Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hints at presidential run in Marathon County visit

By: - May 8, 2023 12:37 pm

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida in February 2022. DeSantis, who is said to be planning to run for president, spoke at a Wisconsin Republican event over the weekend. (Joe Raedle | Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hinted at a presidential run in a visit to Marathon County this weekend to speak at a Republican party event. 

Widely expected to announce his candidacy later this month, DeSantis told the crowd of more than 550 people at the Marathon County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner at the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center that he was just getting started after being re-elected last fall in a landslide. 

“We are proud of all that we’ve accomplished in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “But I can tell you this: I have only begun to fight.”

DeSantis isn’t expected to announce his run until after the end of Florida’s legislative session, but that hasn’t stopped him from building up the infrastructure necessary for running in a primary. He’s hired staff in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and made visits to both Iowa and New Hampshire. 

This is the second time he’s visited Wisconsin, making a trip last fall to Green Bay to campaign with Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels. 

In his remarks at the event Saturday, he attacked what he called Democrats’ “woke mind virus,” and touted his efforts to combat it in Florida. DeSantis has drawn attention for enacting culture war-style bills targeting the discussion of race and LGBTQ issues in Florida schools and picking fights with Disney, which operates its Disney World resort in Orlando. 

“We recognize the woke ideology for the threat that it is, and in Florida we have resolved to fight them across the board,” he said. “We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob. We’ve made Florida the state where woke goes to die.” 

DeSantis has also enacted several laws that restrict abortion access in Florida, but he didn’t mention his views on the issue on Saturday, which came just days after oral arguments were heard in a lawsuit over Wisconsin’s near-total ban on abortion. 

In a statement, Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Ben Wikler said that DeSantis represents an extension of the same Republican party ideas that have repeatedly lost statewide campaigns in Wisconsin in recent years. 

“While Ron DeSantis may be able to sell his MAGA-without-Trump pitch to the GOP’s biggest donors, here in Wisconsin, that cheese curd don’t squeak,” Wikler said. “In Florida, the DeSantis blueprint has put wealthy special interests and his own extremist, anti-freedom, pro-plutocrat political agenda ahead of working people — the exact blueprint that doomed Scott Walker in 2018, Donald Trump in 2020, Tim Michels in 2022, and Dan Kelly in 2020 and 2023.”

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.