WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a rare interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday, Ron DeSantis retained control of the conversation as he calmly reassured voters that he could beat Biden and would “actually deliver” on his promises.
When asked whether voters may view him as “less electable” than former President Trump, DeSantis responded, saying, “The proof is in the pudding.”
“I took a state that had been a one-point state, and we won it by 20 percentage points, 1.5 million votes,” DeSantis said. “Our bread and butter were people like suburban moms. We’re leading a big movement for parents’ rights – that the parents be involved in education, school choice – get the indoctrination out of schools.”
Speaking about his new plan released Tuesday to overhaul the U.S. Department of Defense, DeSantis rebuffed “research” presented by Tapper showing “wokeness” was not high on the list of concerns for military recruits.
“Not everyone really knows what wokeness is,” DeSantis explained. “I mean, I’ve defined it, but a lot of people who rail against wokeness can’t even define it.”
The governor went on to say that other issues are at the top of voters’ minds, including inflation and more economic opportunity.
“Florida’s economy is ranked No. 1 of all 50 states,” DeSantis said. “We’ve worked hard to make that happen.”
A SHIFT IN STRATEGY
Despite the mainstream media, DeSantis successfully won reelection in Florida but has had to change campaign strategy during his presidential bid. He’s been answering more questions from mainstream outlets and appearing on cable news. But why CNN?
CNN has been hostile towards the Florida governor, especially over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jake Tapper falsely accused the governor’s administration of falsifying Florida's COVID data as the state sought to reopen for business.
Tapper promoted anti-DeSantis conspiracy theories spread by now disgraced former Florida Health Department employee Rebekah Jones. Tapper later endorsed Jones when she ran against U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz during the 2022 election cycle.
“TAKING FIRE” NON STOP
During the interview, DeSantis took his chance to lash out at mainstream media narratives that his campaign isn’t performing as well as it should. At one point, DeSantis told Tapper the media has it “wrong” and that his record in Florida appeals to “huge majorities of the population.”
The governor said he’s been “taking fire” non-stop since his reelection victory in 2022 because many people view him as a threat.
“I think the left views me as a threat because they think I’ll beat Biden and actually deliver on all this stuff,” DeSantis said.
A STATE-BY-STATE RACE
“And then, of course, people that have their allegiances within the Republican side, you know, have gone after me,” DeSantis said. “But the reality is, this is a state-by-state process. I’m not running a campaign to try to juice, you know, whatever we are in the national polls.”
A recent state-specific poll in New Hampshire suggests that former President Donald Trump’s double-digit lead may be dwindling. Trump now has a 37 percent lead with Republican voters – down 6 points – with DeSantis in second place at 23 percent, suggesting the race is far from over.
DeSantis said political pundits have argued he’s performed poorly the entire time he’s been governor of Florida, reminding Tapper that in 2018 CNN released a poll shortly before Florida’s gubernatorial election that had DeSantis down 15 points.
The governor recalled when Tapper moderated a gubernatorial debate between him and rival Andrew Gillum shortly after the poll was released.
“Now, that was the narrative at the time, ‘he’s going down,’” DeSantis said about CNN. “I think some of this is motivated reasoning, but I kind of get a kick out of it when they say ‘he didn't fundraise well’ when I did more than Biden and Trump in the second quarter – and I’m just the governor.”
“So, I didn’t believe that poll was accurate, just for the record,” DeSantis told Tapper.