More obstacles for DeSantis’ still-unannounced 2024 campaign

More obstacles for DeSantis’ still-unannounced 2024 campaign

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Hello and welcome to Tuesday.

President Joe Biden formally announced he’s running for a second term this morning and his introductory video includes an image of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis while Biden talks about “MAGA extremists.” Meanwhile, the governor’s anticipated presidential campaign is starting off another week with some caution flags.

No. 1 — First off came the news out of New York that Republican Lee Zeldin — who unsuccessfully ran for governor in the Empire State — was endorsing former President Donald Trump. This was a bit stunning given that DeSantis campaigned for Zeldin, and Zeldin introduced the governor at a law enforcement event held on Staten Island in February where he effusively praised DeSantis.

No. 2 — The New York Times is out this morning with a story suggesting that hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin — who was one of DeSantis’ big donors during his reelection — may not be as locked in on backing the governor as he sounded just a few months ago. The story also says Griffin and DeSantis met in Florida in the last two weeks.

No. 3 The Trump campaign keeps unloading on DeSantis. They dropped a minute-long ad on social media Monday evening that contends DeSantis was destined for political irrelevancy until Trump endorsed him in 2018. The spot includes snippets of DeSantis’ Trump-centric ad from the campaign that included footage of him building a wall with one of his children and reading from “The Art of Deal.” It also includes this DeSantis quote: “I’d like to thank our president for standing by me when it wasn’t necessarily the smart thing to do.” The ad says instead of being grateful, DeSantis is “attacking” the president.

Response — All of this follows a week in which DeSantis has seen many in Florida’s congressional delegation throw support to Trump instead of him. But those in DeSantis’ greater orbit continue to shrug off the latest developments. Never Back Down’s spokesperson told Insider that Trump had nearly universal GOP support in 2020 and that many Republicans don’t want him to run again in 2024. The super PAC also touted a Nevada poll that showed that DeSantis is edging President Joe Biden in the battleground state, while Trump trails Biden by a single point.

Riding with the governor — Another notable trend: Many conservatives who became fans of DeSantis over the last couple of years have been voicing their support as well in the last few days with one columnist calling some of Trump’s recent bashing of DeSantis “lies.” It will be interesting to see if the courting of conservative influencers is enough to counter the headwinds now buffeting DeSantis.

— WHERE’S RON? — Gov. DeSantis is on an international trade mission this week that is taking him to Japan, South Korea, Israel and the United Kingdom.

Correction — Florida Playbook on Monday misidentified one of the nations that DeSantis is visiting this week. Playbook regrets the error.

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SECOND THOUGHTS? — “Major G.O.P. donor’s commitment to DeSantis is murkier than thought,” by uThe New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Rebecca Davis O’Brien: “These days, Mr. Griffin is keeping his cards closer to the vest, and his intentions are harder to discern. A person familiar with his thinking, noting that Mr. DeSantis had not yet made his run official, said Mr. Griffin was still evaluating the Republican primary race as it unfolded. The financier and Mr. DeSantis met in Florida in the last two weeks, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting, which came as Mr. Griffin has taken issue in private conversations with some of Mr. DeSantis’s policy moves and pronouncements. In particular, the two people said, Mr. Griffin was deeply troubled by Mr. DeSantis’s statements that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “territorial dispute” — a remark he later tried to clarify — and that the war was not a vital U.S. interest.”

DOING INTERVIEWS — “Ron DeSantis says deterrence key to preventing Taiwan conflict,” by Nikkei Asia’s Shigeru Seno and Mitsuru Obe: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday that deterrence was the key to preventing a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. ‘The goal should be to deter a military situation from happening,’ DeSantis told Nikkei Asia in an interview in Tokyo. ‘If [Chinese President] Xi Jinping thinks that the costs of him launching some type of hostile action outweigh whatever benefit he will receive, then you will not see that happen.” DeSantis did not say, however, whether he supported military intervention should China attack Taiwan.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi are escorted to the venue of their meeting at Iikura Guest House Monday, April 24, 2023, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi are escorted to the venue of their meeting at Iikura Guest House Monday, April 24, 2023, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool) | AP

‘HIGH AND WET’ — “Democrats slam DeSantis for taking trip around the world with work at home,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello and Jeffrey Schweers: “Some Florida lawmakers say they are frustrated by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ absence overseas as they come down the wire on the legislative session and while one of the state’s largest counties deals with a historic flood. ‘As a representative for the majority of the district impacted by this one in a thousand-year flood, I called out Gov. DeSantis to ask where he was with his white rain boots,’ State Rep. Hillary Cassel, D-Dania Beach, said in Tallahassee on Monday. She said she received no response.

