There's plenty of time to tell tales of Florida's DeSantis boom

So, Ron DeSantis is in. Completely, unambiguously, wholeheartedly. In. Good. No, excellent. Like Indian River oranges, the governor is ready to become Florida’s latest export to a grateful nation.

Let others nitpick the snafu-glitchy rollout that kneecapped Twitter. Missed opportunity? Maybe. And snarky naysayers who never were, and cannot be counted on to be, in DeSantis’ camp duly wet themselves.

Their moment of glee was fleeting, as demonstrated by the eye-popping $8.2 million the campaign raised in the ensuing 24 hours. Maybe the announcement was fumbled, but Team DeSantis team recovered the ball.

A day later, the campaign, displaying an alert sense of humor and nimble feet, was out with a T-shirt having fun with systems DeSantis breaks, starting with the internet.

What fascinates now is the advice DeSantis is getting about how he should campaign. Less of one thing. More of the other. We present, for example, National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty (who, for the record, is a DeSantis fan).

My cards have been on the table for a while now. I think DeSantis has the best chance of any Republican of uniting the party and building a winning coalition for 2024. I’m not worried about the eight minutes of silence in his Twitter launch. I’m worried that his campaign against “the woke mind virus” takes up 20 percent too much of his precious time, and that his campaign is basically silent on an economic model or agenda for Americans.

Dougherty urges DeSantis to focus on the economy, on “jobs that support families, and restoring upward mobility,” to talk about policies that will enable younger generations to own homes “where they can [rear] the next generation of Americans and pass down our traditions and way of life.”

This is not an entirely unfair criticism, although it is a bit premature. DeSantis does, indeed, have a bracing, bordering on exciting, narrative of economic policy success to brag on. But it’s also incumbent upon him to carefully explain his role in Florida’s “war on woke,” since it is the aspect of DeSantis most maligned and falsely caricatured by Big Media and the left (insert joke here).

The anti-woke story, too, is a scintillating story appreciated by some 60% of the Florida electorate who value innocence in children and think corporations operating in the state should play by the same rules, and DeSantis needs to tell it.

Giving Dougherty his due, however, Florida’s economy under DeSantis’ gubernatorial policies has been nothing short of phenomenal. Don’t take my word for it. I only live here. For verification, we turn to an unlikely source: PolitiFact.

To the question “How has Florida fared economically under DeSantis’ watch?” this bane of the right replies — perhaps grudgingly — “On most key metrics examined, DeSantis has reason to tout success.”

On employment, GDP, population growth and in-migration, and the cost of housing, Florida has been stellar during the DeSantis years.

“Overall, I would say that Gov. DeSantis has been a good steward,” said William J. Luther, a Florida Atlantic University economist. “He inherited a well-performing state and has generally ensured that the state continues to work well for its residents.”

Luther’s faint praise — DeSantis didn’t mess up a good thing — overlooks key science- and data-based decisions the governor made when hyperactive pandemic lockdowns were pummeling other states’ economies.

To its credit, PolitiFact acknowledges as much:

A key turning point for DeSantis came during the coronavirus pandemic, when he decided that opening the state to economic activity was worth the health risk. … But the economic benefits were clear.

Florida not only returned to pre-COVID job totals nine months ahead of the nation as a whole, but the back-to-work wave also was broad-based. Construction barely took a hit. Manufacturing was back to level in 11 months. Leisure and hospitality, hammered by closings and social-distancing rules, returned to pre-pandemic levels by July 2022, nine months earlier than the rest of the country.

Better still, Florida’s unemployment rate has tracked lower than the U.S. as a whole. As for GDP, here’s PolitiFact: 

Under DeSantis, another key measure — gross domestic product, the sum total of all economic activity within the state — has thrived. Adjusted for inflation, GDP has risen faster in Florida than it has for the nation as a whole. In fact, over time, Florida has been pulling away from the nation.

DeSantis hasn’t done much about closing the gap between Florida’s hourly wage earners and the national average (about 8%). Not that any one governor could. But there’s something to be said for being paid — as the time-honored joke goes — in sunshine.

This is also a good time to mention that today DeSantis signed bills offering in the neighborhood of $2.7 billion in tax cuts for Florida residents. There’s permanent sales tax relief on baby and toddler necessities (strollers, cribs, diapers, baby wipes, and so on) and assorted sales tax holidays for purchasing school supplies and disaster preparedness items, as well as a Memorial Day-to-Labor Day hiatus on sales tax collections for recreational items and children’s toys.

Side note: The last one means a summer-long 7.5% break on the price of Pro V1s. This alone is enough to keep me voting Republican. Hey, you pick your hill to die on. I’ll pick mine.

All-in-all, DeSantis has a story to tell about pro-growth policies that apply across the board, benefit everyone while generating record tax revenues and huge surpluses, and are inspiring Americans (but not just Americans) to make Florida their home.

It’s a compelling tale of ambition wrapped in triumph. There’s time enough to tell it.

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