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Remembering DeSantis in New Mexico


The closest I ever got to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was at an event hall in Carlsbad covering one of the weirder political events of my career.

It was Aug. 14, 2022, shortly before DeSantis’ landslide reelection victory, beating Charlie Crist by 19 percent and raising his profile as a presidential prospect. DeSantis was an undisputed star of the Republican Party that summer. Polls, those fascinating crystal balls for political journalists, suggested he was at least the second choice of his party behind Donald Trump and might even be a favorite in some states.

DeSantis came to Carlsbad to stump for Republican candidates Mark Ronchetti (for governor) and Yvette Herrell (for Congress), and presumably also to say hello to New Mexico Republican voters.

Reporters were shown to a platform in the back of the room. Naturally, we wanted to talk to folks who showed up for the event, to hear how they were thinking about the midterm elections, the presidential field or simply how they felt about government and the economy. When we attempted to strike up those conversations, however, event staffers hissed at us to stay by our island in back: No talking to people. Meanwhile, a Ronchetti campaign staffer peeked over my shoulder to see what I was typing on my laptop. 

This was also the event where Shaun Griswold, a reporter who had registered to attend after being denied a press credential, was prevented even from entering the hall. Security guards identified him by a photograph stored on their mobile phones. Brilliantly, he improvised a sign introducing himself as a journalist and asking, “Why are you here? What can the news do better?” Outside the event, he was able to do what reporters inside could not: talk to people.

Inside, a young woman repping DeSantis told us the governor would not be speaking to any reporters that day. At the time, he was establishing hostility to mainstream news organizations as part of his brand, favoring ideologically conservative media that may have been friendlier to his presentations but also reached a narrower portion of the electorate than he would need, if he was serious about wresting the nomination from Trump and then being elected president.

By the time he stepped out of the echo chamber and consented to talk to more press (even CNN!) it was too late to re-introduce himself and may have looked to his followers like selling out.

It turned out he wasn’t very good at talking to people after all, despite giving Iowa everything he had as a candidate. There were a lot of other reasons, good ones and stupid ones, that his candidacy sank, as well. It is the way of rising stars: They fall when they run out of fuel, and the most massive ones use it up most quickly.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republican Party, reporters