Governor Ron DeSantis

Iowa Press | Episode
Dec 8, 2023 | 27 min

On this edition of Iowa Press, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R - Florida), discusses the Iowa caucuses and his campaign for president.

Joining moderator Kay Henderson at the Iowa Press table are Clay Masters, host and lead political reporter for Iowa Public Radio and Tom Beaumont, political reporter for The Associated Press.

Program support provided by: Associated General Contractors of Iowa and Iowa Bankers Association.



Florida Governor Ron DeSantis picked up a couple of key Iowa endorsements recently. We'll talk to DeSantis about policy and the final campaign sprint toward Caucus night on this edition of Iowa Press.


Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation.

The Associated General Contractors of Iowa, the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure.

Elite Casino Resorts is rooted in Iowa. Elite was founded 30 years ago in Dubuque and owned by 1,200 Iowans from more than 45 counties. With resorts in Riverside, Davenport and Larchwood, Iowa, Elite is committed to the communities we serve.

Across Iowa, hundreds of neighborhood banks strive to serve their communities, provide jobs and help local businesses. Iowa Banks are proud to back the life you build. Learn more at


For decades, Iowa Press has brought you political leaders and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Celebrating 50 years of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa PBS, this is the Friday, December 8th edition of Iowa Press. Here is Kay Henderson.


Henderson: Our guest today is a candidate for the Republican Party's next presidential nomination. He is a Florida native. He is a Navy veteran. He is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives. And he is the current Governor of the state of Florida. Ron DeSantis, welcome to Iowa Press.

DeSantis: Thanks for having me.

Henderson: Joining our conversation are Tom Beaumont of the Associated Press and Clay Masters of Iowa Public Radio.

Masters: Governor, this is such an unprecedented race for the Iowa Caucuses and one of the big things making news in the last month was the endorsement that you received from Iowa's sitting Governor Kim Reynolds. It has been almost 30 years since the last time a sitting governor was endorsing ahead of a caucus cycle, or ahead of the caucuses. I was at an event for Donald Trump over the weekend where, when Trump brought her up, she was booed by the people that were at that crowd. What does that say about her endorsement for you?

DeSantis: Well, look, I think Donald Trump has attacked her even before this endorsement and that's not the way we go as republicans. She has been an effective, strong Governor that has produced great results. As a republican, I want everybody to do well. It's not just about who endorses me or who doesn't. There's people in this race that haven't endorsed me. I'm not going to go out and trash good republicans just because they haven't endorsed me. So, I think the way that Donald Trump has handled that, that is not going to work for this party to say that unless you kiss his ring that somehow you're not good. She has done a great job. If you look at all the governors in the country that republicans can point to, I think she would be one of the top in terms of actually producing strong results for the people that she represents.

Beaumont: Governor, yet Donald Trump is the favorite in Iowa. And you have said that you absolutely expect to win the Iowa Caucuses. So, apart from his age and that he would be term limited, tell me how you would convince Trump supporters in Iowa to change their mind between now and January 15th.

DeSantis: Well, a couple of things. One, I'm more likely to win the election. You saw what I did in Florida, I won a monumental victory. Donald Trump won Florida, but by just a few points. We've got to be able to win voters who have not been willing to vote for Trump in the past. And I have shown an ability to do that. And I think that we'd be able to do that nationally. Also, in terms of the results, I'm somebody that has fought the good fight on behalf of conservative voters and not all republicans do that, of course. Some of them cave, I've said it, but I've won these big fights. Yes, election, but we've delivered results. If you look at all the problems that our voters are identifying, all of the people responsible for that when they tried to do things in Florida, we beat them. We beat the teacher’s union in getting school choice. We beat George Soros by removing two of these radical prosecutors. We beat Fauci on COVID. We beat the dems on election integrity. So, I have a record of delivering results that is second to none. And then you look at the economy, a big issue with everybody, obviously. Florida's economy is the best in the nation according to CNBC. We had to take steps, sometimes in opposition of the Trump administration during COVID, to make sure our state was open, we have low taxes, we've paid down debt, we have our unemployment rate is 60% lower than California. So, in terms of getting the economy back, Florida has been the model of how to do in face of some significant headwinds. I also think the fact that I'm a veteran, I'll be the first veteran elected who has served in a foreign war since 1988. Veterans know right now, particularly in Iowa that have come up to me, we need to get the military back in shape. I had someone tell me, my son is a pilot right now and he's just like, you know, I wish I could get some more hours in the cockpit instead of doing all of this DEI and all this stuff that is more political. I'm getting rid of that in the military. We're going to get rid of the political agenda. And we're going to focus on mission first. And then, I just think it's important to point out, Donald Trump's campaign, if you look at what he talks about, he talks about the border wall, he talks about draining the swamp, he talks about holding Biden accountable, he talks about reducing the debt. He ran on all of those things in 2016, yet we're still talking about it. We don’t have time to just do slogans. We've got to get the job done.

