The Florida governor’s sudden prominence is partly about him, partly about his critics, but mostly about his state.
I first met Ron DeSantis at the Republican Jewish Coalition convention in Las Vegas in April 2016.
DeSantis was then a second-term House member with an eye on Marco Rubio’s Senate seat. Rubio had pledged in 2014 that he would not seek reelection if he ran for president in 2016; he would later change his mind. DeSantis was likely anticipating Rubio’s reversal when he and I sat down for coffee at the Venetian. But other avenues were open to a smart and determined politician from Florida that spring.
By April, the Republican presidential primary had shrunk to a three-way race: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich. Polls showed Hillary Clinton with a 10-point lead over both Trump and Cruz. The GOP seemed doomed to a self-inflicted defeat in November. Forward-looking Republicans were already assessing future talent.