Gov. Ron DeSantis highlights accomplishments of overseas trip but not without criticism

'Most importantly, people really want him to start punching back at Trump,' Dr. Susan MacManus says
Posted at 6:33 PM, Apr 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-27 18:33:31-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Gov. Ron DeSantis makes headlines overseas, criticism over his ongoing international trip is growing back in Florida. Democrats — even some Republicans — are taking shots.

Undeterred, highlights of the governor's trip keep flooding email inboxes.

In Japan, DeSantis met with officials to talk about aerospace partnerships and more direct flights. In South Korea, he announced the possible development of a clean hydrogen facility in Florida.

DeSantis' latest stop was in Israel where he met with the president and delivered a keynote address.

"We must reject those who reject Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state," DeSantis said early Thursday morning. "That is antisemitism."

The governor also signed a Florida bill fighting antisemitism. Among its provisions, making it illegal to project images on buildings without an owner's consent.

"You know, no governor has done more to fight antisemitism than Gov. DeSantis has," Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, the bill's sponsor, said. "We have the strongest anti-antisemitism bill in the country."

While some Florida Republicans continue to give the trip abroad rave reviews, others aren't as supportive. Trump supporter and Lake County GOP Chair Anthony Sabatini said DeSantis' absence is being felt in Tallahassee as the lawmaking session nears a close.

"Well, it's just certainly not an appropriate time to be taking escapades around the world," Sabatini, a former state representative, said. "You have great conservative bills dying left and right, and as a member of the state party … I'm just left scratching my head, why the governor would be in Japan and Israel."

Many see the trip as more than a trade mission but rather an attempt to strengthen a potential White House run. That's something DeSantis has repeatedly dismissed while on the road.

"If there's any announcements, those will come at the appropriate time," DeSantis told journalists Thursday.

That time that could be running out, political experts warn. Each day lost is one less the governor could secure publicity, money and more.

"Most importantly, people really want him to start punching back at Trump," Dr. Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida politics professor emerita, said. "The question is, is that a good strategy, or is it not?"

Former President Donald Trump has locked up many of Florida's GOP congressional endorsements. He has the former head of the state party, Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, on board. Trump also continues to hold a lead over DeSantis in national polling.

"He's (DeSantis) absolutely imploding, and we are all here to watch it," Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, said. "I think the biggest fear here for members on the other side of the aisle is that he comes back here after a failed attempt for the presidency — and comes back scorched earth and just a really big brat."

We keep hearing that if a presidential run is coming — it's coming soon. Pundits and others suggest it'll be in May, but a growing number think DeSantis may now hold back if support for the former president continues to grow.