Florida’s DeSantis Spends a Lot of Time Talking About Himself at Mastriano Rally

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 19: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Unite and Win Rally in support of Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at the Wyndham Hotel on August 19, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During his visit to the state, DeSantis urged Republican voters to stand behind Doug Mastriano. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

By Kalena Thomhave

August 22, 2022

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis traveled to Pittsburgh to boost Doug Mastriano in the governor’s race. He mostly touted his own record in what felt like a trial run for a 2024 presidential campaign.

When Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano introduced Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis Friday at a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Mastriano lauded DeSantis as “what a governor should be,” making it clear that he’d like to govern the Keystone State the way DeSantis governs the Sunshine State.

A video followed detailing how DeSantis has “terrified the left,” then Florida’s governor emerged while throwing “DeSantis” branded hats to the crowd. A song about him, which includes the lyrics “Our governor is red, white, and blue,” played in the background.

DeSantis was in Pittsburgh to campaign for Mastriano, part of a tour of appearances to prop up conservative candidates. Yet the “Unite and Win Rally” for Mastriano, held at the Wyndham Grand Hotel and hosted by right-wing youth organization Turning Point Action, featured DeSantis much more prominently than Mastriano.

Mastriano has repeatedly praised DeSantis, saying that as governor of Pennsylvania he would emulate DeSantis’s “gold standard” leadership and make Pennsylvania “the Florida of the North.” He also suggested in April that Florida’s conservative policies would look like “amateur hour” compared to a Mastriano administration.

True to form, he echoed DeSantis’s talking points on immigrants, LGBTQ rights, and the COVID-19 response.

Trans rights were a hot topic during the rally, an issue that resonated strongly with attendees, based on crowd reaction. Mastriano proclaimed, “No more men on the girls’ teams,” while DeSantis boasted, “The state of Florida is where ‘woke’ goes to die.” Mastriano also disparaged Dr. Rachel Levine, who was Pennsylvania Secretary of Health until President Biden appointed her to be his assistant secretary of health. Dr. Levine is a transgender woman. 

Mastriano and DeSantis both condemned the Democratic response to COVID-19, such as masks in schools — “kids muzzled up,” according to Mastriano. DeSantis talked about his mask mandate and vaccine requirement bans.

Even though Mastriano is the one running for governor, his stage time was brief compared to DeSantis. He spoke for less than 10 minutes, and conceded some of that time to his wife, Rebbie. She declared that Republicans did indeed support women’s rights, such as “the woman’s right to be born,” and the “right to live in a nation with a secure border — build that wall.” 

DeSantis spoke for more than 40 minutes about his record in Florida and early on quipped to the crowd that “some of you will end up being residents of Florida,” trying to sell the crowd on his fiscal responsibility. 

“Even with no state income tax,” he said, “Florida just ended its most recent fiscal year with the largest budget surplus in the history of our state.” 

DeSantis failed to mention that all states ended their recent fiscal years with substantial budget surpluses, largely due to federal aid in 2021’s American Rescue Plan Act, a key Biden win. Pennsylvania had a multi-billion-dollar budget surplus at the end of its fiscal year in June.

DeSantis also failed to reference Florida’s stunningly regressive tax structure, where the poorest Floridians pay nearly five times as much in taxes — as a percentage of their household income — as the top 1 percent in the state. A major reason is that instead of income taxes, the state relies disproportionately on sales taxes. Working- and middle-class families are burdened more by sales taxes than wealthy people, because working- and middle-class families spend more of what they earn than the rich do. If Mastriano does intend to model Pennsylvania after Florida, voters — especially those struggling to make ends meet — might want to take note of this fiscal strategy Mastriano could emulate. 

At a handful of points in his speech, DeSantis asserted the need for Pennsylvanians to vote for Mastriano, especially when suggesting places where Pennsylvania could become more like Florida. He said Mastriano would be a “law and order” governor like himself, “tough on illegal immigration.”

If DeSantis is feeling out a 2024 presidential run, it makes sense that he is working to connect with supporters of far-right candidates in battleground states like Pennsylvania. With little mention of Donald Trump, DeSantis may be hoping that voters — including Mastriano’s voters — see him as Trump’s rightful heir to the position of Republican standard bearer. 

However, while turning Pennsylvania into the Florida of the North might help DeSantis’s name recognition as we approach 2024, it would only make it harder for Pennsylvanians to make ends meet.

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