Florida Politics’ Politician of the Year: Casey DeSantis

Florida Politics’ Politician of the Year: Casey DeSantis

The DeSantis name and brand reverberate far beyond the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee.

What once was whispered about a presidential run in 2024 now is openly discussed from the east coast to the Pacific Ocean, much to the dismay of another Florida resident who has convinced a not-insignificant number of gullibles that he lost the 2020 election because of chicanery.

But while DeSantis tiptoes softly through that minefield, Republicans see a skilled politician who may be the party’s best chance to return to the White House two years hence. That politician receives appropriate praise for the right blend of instinct about what will best sell to the GOP base and beyond.

That politician has become a phenomenon.

We refer, of course, to Casey DeSantis — the Florida Politics Politician of the Year for 2022.

Wait! What?? Don’t you mean Gov. Ron DeSantis?

Nope. He’s OK, too, at what he does — if you’re into that sort of thing.

However, there is a growing sense that without his wife Casey by his side, Ron DeSantis would just be Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley. Just another MAGA Ivy Leaguer who senses Donald Trump’s blood is in the water.

Casey is the difference-maker, both publicly and privately.

“It’s clear she’s the X factor,” Scott Parkinson, one of Ron’s former Chiefs of Staff in the U.S. House, told Business Insider. “They complete the political element that is Ron DeSantis. Without Casey, he would not be the same person.”

Publicly, she is the glamorous and compassionate mom of three and a devoted wife. Meanwhile, her husband can sometimes appear churlish and annoyed when questioned by reporters who want to know why he picked this fight or that one.

She became the face of the Governor’s response to Hurricane Ian, with photos of her hugging distraught homeowners who lost everything filling Instagram and other social media sites.

Casey also raised $45 million in short order for hurricane relief.

Her skills as a former TV anchor in Jacksonville came in handy too.

The campaign commercial she cut — reportedly ad-libbing with no script — about her husband’s care for her and her children during her battle with cancer with a drop-the-mic moment. It turned what would be a win for the Governor anyway into a Godzilla-like stomping of Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.

While she plays — but doesn’t overplay — the role of a dutiful wife and supporter of her husband, no one doubts her influence behind the closed doors of power.

The Governor keeps his circle right — Casey and maybe his Chief of Staff. In a story headlined “Ronny & Nancy of Tallahassee,” Puck reported she interviews nearly everyone seeking a high-level job in the administration.

“There’s an operating agreement between the two,” Democratic state Sen. Jason Pizzo told Insider. “She is his rock, his biggest supporter. I get the sense she really believes in where he’s going.”

Many assume the Governor has his GPS set for North and East to a city along the Potomac River. He has almost gone too far to turn back now on a presidential run — although anything can happen in politics, and 2024 is still two years away.

However, consider this: If he takes that path and is successful, Casey DeSantis likely will be a major reason why. She has shaped his image as a bare-knuckle brawler against “WOKE” culture, and that stance is unlikely to change. But she also is the softener in her husband’s hard-edged image about things with which he disagrees.

That won’t change, either.

And suppose one day that Ron DeSantis puts his hand on the Bible and promises to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. In that case, his No. 1 asset will be at his elbow, beaming radiantly, and the TV commentators won’t stop themselves from comparing Casey to Jackie Kennedy.

That we can even imagine such a scene is a testament to Casey DeSantis’ political prowess. She might not have been on the ballot, but her skill as a tactician and politician is undeniable.

That’s why she’s the Florida Politics Politician of the Year.

Editor’s note: This selection is the consensus of the staff of Florida Politics, with this column authored by our retired colleague Joe Henderson.

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