DeSantis is a fundraising powerhouse, collecting $5.1M in May as war chest approaches $40M

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has become a major fundraising force for himself and his party, as noted by his more than $5.1 million personal haul as of last week, bringing his current cash-on-hand total to nearly $40 million, his campaign committee reported Friday.

His campaign, Friends of Ron DeSantis, raised an astounding $14 million in April, which brought him to $31.6 million in total. During the 2018 campaign, both he and his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, reportedly spent about $100 million.

DeSantis has been touted as a potential 2024 presidential contender, but so far he has not given any indication he is interested in running for anything other than governor again next year. And early data indicate that whomever his Democratic challenger becomes will have an uphill battle to unseat him.

A Cherry Communications survey conducted on behalf of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and published earlier this month shows that 55 percent of Floridians approve of DeSantis’s job performance versus 40 percent who disapprove. Also, he received extremely high marks — 70 percent among residents — for his handling of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“As I’ve said for over a year, under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida continues moving in the right direction and serving as the national model for COVID-19 recovery while other states chose fear over facts,” chamber president and CEO Mark Wilson said in a statement. “Governor DeSantis’ strong approval ratings show Florida’s voters and Florida’s business community are united around his leadership in protecting Floridians and Florida’s economy.”

Democrats have yet to settle on a candidate, but those who have either declared they will run or are rumored to be considering a run are all behind DeSantis by double digits.

Former Florida governor and one-time Republican Charlie Crist, who is currently a U.S. congressman, has announced he is running for governor again, but he’s 10 points behind DeSantis, 51-41 percent. Meanwhile, DeSantis leads presumptive contender Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture secretary, and the only statewide Democratic officeholder, by a larger margin of 51-39 percent. And finally, DeSantis’ lead over Rep. Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, is wider still, 53-38 percent, the survey found.

DeSantis, who resigned from Congress in the fall of 2018 to focus on his race against Gillum, touted his tenure during a town hall-style event hosted by Fox News’s Sean Hannity earlier this week and said his style of governance has attracted Americans from blue states to move.

“And so, I think what it did is the people that buy those phony narratives for these media, they probably aren’t coming to Florida,” DeSantis said. “But most people see through it. But the people that see through it, they think like us. And so, I think a lot of these people are coming. I think they are registering as Republicans overwhelmingly.”

“And I also have come across a lot of people who, quite frankly, were Democrats. The lockdowns turned them into Republicans,” he said in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Hannity’s suggestion that people from blue states like New Jersey, New York, and California were relocated to Florida.

“People say, ‘I was a Democrat because of education and I’m in California and they’re locking my kids out of school. I come to Florida, they’re in school.’ People are free. People are happy,” he said.

Jon Dougherty

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