MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN — Two weeks from now, Ron DeSantis will join several other Republican candidates on a debate stage in what could be a defining moment for his presidential bid.
Republican strategists say DeSantis must establish himself as the best candidate to beat Joe Biden – not simply a version of Donald Trump. Any mistakes made on a national stage could be impossible to recover from.
“The media and D.C. elites have already picked their candidates – Joe Biden and Donald Trump,” said DeSantis campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo. “Ron DeSantis has never been the favorite or the darling of the establishment, and he has won because of it every time.”
Romeo says the governor is ready to prove the doubters wrong again. So what are the top three areas DeSantis needs to focus on during the debate?
1. HIS VISION FOR AMERICA
How will everyday Americans benefit under DeSantis as president? If DeSantis can convey that life will improve under his leadership, he can better attract voters that are sitting on the fence.
“Obviously, debates are milestones in a campaign,” Ken Cuccinelli, founder of the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, told Meet the Press. “Oftentimes, they are make-or-break in both directions for various campaigns.”
Campaign donor Dan Eberhart said success during the upcoming debate is vital for Governor DeSantis. “He urgently needs to change the story arc and regain momentum.”
2. HIS RECORD IN FLORIDA
While most Americans know about the governor’s fight with Disney and his battle against woke ideology in Florida, DeSantis has a solid record of leadership in the state. When Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s southwest coast last year, DeSantis cut through red tape to help residents in their time of need.
DeSantis must demonstrate how Florida’s economic success is scalable nationwide, focusing on federal policy that would bring positive changes to every state in the Union.
“Donald Trump lost the first presidential debate to Joe Biden. He is a good showman, but he is not a good debater because it highlights his weaknesses,” said Cuccinelli. “Whereas in Ron DeSantis’ case, it showcases his preparation, his brainpower and his application of it all to the benefit of ordinary Americans’ lives.”
3. WHAT MAKES HIM DIFFERENT FROM TRUMP
Republicans who voted for Trump more than once already know that Joe Biden’s policies have increased inflation, put Americans last and allowed the southern border to be overrun with illegal aliens. If DeSantis wants to differentiate himself from Trump, he needs to play to his own strengths.
Despite manipulative media narratives and Trump’s showboating, those close to DeSantis say he’s intelligent, confident and passionate about turning the country around.
“He’s breaking records on fundraising and has a supporting super PAC with $100 million in the bank and an incredible ground game. Get ready,” DeSantis’ newly appointed campaign manager James Uthmeier said.
While the race for the Republican nomination is still in the early phase, the first debate is usually the time when more audiences begin to tune in to candidates’ messages.
“If he comes [to the debate] with the energy that he just brought here tonight, he’s going to do very well,” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said last weekend. “He had the crowd. He didn’t just have people interested. He had them excited. But that’s kind of the formula they all need to find.”
Eight candidates say they have met the RNC’s qualifications for a spot on the debate stage, but Trump has yet to decide if he will participate.
- Donald Trump
- Ron DeSantis
- Tim Scott
- Nikki Haley
- Vivek Ramaswamy
- Chris Christie
- Doug Burgum
- Mike Pence