Masters: We're not talking about a President Huckabee or a President Santorum or President Ted Cruz, these are the winners of the last three republican Iowa Caucuses. What's the value in even winning Iowa anymore?

DeSantis: Well, look, I think there's a lot of value. This is, as you've mentioned, it's kind of an unprecedented thing because you have somebody running who had been President before, who is probably the most famous person in America there and he's in the mix. And so, I think the media nationally had tried to create a narrative that somehow the voters shouldn't even be consulted in this, that you can take some polls nationally and then all of a sudden everyone should just go home. They are actually saying that. And I think Iowans are like, no, we play an important role in this process. And even if you take some of the polling at face value, you have a clear majority of people here in Iowa that are choosing someone other than Donald Trump. And I kind of think to myself, if Ronald Reagan were running for a third time, he'd be getting 90% of republicans. So, there is an appetite to have somebody that can go be a different standard bearer. But I have often said, some people have won Iowa, of course, and have won like W. Bush, others have not. You've got to win a majority of the delegates. But I think the way this sets up this year, I think Iowa is playing a more important role than in those previous years.

Henderson: Governor, I want to ask you about the abortion issue in the context of people who have endorsed you. Governor Reynolds obviously signed a six-week abortion ban in Iowa twice. Amy Sinclair, a State Senator, who has been a guest on this program, has endorsed you. She ran the bill in the Iowa Senate. And there have been key people who have been involved in the development of that law that have endorsed you as well. Will you as President fulfill their expectations in terms of how you would achieve the goal on the national stage in terms of abortion?

DeSantis: So, one, I think that Iowa has said, Iowa leaders have said they are pro-life and they have delivered pro-life protections. And I know there's been a lot of back and forth through the courts and everything. But they have followed through on their promises. In Florida, we have delivered pro-life protections, particularly when you have the baby has a heartbeat, and we're proud of doing that. But I think we all recognize that Iowa, Florida, probably going to be different than what New Hampshire does, probably going to be different than what Michigan does. And so, a lot of this is Dobbs came down and it was almost like the pro-life movement was kind of like the dog that caught the care, there wasn't a lot of recognition about what's the next step. And I think what we've seen is while Iowa has made progress, some other states, there has also been a movement in the other direction, Ohio and some of these other areas. So, I think as President I'll be somebody that will promote a culture of life. But I'm going to help these local and state folks be able to do a better job to deliver the good message. We know Congress doesn't do anything. The idea that that is where ultimately we're going to be able to solve, I think we realize that that's a long shot. So, let's focus on making meaningful progress in the states where we can.

Henderson: So, if you were elected twice and serve for eight years, you don't foresee a time when there would be a national law regarding abortion restrictions?

DeSantis: What I think we need to see is we need to see us do a better job of attracting more people to the cause. I mean, what happens at the national level is a reflection of what is happening on the ground with the electorate. And when you see things like what has happened in Ohio that tells you, okay, what are we doing to not deliver the message about the importance and the dignity of human life? So, I will be a part of that 100%. I think we can move the needle. But we just have identify right now, since Dobbs has come down, there have been some successes, but there have also been some setbacks.

Beaumont: You've talked about an aggressive early start to a DeSantis administration. And in 2025, the Trump tax cuts would expire. What is your plan?

