Ron DeSantis Embraces Folksy Campaign Style to Connect with Voters

During his visit to Laconia, New Hampshire, Governor Ron DeSantis made a humorous comment about bringing the Florida sunshine with him, acknowledging the criticism that he lacks a folksy campaigning style expected in early nomination contest states. This new approach deviates from his TV-focused campaigns in Florida and is indicative of a shift towards engaging in small talk to better connect with voters.

DeSantis also emphasizes his working-class background, highlighting that he was a blue-collar kid. Dressed in jeans and black cowboy boots, he mentioned his steelworker grandfather and thanked the crowd for sharing Tom Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His recent appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first GOP contests will take place next year, have been well-received, as voters in these states value direct interactions with candidates. However, DeSantis displayed some discomfort with traditional retail politics by not taking questions from voters, which drew criticism from an Associated Press reporter.

While the GOP electorate often exhibits hostility towards the mainstream media, a confrontational tone towards a voter may carry a political cost. Former President Donald Trump, campaigning in Iowa, seized the opportunity to capitalize on DeSantis’s outburst, highlighting the importance of taking questions from the audience. Trump has been actively shaping the narrative around DeSantis, asserting that he lacks the necessary personality, a sentiment shared by many who perceive DeSantis as introverted and aloof.

DeSantis’s staff is encouraged by his inclusion of more personal anecdotes and biography in his speeches. They also appreciate his efforts to engage with voters after his speeches, even though it limits the time for substantive questions. While some voters, like Jan Farley, prioritize policy over personality, they still recognize the value of relatability in a candidate.

Casey DeSantis, the governor’s wife and closest adviser, has accompanied him on stage, sharing stories about their family life and highlighting his accomplishments. The presence of his wife humanizes him and adds a personal touch to his campaign. At events, Governor DeSantis interacts with attendees, shakes hands, signs autographs, and poses for photos, demonstrating his willingness to connect with voters.

On the other hand, Trump has been making deliberate efforts to connect with voters through impromptu visits to local establishments, such as a fried-chicken restaurant in South Carolina and a McDonald’s in Ohio, where he buys burgers for locals. These interactions generate valuable local TV coverage and create a contrast with DeSantis, although the Florida governor has also made similar stops.

George B. Roberts Jr., an 84-year-old Republican and former speaker of the New Hampshire House, left the Laconia event impressed but suggested that DeSantis shorten his stump speech and allow for audience questions. Roberts emphasized the importance of being tested through interactions with voters and adjusting accordingly.

State Representative Mark Pearson also encouraged DeSantis to prioritize one-on-one voter contact but emphasized the need for authenticity. Pearson noted that voters in New Hampshire are skilled at identifying phoniness and advised DeSantis to engage with them genuinely. He acknowledged that DeSantis might be shy but urged him to learn the art of personal connection.

Meanwhile, Trump’s visit to Iowa was a strategic move to overshadow DeSantis’s campaign debut in the state. The former president tried to connect with voters by visiting a conservative club, meeting with faith leaders, and participating in a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity.

Trump’s approach involves impromptu interactions with locals, which often receive extensive coverage in local news and are seen as more valuable than paid advertisements. This deliberate contrast to DeSantis aims to solidify the narrative that Trump possesses the necessary qualities DeSantis lacks.

Overall, DeSantis’s campaign strategy is evolving to address criticisms regarding his campaigning style. While he is well-received by some voters, there is a growing demand for more interactive sessions, including audience questions, to provide a deeper understanding of his policy positions and leadership style.

His conservative accomplishments in Florida serve as his chief selling point. The road ahead for DeSantis will require him to navigate the expectations of retail politics in early nomination contest states while staying true to his conservative values. As he refines his campaign strategy, DeSantis must strike a delicate balance between policy discussions and personal interactions to earn the trust and support of voters, particularly in states like New Hampshire and Iowa, where one-on-one connections play a crucial role in the political process.