— “DeSantis war on ‘woke’ leads to faculty brain drain at Florida public universities,” by Florida Bulldog’s Francisco Alvarado

— “Lee Zeldin heaped praise on Ron DeSantis during a recent event. On Monday, he endorsed Trump,” by Insider’s Kimberly Leonard

— “A presidential prelude playbook: Why DeSantis is driving Florida hard right,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s John Kennedy

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HMM Florida surgeon general altered key findings in study on Covid-19 vaccine safety, by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo personally altered a state-driven study about Covid-19 vaccines last year to suggest that some doses pose a significantly higher health risk for young men than had been established by the broader medical community, according to a newly obtained document. Ladapo’s changes, released as part of a public records request, presented the risks of cardiac death to be more severe than previous versions of the study. He later used the final document in October to bolster disputed claims that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were dangerous to young men.

— “After testy exchange, Senate panel votes to confirm State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and others,” by Florida Politics’ Christine Jordan Sexton

SPREADSHEET TIME Budget deals galore for Florida legislators on day one of negotiations, by POLITICO’s Gary Fineout and Andrew Atterbury: Florida legislators have agreed to a major revision of the state’s education funding formula and to dismantle the state’s economic development arm that is currently paying for Gov. Ron DeSantis’s international trade mission. The deal was brokered on the first night of House and Senate budget negotiations and is a signal that lawmakers are moving ahead quickly to wrap up work on a roughly $114 billion state spending plan so they can end their 60-day session on time.

YOU’VE BEEN SERVED — GOP-led Florida House panel approves subpoenas to groups supporting gender-affirming care, by POLITICO’s Arek Sarkissian: A GOP-led Florida House panel authorized subpoenas seeking records from two medical organizations that support gender-affirming treatment for minors, the latest move in an ongoing legal and political fight over transgender care in Florida. The House Committee on Health & Human Services on Monday approved subpoenas demanding records from the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Florida Psychiatric Society — two organizations that are party to a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn state regulations that ban Medicaid from covering ban gender-affirming care for minors.

PAGE NOT FOUND — “Florida legislators advance ‘digital bill of rights’ so you control online data,” by Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas: “Faced with concerns from Florida’s small businesses that rely on digital advertising, a legislative committee scaled back a technology bill that attempts to give consumers more control over their online footprint by narrowing it to target companies such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook. The measure, SB 262 and its companion, HB 1547, head next to the House and Senate floors for final votes. Both measures attempt to give consumers the right to opt out of sharing their data, which is often collected and sold by companies to advertisers to sell targeted ads to consumers online. But only the Senate bill has been modified to more tightly narrow the scope to target the nation’s tech giants.”

TAKETH AND GIVETH Growth restrictions on local government added to House bill aimed at Disney, by POLITICO’s Bruce Ritchie: Lawmakers have amended a bill that has become a vehicle for Gov. Ron DeSantis in his political fight with Disney to restrict how cities and counties control development. The House this week is expected to consider the legislation, HB 439, which previously dealt with resolving disputes between local governments and developers.

What? But the bill also was rewritten to require local governments to allow the expansion of affordable housing projects and utility electrical substations. Critics say the measure undermines the “Live Local Act,” the affordable housing bill signed by DeSantis in March, because it reduces from 40 percent to 25 percent the amount of units that must be affordable to receive automatic local approval…. “You are going to have this legislative session passing with everyone patting themselves on the back for affordable housing reform — and this sneaky late amendment undoes it,” Jane West of 1000 Friends of Florida told POLITICO.