DeSantis: We want to make those rates permanent. I think having taxes go up right now would be a disaster. We're looking at a year from now, thirteen months from now, we could be in a recession. People talk about a soft landing. I think we've got to prepare for a hard landing. I think there have been a lot of things that have been done in the economy that you can see a significant crash. I mean, I hope I'm wrong. But you're going in, in January 20th, 2025, and it's probably not going to be all sunshine and roses. So, raising taxes in that situation I think would be a big mistake. So, we're already thinking about in a reconciliation package, which would only need 50 votes in the Senate, you have the tax rates we want to do, you have repealed a lot of Biden's stuff that obviously is very expensive that we would do as much as we could get through there. I would also want to do national school choice in that package, which honestly would not cost that much money. I think that it's important that all parents have a right, particularly poor and working-class parents, send their kid to the school of their choice. And we'll probably do our multi-year naval buildup through that reconciliation vehicle. So, everything I do when I say, hey, we want to do this, we want to do this, I'm thinking of an eye of how do you actually get it done? I don't make promises if I haven't thought about how I'm going to do it. Now, I do believe with me as the nominee we'll expand our republican majorities in the U.S. House and we'll be able to recapture the U.S. Senate and hopefully with a little bit of cushion. Not going to be able to get 60 votes -- we could have gotten 60 had we not fumbled Georgia in January of 2021 and not fumbled the 2022 midterms. Those were all very winnable races. Republicans lost almost all of them. We would have been in striking distance of 60. We're probably not. But I do think it's a favorable map. I think we're going to have a Senate majority. But that reconciliation package is important. And if you're not thinking as the candidate about how you would use that to be able to implement policy, then you're already behind the curve.

Henderson: Iowans are familiar with the educational savings accounts at the state level. How would national school choice work? Are you giving tax dollars from the federal level to people to send their child to a private school?

DeSantis: Not directly. What we would do, we'd model it after one of the programs we used to have, we still have, but we have now built on it, like a tax credit scholarship program for corporate income tax. So, in Florida we have a state corporate rate. They can check off a certain amount of money to go to this scholarship fund, instead of sending it to the government, so it is technically never in the government's possession. So, we would do something similar federally. Corporate income tax, they would be able to check off a certain amount, it would go to these scholarship organizations that then administer the scholarships and they are in existence and they can bid for that. But what it would do is, so the money would never go in. We did a billion-dollar program between administration and scholarships, that served 100,000 kids in Florida. And so, we're a big state. A lot of states they wouldn't need even close to a billion. So, if you just did $25 or #50 billion, which in this day and age is budget dust basically, you're going to be able to provide scholarships to a lot of working class and low-income families. But it will never actually go into the government coffers. It will be a check off program where the tax revenues can just simply be diverted to a scholarship fund.

Masters: Let's talk about another issue that has been coming up on the campaign trail. The former President has been talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act. There are aspects of the Affordable Care Act that have some pretty strong public polls in support of some of those items. Would you be in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act?

DeSantis: So, he promised that he would get this done. That was one of his big promises as President, he had republican majorities, and didn't get the job done. And so, I think the pathway forward, I'm not sure what Congress would do. I opposed Obamacare. I did support the repeal and replace because I said it wasn't making health care more affordable. The costs have gone up. So, we've got to address these costs. Now, in terms of the Obamacare, so in Florida for example, I sign legislation for pre-existing conditions. People act like that's unique for Obamacare. It's not. We understand that that's important. That will be something we're going to do. But we have got to have a reform that is going to lower costs. And part of that is what I think Obamacare did, it really empowered these big insurance companies who really are part of the problem with driving up the cost as well as the pharmaceutical companies and it empowered big government. Those three big entities have created an iron triangle where the patient and the doctor are at the back of the bus. And it's not about patient-centered care anymore, it's about these massive institutions. So, we need to return to patient-centered care. People need to have access to affordable health care. Just getting a card that says you have coverage, if that doesn't entitle you to get quality care then that's not worth what they're saying it's worth. We also want people to have access to good doctors and good hospitals. But part of it is looking at this instead of saying, oh it's going to be just fee for service, is what are the outcomes that you're driving? Ultimately, that is what you want to see a system to be able to produce healthier outcomes. That is not the way the incentives are right now. And I think it has skewed it and I think it has continued to drive costs up.

Masters: So, is there like an unwinding period that would take place? Or would it just be a repeal? How do you calculate that?

DeSantis: What I've said is what we'll end up doing is effectively just superseding Obamacare because Obamacare is one part. There's a lot of problems with the health care system at large. So, we'll have a reform that will basically supersede. Obviously, it will be a place where people will transition to be able to do what they need to do. But if you're providing more affordable options, people are going to be running to be able to get those options.

Henderson: At an event last weekend in Newton, you said that Iowa would have first dibs on landing the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of your push to reduce the federal workforce footprint in Washington, D.C. by half. How would that impact getting a construction permit, other things that people depend upon the federal government performing?

