a stronger candidate if he enters the race and that radio personality Larry Elder had “a good visit.”
“No, I would not say it is a two-man race,” Walker said. “We got eight months to make up our minds. We have to ‘Pizza Ranch’ them to death before we do that.”