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Exclusive: DeSantis Talks About His Governing Decisions

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – In a lengthy, wide-ranging interview on my radio show last evening, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hailed his record in the state, blasted political and media critics, and opened up a bit about his personal life. The discussion began with questions about Florida's new lawsuit against the Biden administration over continued mask mandates on airplanes, as well as the historic shift in the Sunshine State electorate – moving from a heavy Democratic registration advantage to a six-figure GOP lead for the first time ever. After covering those breaking developments, we moved on to a wide array of other topics. Here's the entire interview, with a number of highlighted excerpts listed below: 


Some worthwhile highlights: (1) DeSantis reveals he's never conducted polls or focus groups on governing decisions: 

DESANTIS: Well, I certainly think we've been willing to lead with purpose and conviction without worrying about whether it was safe to lead or not. Like, I have not conducted a single poll since I've been governor. I just do what I think is right -- 

BENSON: Focus groups? 

DESANTIS: Never, not once. Now, I'm going to have to start polling the horse race when I get into the election but -- 

BENSON: But like, on governing decisions you're not polling? You've not -- 

DESANTIS: I have not. I have not done a single poll. 

BENSON: So how do you make these decisions then? 

DESANTIS: I make them based off the facts, the data and my convictions. And my view is like, you know, if I polled you and like 10 of your friends on an issue, that's a static analysis. That doesn't tell me that if I set a vision, and I execute the vision then where will you guys come out. So I can move people...I'm showing them that this is how a state should be governed. So I think what we've been willing to do is, you know, we do not let corporate media trim our sails. We're willing to stand up against woke corporations, which, quite frankly, a lot of Republicans have been more corporate Republicans that defer to some of these corporations. Look, I want a limited government. I want a free enterprise economy. But when these big corporations are using their economic power to try and impose leftist ideologies, like in my state, we fight back on that. And then I think we've been strong at fighting back against Biden.


(2) After describing why reopening schools before last academic year has been his most consequential choice as governor, DeSantis fired back hard at recent criticism from California Gov. Gavin Newsom, making some obvious points about people fleeing California, but also getting into specific data on COVID outcomes: 

(3) On his leadership, and the left's perceived threat he poses, DeSantis said it's Florida – not "doddering, quasi-senile" Joe Biden – that is leading both the country and the free world: 

"I mean the contrast between a doddering, quasi-senile president who has to have his press team clean up his remarks after every time he opens his mouth versus somebody like me who's out there -- I'm very direct, I say what I mean, I mean what I say, I lead and I get things done.  You know, they understand that people view Florida as really being the leader of our country in many respects, we're really leading the free world in many -- I mean, I have people from Canada that will come here that will write in to me, Australia, Europe -- and they say, we look to Florida as the new citadel of freedom. They're not looking to Joe Biden for that because they know that he's just not capable of producing the type of leadership that they do.  But I absolutely think from the time COVID hit, I think the media wanted -- they wanted to use it to defeat Trump in 2020. But they've tried to use it against me in any way they can. And then now that we're on to other issues, they're always trying to find a way to attack me and attack Florida. And I do think it's because I'm able to expose them, I'm able to show people that the emperor has no clothes and they're not used to that. I mean, they're used to Republicans that will roll over for the left, and I just don't do that, I stand by ground."  

(4) The governor and I discussed, at some length, the parental rights/LGBT bill he signed this week in Florida. It was a substantive and respectful conversation, in which I expressed my points of agreement with the governor while posing some of my concerns. He addressed them and responded to follow-ups. One illuminating piece of that back-and-forth: 

He also forcefully responded to Disney's (extraordinarily hypocritical) corporate statement on his signing of the new law: 

Here is I think why this statement was totally outrageous. I mean for two reasons. One they said it should have never been passed in the first place. I talked to our Speaker of the House after that statement came out; he said they never contacted him while they were working -- while it was moving through the House of Representatives in Florida. They didn't say anything about it. I mean they could have called them and said that they had problems with it. They didn't do it. And so to say it should have never been law in the first place they were not even engaged at those critical processes. And so they're responding to I would say left-wing activists and their rather than the actual substance of it.  Secondly, for them to say that they're going to work to repeal substantive rights of parents because it's one thing if you're taking a political position about, you know, don't say gay.  You know, you can't say the word -- and we know that's not in the bill...they would be targeting provisions that provide parents substantive protections. And so I think they overstepped their bounds with that statement. They do not run this state. I'm not going to let our state be hijacked by a bunch of California corporate executives.  And the fact of the matter is I think they think that they whatever they want in Florida they get. That may have been true in the past, that is not true now. And we're going to govern this state based on the best interests of the people of Florida, not what any corporation, but particularly that corporation, is demanding.  

(5) DeSantis reacted to my question about his thought process about a potential 2024 presidential run, and the many questions he gets about it on a regular basis. We then turned to non-political subjects – from Tom Brady's return to the NFL, to how he spends his free time, to his wife's successful battle against cancer. One snippet, in which he reveals he's a "Yellowstone" fan: 

BENSON: What is the best book you read in the last year? And what is a guilty pleasure TV show that you like to binge? 

DESANTIS: You know, it's interesting I mean I started watching "Yellowstone" over the Christmas holiday -- and I think it's a good show. Part of it, I mean Montana is beautiful. I'm just thinking like my wife's watching that, she's like oh, man, we need to go to Montana. So that's fun for that. But, you know, the -- what I try to do in terms of reading books is, you know, I try to just go back and read some of the things that are -- that are really epic in history. I mean I know there's new books that come out and I bet Mollie Hemingway did a good job on the election and there's some other good ones I've read...You can pick up something like "The Art of War", you can read that in one sitting. I mean it's a pretty small thing...and there's a lot of wisdom in there. And so I go back, and I will do that. And, you know, I read -- I'll read some "Federalist" essays. I'll do things like that because I think it gets your mind going in a very sharp way.


Our full interview is available here. 

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