DeSantis: So, we have a lot of people that move to Florida from say New York State. Our budget in Florida, we have millions of more people now than New York, our budget is half the size of New York State. We have the lowest per capita state employees of anywhere in the country, or one of the lowest. And yet, do you know what these New Yorkers tell me when they come? You guys have better services. I get my driver’s license. You have better roads. You have all this stuff. So, some of this stuff is government can perform the key functions with less of a footprint, no question about that, and we know that. But the other reason why we're talking about doing this, because I think what has happened is power has accumulated in D.C. So, even if you have half the number of people, if that much power is accumulated there it is now being wielded in ways that are not representative of the people that they're ruling over. You talk to farmers in Iowa, they have some D.C. bureaucrat telling them what they can do on their land because they're from the EPA and they say that you have a pond there and I know that we've litigated that in the Supreme Court but Biden is trying to do more. It's ridiculous. USDA, how out of touch they are with what is going on. So, part of the reason you want to get some of these agencies out of D.C. is to have people from the communities that are really impacted by this be more a part of the government itself. Right now, we've created a system where the people in these bureaucracies almost represent a separate and distinct class from the people that they oversee. I think that has created a lot of problems, a lot of friction, a lot of cynicism and it's not the way the founding fathers intended it.

Beaumont: You've said in Cedar Rapids yesterday that you expected to draw a new next generation energized workforce in your administration. What confidence should people have given some of the turnover within your own campaign?

DeSantis: Well, I think that's something that is different. And that PAC, I don't control that, so you have to talk to them about it. But I think if you look at what we've done as Governor, I have people who have worked for me both as a U.S. Congressman and as a Governor, who pay their own way to Iowa to go out and knock doors. And these are a lot of people that have done that. So, we've been able to attract a lot of great people. We have people who -- and there's a natural cycle of this, not everyone can be in government their whole life. Some people do like a chief of staff position, that is a very intense thing, you do that for two years, that's a big deal and then people do. So, that's natural. But they're all in our corner and all of them realize that we've been able to accomplish a lot of great stuff. And I know, I have people that give resumes to us, we have allied conservative groups up there that are really making an effort to collect resumes from around the country. There's a lot of people that want to be able to come and serve and it will be a temporary thing. We don't want you necessarily have designs on living in Washington the rest of your life. It's like okay, you move from Iowa for two years, four years, six years, serve, and then go back and live under the laws that you helped implement for the rest of the country. So, we're proud the fact that we have so many people that have worked for us that have been willing on their own dime to come up here, knock on doors and tell the story -- it's interesting, I was talking to one of our budget guys and he was knocking on a door of a potential caucus goer and the caucus goer really had some very targeted questions about Florida's budget surplus. Well, he helped generate it, so he was able to answer their questions.

Beaumont: I think that's interesting. You mentioned the super PAC. They have spent more in Iowa than any entity on advertising, they have the largest personnel footprint, and they have chaperoned you to 92 of the 99 counties that you visited. Are they essentially running your campaign in Iowa?

DeSantis: So, they have this ground operation that they stood up and a lot of people supported -- obviously our campaign doesn't work directly, they do that. They can invite me to different events. But I think the idea was that they would be able to really focus on this organization and it has been very, very -- I think they're getting close to 40,000 commits to caucus. That's an incredible number. The people are organized throughout all these 99 counties. That is how you do well here. And I think that people, when you look at it, it's like okay, we know the history of these caucuses, the people that have that organization overperform, the people that don't underperform. So, I think it was smart that they did that. I think that's how you have to do it. People will say oh, I like a primary better or a caucus better. Whatever it is, you've got to compete and you've got to do well. So, I think that that organization has been good. But that's the type of thing where there's investments and people say oh, they're doing this or doing that, and you're not necessarily going to see that until the actual caucus night. And I think people are going to be happy with it.

Masters: One of the things that has been making headlines nationally is that Congress is wrestling with a $110 billion aid package for things like what is happening in Israel and in Ukraine. You served in Congress. What would your input be right now if you were in Congress?

