President Donald Trump has become more than a part-time Florida man since taking office.
At least that’s Gov. Ron DeSantis’ take, as Trump prepares to formally announce his re-election campaign next week at Orlando’s Amway Center.
“The reason they’re in Florida is because, really if you look at it, since he’s taken office, Florida really has been his home,” DeSantis said Tuesday while in The Villages “He’s not spent any time in New York City. Palm Beach has kind of been the place. Orlando is just at the center of so much going on in our state.”
Since taking office, Trump has made 33 trips to Florida, spending 99 nights at his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago, according to NBC News and The New York Times. Trips to Florida have included visits to areas hit by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael, 2018 midterm election rallies in Tampa, Fort Myers and Pensacola and a May 8 rally in Panama City Beach.
DeSantis said Trump has been receptive to suggestions about boosting federal funding for Everglades restoration and hurricane response, including vows to repair Tyndall Air Force Base, and about working with the state to allow Floridians to have access to lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada.
“I think he understands Florida issues more than other presidents who didn’t have as much of a relationship with Florida,” DeSantis said.
Trump’s Florida trips are topped only by 66 excursions to Virginia, where he’s mostly traveled to Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, near Washington, D.C.
His third most-visited state, with 18 trips, is New Jersey, home of Trump National Golf Resort in Bedminster.
The importance of Florida on the 2020 presidential election isn’t lost on either party.
As DeSantis praised Trump for his attention to the Sunshine State, the Florida Democratic Party announced plans for 90 new paid organizers who will spread across the state “reminding voters what is at stake in 2020 and laying the groundwork to defeat Donald Trump in Florida.”
Trump opponents also plan a rally, called the “Win With Love Rally,” on Tuesday near the Amway Center.
Meanwhile, Trump is predicting a big crowd for his campaign kickoff, tweeting Wednesday, “Wow! Just got word that our June 18th, Tuesday, ANNOUNCEMENT in Orlando, Florida, already has 74,000 requests for a 20,000 seat Arena.”
DeSantis, who will attend the campaign rally, said he suggested the event be held inside.
“Look, it’s starting to get hot,” DeSantis said. “We want people to be comfortable.”
SPECIAL (AMENDMENT) ELECTIONS?
Expanding on his desire to kill off the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, DeSantis mused Wednesday that voting on statewide amendments could be held on a separate election day.
DeSantis had previously suggested that lawmakers in 2020 look again at abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to propose changes to the state’s top legal document. Lawmakers considered such a proposal during this year’s session but did not approve it.
The commission has drawn heavy criticism because it “bundled” unrelated issues into single constitutional amendments last year.
Many Republican leaders have complained about what they view as a proliferation of proposed constitutional amendments. They contend that the issues would be better dealt with in the Legislature than through the Constitution --- though Democrats and other groups say constitutional amendments are necessary because the Legislature often ignores the wishes of voters.
DeSantis this week continued to decry the bundling by the Constitution Revision Commission, while also defending a new law (HB 5) that will make it more difficult to amend the Constitution through citizen petition initiatives.
Meanwhile, he suggested that a way to ease the potential for ballot fatigue would be to hold separate elections for candidates and amendments. The idea is that voters have enough on their minds when faced with deciding presidential, congressional, legislative, judicial, county and local contests before getting to state and local ballot initiatives.
It should be noted, however, that changing when constitutional amendments are put before voters would require voter approval.
RAY ROD RAKES IT IN
Senate Republican leaders had left little doubt that they want Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, to succeed term-limited Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, next year.
After all, Sen. Wilton Simpson, who is slated to become Senate president next year, endorsed Rodrigues last month and was joined by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, who both would like to become president in 2022.
That might be enough to clear the field in Lee County’s Senate District 27. But if there were any doubts, Rodrigues’ new campaign-finance filings show that his campaign also is backed by big money.
Rodrigues raised $122,000 for his campaign account from May 16 to May 31, with $1,000 checks pouring in from dozens of Tallahassee players. Meanwhile, a political committee tied to Rodrigues raised $84,500 in May --- and had about $909,000 in cash on hand.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “I have directed today's Pulse Remembrance Day proclamation be corrected and re-issued to include a direct reference to our LGBTQ and Hispanic communities who were attacked during this horrific act of violence at Pulse three years ago.” --- Gov. Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis), after facing criticism about an original version of the proclamation that left out reference to the LGBTQ community. A shooter killed 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.
--- News Service Executive Editor Jim Saunders contributed to this report.