Gov. Ron DeSantis touts record in first Iowa visit

The event was DeSantis’ first visit to Iowa and included a packed audience at a Davenport casino Friday morning.


Cody Blissett

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves during a Republican-hosted event in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday. DeSantis receives a standing ovation. (Cody Blissett/The Daily Iowan)

Alejandro Rojas, News Reporter

In a packed convention hall at a Davenport casino Friday morning, the potential GOP Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis marked his first trip to Iowa.

DeSantis was one of two featured speakers for the event, called “The Freedom Blueprint.” During the event, DeSantis spoke about his record in Florida, while also criticizing Democrats’ liberal agenda. There were hundreds of people in attendance.

While DeSantis hasn’t announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election, he is favored by Republican voters to be fierce competition against Trump,  according to several polls. Former President Donald Trump is set to visit Davenport, Iowa, on March 13.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was also at the event, which was hosted by the organization And To The Republic. Reynolds and DeSantis spoke to the crowd about their conservative accomplishments. The pair have been passing bills and mandates based on their conservative education agendas, such as Reynolds school choice legislation.

And To The Republic is a conservative nonprofit organization that, according to its website, “promotes common-sense, freedom-oriented, conservative policy successes.” The group is responsible for hosting some of DeSantis’ events, including one in Des Moines also on Friday, and one in Nevada on March 11.

Reynolds, who was elected governor in 2018 like DeSantis, briefly spoke ahead of him. She highlighted how the pair had made similar decisions during the pandemic, namely opening their states before others had.

“We can both clearly see the harm that was happening to our kids, that lockdowns were absolutely not working, how we were really the only two states to get our kids back in the classroom. And we’re one of the few states that were kept open for business,” Reynolds said.

Following some additional remarks, Reynolds welcomed DeSantis to a crowd of cheers. Thanking her and calling her “America’s Governor,” DeSantis said that he had spoken with people from across the country and that people from Iowa were always the happiest.

“They love their state because it’s well run. It’s one of the best-run states in the country, and it’s because you’ve got a great governor, it’s because you’ve got a lot of great people in the legislature, and because of this wave, you now have a Republican attorney general, and all this stuff,” DeSantis said. “Things are very good here, and we’re really excited to see the progress they’re making in the legislative session.”

DeSantis said recent elections had shown that Americans are paying more attention to politics based on the overwhelming support he had received, as well as a general red wave. He pointed to his election in 2018, where he won by a narrow margin of 32,000 votes, and compared it to his recent election where he won by over 1.5 million votes.

This illustrated, he said, a shift from liberal or “woke” ideology, to more of the public supporting more conservative agendas.

“There’s certain little enclaves in our country that may be popular, but it’s not popular with the vast majority of people. And I think from what we showed in Florida, not only can you have a good agenda and deliver, you can make big inroads with the electorate. And that’s exactly what we did,” DeSantis said.

Davenport resident Wendy Goulet attended the event in support of DeSantis.

“I support all his policies and what he’s done in the state of Florida … He served our country and he’s just down to earth and cares about our children,” Goulet said.

Another attendee and Davenport resident Scott Barker said he didn’t think the idea of DeSantis potentially running for president is a good idea.

“I think at this point, Governor DeSantis has too many wins going forward and Florida. I don’t think he’s going to concentrate for this coming election cycle. I think Trump is probably going to have the ticket and as far as who is going to have his running mate, there’s a lot of different people that I would really enjoy seeing, Ted Cruz being one,” Barker said.

He later derided the federal government’s response to COVID-19, and he said the world had lost its mind and was beginning to fall into a “Faucian dystopia.”

In Florida, DeSantis signed orders that barred required masking, while also passing laws that more easily allowed COVID-19 vaccine exemptions. Reynolds passed similar laws in Iowa, like barring schools from requiring vaccinations for students to attend.

“When common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue, the state of Florida stood as a refuge of sanity. We were a citadel of freedom for people,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said some books shown to students, particularly elementary-aged children, were “pornographic” in nature.

“There is an effort to sexualize these young kids and it is wrong,” he said. “And we’ve got to stand up, and we can’t allow it.”

DeSantis and Reynolds are set to attend a similar event in Des Moines Friday.