— “Gillum trial Day 6: ‘Frozen’ funds and ‘he’s not doing this for free,’” by Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew

— “Credit cards work, so why are lawmakers in this state going after them?” opinion by Steven Moore for Fox News

— “Senate committee OK’s conservatives to state Board of Education,” by Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski

— “DeSantis may not get all his immigration priorities despite sweeping bill,” by Miami Herald’s Ana Ceballos

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NEXT UP Starting Tuesday, Trump will stand trial in a lawsuit accusing him of rape, by POLITICO’s Erica Olden: Less that one month after being indicted on charges related to a hush money payment to a porn star, former President Donald Trump is about to stand trial in a civil lawsuit from a magazine columnist who says he raped her decades ago. E. Jean Carroll, a longtime columnist for Elle magazine, says Trump attacked her in a dressing room of a luxury department store in the 1990s and sexually assaulted her — a claim Trump denies, saying the incident “never happened.” On Tuesday, jury selection is scheduled to begin in Manhattan federal court for the trial.

FINAL THOUGHTS — ‘Donald Trump’s army’: Prosecutors close seditious conspiracy case against Proud Boys leaders, by POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney: Leaders of the far-right Proud Boys, fearful about their place in a post-Trump America, instead tried to prevent it from happening at all — even if it meant a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors argued Monday. “These defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump’s army, fighting to keep their preferred leader in power no matter what the law or the courts had to say about it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Mulroe said Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

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According to Carmen Hernandez, who filed the motion on behalf of all five defendants — including Enrique Tarrio (pictured), the Proud Boys’ former national chairman — the informant also attended “prayer meetings” with at least one of the defendants’ families. | Allison Dinner/AP Photo

Trump endorsed by head of GOP’s Senate campaign arm, by POLITICO’s Ally Mutnick

Georgia DA: Any charges against Trump and allies will be announced this summer, by POLITICO’s Kelly Garrity

— “Trial for East Naples man charged in Jan. 6 mob begins Wednesday without jury,” by Naples Daily News’ Tomas Rodriguez

HAPPENING NEXT WEEK! GO INSIDE THE 2023 MILKEN INSTITUTE GLOBAL CONFERENCE: POLITICO is proud to partner with the Milken Institute to produce a special edition “Global Insider” newsletter featuring exclusive coverage, insider nuggets and unparalleled insights from the 2023 Global Conference, which will convene leaders in health, finance, politics, philanthropy and entertainment from May 1-4. This year’s theme, Advancing a Thriving World, will challenge and inspire attendees to lean into building an optimistic coalition capable of tackling the issues and inequities we collectively face. Don’t miss a thing — subscribe today for a front row seat.


DROPPED — “Former Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo drops lawsuit against ex-campaign manager,” by Tampa Bay Times: “Former state Rep. Jackie Toledo has ended the lawsuit she filed last year against her ex-campaign manager, which alleged he sent her unwanted explicit text messages. Dale Swope, an attorney for Toledo, filed a notice of voluntary dismissal Friday in the case against Fred Piccolo, a prominent Republican communications strategist. ‘The parties are pleased to report that they’ve resolved their differences,’ Swope said. He declined to comment further. Toledo’s lawsuit alleged that Piccolo sent her ‘unwanted, unsolicited, inappropriate and grossly offensive’ text messages when he managed Toledo’s unsuccessful bid last year for the Republican nomination for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.”

— “Who’s too old? South Carolina congressman who boosted Biden in 2020 ready to back him again,” by Palm Beach Post’s Antonio Fins

— “Tampa voters to decide between Janet Cruz, Lynn Hurtak in contentious Tampa City Council battle,” by Florida Politics’ Peter Schorsch


‘I’M SCARED’ — “LGBTQ+ people are leaving Florida. They blame the Legislature,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Hannah Critchfield: “When her lease is up this summer, [Nikkie] Jackson will return to Illinois after two years in the Sunshine State. ‘I spent 30 years in the closet, and I won’t be going back now,’ Jackson, a lesbian in Jacksonville, said through tears. ‘But I’m scared — if they’re targeting trans people now, they’ll eventually come for the rest of us.’ In the wake of a wave of Florida legislation taking aim at LGBTQ+ issues, some people are abandoning life here.”

— “Orlando commissioners worry Live Local Act won’t lead to housing at lower income levels,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Ryan Gillespie

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BIRTHDAYS: Miami Beach City Commissioner and former state Rep. David Richardson … former Rep. Larry Smith

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