DeSantis: Well, one, just some of that money that they have already spent in places like Ukraine -- Trump supported defensive weapons, I supported Trump in that, and you hear a lot about that conversation. But there's been tens of billions of dollars that have gone to pay salaries for Ukrainian bureaucrats, pension payments, subsidizing small businesses, things that are basically like social welfare. And how can an American taxpayer, how can you look them in the eye and say yeah, you have an open border, millions of people coming in, you have all of these problems, veterans aren't being taken care of, all of these issues in our country, but you're going to have to fund the pension payment of somebody in a foreign country? That dog don't hunt. And so, I think Congress, just this is how they operate. They have their agenda and they're not focusing on the American people's agenda. Now, there is a movement in Congress to say okay, how can you care more about foreign borders than you do about your own? So, we are going to stand, I think the conservatives are saying they're going to stand and demand border legislation that is going to end this problem once and for all. And I think they have every right to stand there and insist on that. And you look, you even have the guy now from Pennsylvania, Fetterman, saying democrats got to get with the program. You can't just say we're never going to do anything to address this. And so, maybe you'll start to see some movement. But I just got asked earlier today by a voter, why would the democrats support -- you have 8 million people that have come in, you have all the fentanyl, we all see this, it's not helping Biden politically right now, why would they do it? And I think it's because since Trump ran on the border, I think that they felt that they had to oppose and I think they took positions that any type of border security is somehow wrong. That can't be the case. We know that there are people linked to terrorism that have come through because our own administration has said over 200 people on the terror watch list have come -- that's just who we know. And I tell people also, the people that probably are the most threatening to us that would be potential terrorists are people not on our government's radar. So, it has been a huge security threat and you've got to be able to deal with your own border.

Henderson: Our time is quickly going to whittle away here. We have a couple of questions about the ethanol industry. First of all, the Renewable Fuel Standard, do you support it? And number two, what about the pipeline that is being built to perhaps sequester carbon and ship it to underground storage out of state?

DeSantis: So, we will enforce the RFS and we will do a year-round waiver for E-15 and we'll also look to do even higher blends, allow people to do that, because I do think that there is a market. I think the EPA has tried to push back on that saying somehow it was bad for the environment. I don't think it's bad for the environment at all. So, you will likely see, you'll see not only the year round E15, but we'll also see the ability to do more. And I think what happens is when government is greenlighting that, that will allow then the auto industry to respond, and I think they would be able to produce some good cars. The other thing I'm going to do that is going to help the industry is I'm going to reverse the EV mandates that Biden has done. We're going to save the American automobile internal combustion engine with liquid fuels, you have every right to purchase that. I have no problem if people want to buy an electric vehicle. But what Biden is doing is one, it's going to bankrupt the automobile industry because people don't want these cars, it's not going to be affordable for consumers. And what's going to happen is you're going to have used cars go through the roof in terms of the price on that. And then I think we don't have the grid capacity to add tens of millions of new EVs. California, I debated Gavin Newsom the other night, they did a similar mandate and then two days later they made an announcement to all EV owners in California not to plug in your EV because the grid can't handle it. So, I think that's a total disaster with that. So, I think the farmers here will have a strong friend with me as President of the United States.

Henderson: We have less than a minute left. Florida State is not in the college football playoffs. You have set aside money in the state budget to sue. Why?

DeSantis: Well, they're looking at if there is any action. And I don't know if there is. But I felt that that's something that as Governor I should support. I'm neutral as I didn't go to any of them as Governor. But my three kids, first grade, kindergarten and pre-K, they're noles, and we live in Tallahassee in the Governor's residence. I told them a couple of weeks ago, all Florida State has to do is win their remaining games, they'll be undefeated and they'll be in the playoffs. They won their remaining games, they went undefeated, won the conference championship and they're not in the playoffs. So, I have some disappointed kids saying, daddy, you told me they were going to be in the playoffs. Why not? So, obviously when you have two one loss teams, and they're both good teams, but you have an undefeated conference champion, people look at it and say, what is going on here? So, I don't know whether there's going to be any action. Obviously, the games aren't going to change. But it has cost the university a lot of money if you think about the damages. Being in that college football playoff versus being in the Orange Bowl is a big, big difference. They had a great year. We're proud of what they did. And they should have been in.

Henderson: Governor, our time here at the Iowa Press table is done. Thank you for joining us today.

DeSantis: Thank you.

Henderson: You can watch every episode of Iowa Press at For everyone here at Iowa PBS, thanks for watching.


Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa PBS Foundation.

The Associated General Contractors of Iowa, the public's partner in building Iowa's highway, bridge and municipal utility infrastructure.

Elite Casino Resorts is rooted in Iowa. Elite's 1,600 employees are our company's greatest asset. A family run business, Elite supports volunteerism, encourages promotions from within, and shares profits with our employees.

Across Iowa, hundreds of neighborhood banks strive to serve their communities, provide jobs and help local businesses. Iowa Banks are proud to back the life you build. Learn more at