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DeSantis takes major step ahead of expected presidential bid

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The website for the committee was changed on Tuesday morning to say that its mission is “committed to advancing the Freedom Agenda and keeping Florida free.” But more importantly, the website was changed to say that the committee is associated with state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia and not DeSantis. The committee on Tuesday also filed paperwork that said Ingoglia replaced a Tampa accountant as the official chair of the organization.

Ingoglia is a Republican ally of DeSantis who sponsored several of the governor’s key legislative priorities during the recently concluded legislative session, including a crackdown on illegal immigration that includes $12 million for the governor’s controversial migrant relocation program.

A spokesperson with DeSantis’ political operation did not comment on the shift and Ingoglia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis first set up his committee back in 2018 and he used it to raise a record amount of money for his re-election campaign last year as he pulled in donations from many major Republican donors. Current campaign finance records show that the committee has nearly $86 million in the bank.

But DeSantis cannot use money raised for Friends of Ron DeSantis in a federal race because state law does not limit how much someone can give to the political committee or the source of the donations. But that money could be shifted to a super PAC that backs DeSantis if the governor is no longer connected to the political committee. While some have questioned the legality of such a move, the Federal Elections Commission deadlocked over a similar strategy that was used by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.).

Ingoglia did not respond to a question about whether or not the political committee will shift money to a super PAC helping the governor’s bid for the White House.

This step comes as DeSantis ratchets up plans to start stumping for his White House bid.

After concluding a frenzied legislative session last week, the governor flew to the battleground state of Wisconsin — which former President Donald Trump won in 2016 and lost four years later — to make an appeal to the Marathon County GOP. On Saturday, he plans to hit the early voting state of Iowa to attend Rep. Randy Feenstra’s annual picnic. And next month he will head to Nevada, another early voting state, to headline an annual Basque fry event.

In the meantime, he has been hosting dinners with financial supporters at his official residence in Tallahassee, and trying to assure them he could win critical states like Georgia and Arizona, according to someone with knowledge who was granted anonymity to share details of the private discussions. And he recently dined with Evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, who runs the conservative Family Leader in Iowa.

He has also been fine-tuning his stump speech as he goes on the road — seeking to bolster his arguments against President Joe Biden while figuring out a way to differentiate himself from Trump without alienating the ex-president’s loyal base.

“Joe Biden has done more to damage this country in two and a half years than any president in our lifetime,” he said during his speech in Wisconsin.

But DeSantis avoided any mention of Trump — instead highlighting his own electoral success in Florida in an attempt to underscore the weak performance by candidates tied to the ex-president, a frustration for many Republicans. He previewed a few other potential attack lines against his chief primary rival, calling out Trump’s former top Covid-19 advisor, Anthony Fauci, whose early pandemic guidance DeSantis proudly bucked.

But in a recent Newsmax interview, DeSantis directly responded to Trump’s attacks on the governor’s past support of cuts to Medicare.

“Those are Democrat attacks. I don’t think anyone really buys that,” DeSantis said about ads Trump’s PAC is running. “Donald Trump himself wrote a book where he was talking about the need to increase the age of eligibility for Social Security to 70 and said people shouldn’t be worried about retiring, just keep working.”

Polling consistently shows DeSantis trailing Trump in the primary but competing well in a head-to-head contest with Biden.



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( With inputs from : www.politico.com )

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