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Ron DeSantis Rallies With Doug Mastriano and J.D. Vance

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PITTSBURGH — Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, widely seen because the Republican who poses the largest threat to Donald J. Trump in the event that they each run for president in 2024, blitzed through Pennsylvania and Ohio on Friday during a national tour with hard-right candidates that was clearly intended to raise his standing and earn political capital with potential future leaders in battleground states.

Before an audience of greater than 1,000 at an event in Pittsburgh nominally meant to assist the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, Mr. DeSantis delivered a 40-minute address that had the trimmings of a speech by a national candidate: bits of non-public biography, blasts on the Biden administration and boasts of his Florida accomplishments, which were heavy on cultural messages.

“We will’t just stand idly by while woke ideology ravages every institution in our society,” Mr. DeSantis proclaimed, citing laws he has signed to bar transgender athletes from girls’ and ladies’s sports and to ban instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation in early grades.

As he goals to wrest control of the conservative movement, Mr. DeSantis is appearing with a few of its highest-profile and most incendiary figures — midterm candidates who, unlike him, have relentlessly pushed the fiction that the 2020 election was stolen. His rallies on Friday for Mr. Mastriano and J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee for Senate in Ohio, got here five days after an event for Kari Lake, the G.O.P. pick for governor of Arizona, and Blake Masters, the nominee for Senate there.

The catch: All of those candidates discover with Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement and have his endorsement.

That leaves Mr. DeSantis walking a effective line as he tries to construct alliances with Mr. Trump’s chosen 2022 candidates while concurrently conveying the message that the Republican Party doesn’t belong only to the previous president.

Mr. DeSantis and his allies might even see a political opening in Mr. Trump’s mounting legal problems. But at the identical time, the previous president is widely expected to embark on a 3rd run for the White House, and the investigations surrounding him have prompted Republicans to circle wagons around their embattled leader, reaffirming his power over the party.

Supporters of Mr. DeSantis imagine he can appeal to many Republicans as a figure who fights the identical cultural battles as Mr. Trump but without the chaos and with the power to win over some moderate voters beyond the party’s base.

“DeSantis leans into and leads on the essential policy issues people care about, but he does so without the off-putting craziness that turns off independent and swing voters — the people you should win Pennsylvania,” said Matthew Brouillette, the leader of an influential conservative political group within the state. “They gave Trump a probability in 2016, but had enough in 2020. It’s time to maneuver on.”

In Pittsburgh, Mr. DeSantis began his speech with a private slide show that was typical of how a candidate may be introduced at a political convention, including an image of him as a toddler in a Pittsburgh Steelers hat.

The governor, who has a status as a sometimes picket speaker, stood throughout his address behind a rostrum as if giving a lecture, holding on to its edges along with his hands.

But the group reacted enthusiastically, regularly jumping to its feet as he spoke of how under his watch, Florida had banned what he called “ballot harvesting,” or the practice of voters depositing ballots for other people, in addition to prohibited schools from enacting mask mandates through the pandemic.

He attacked Democrats’ newly passed climate, health and tax law by zeroing in on its hiring of greater than 80,000 Internal Revenue Service employees over a decade, meant partially to revive the agency’s depleted enforcement staff. Echoing conspiracy theories on the suitable in regards to the hires, which the Biden administration says won’t end in recent audits of households earning under $400,000, Mr. DeSantis claimed that the increased staffing was “absolutely going to hit people who find themselves small business folks, contractors, handymen, you name it.”

On Tuesday, Florida Democrats will determine whether to nominate Representative Charlie Crist or Nikki Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner, to challenge Mr. DeSantis in November. Mr. DeSantis’s national profile has allowed him to boost greater than $130 million in campaign money, making him a formidable incumbent.

Democrats know they face long odds to defeat him, but they’ve recently begun to imagine there may be a narrow path to achieve this, partially due to voter frustration over the elimination of federal abortion rights and a recent Florida law restricting abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

How Times reporters cover politics.
We depend on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are usually not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.

Mr. DeSantis, who didn’t reply to a request for comment, also appeared on Friday evening at an event with Mr. Vance outside Youngstown, Ohio. On Sunday, he campaigned in Arizona with Ms. Lake and Mr. Masters, in addition to in Recent Mexico with Mark Ronchetti, the Republican nominee for governor, and Representative Yvette Herrell.

His appearances have been organized by Turning Point Motion, a conservative youth group led by Charlie Kirk, 28, who’s near the Trump family and has been a number one purveyor of misinformation about topics including the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 election and climate change.

Jewish Democratic leaders in Florida criticized Mr. DeSantis’s planned appearance with Mr. Mastriano in the identical city because the Tree of Life synagogue.

“When Ron DeSantis goes to Pennsylvania to campaign for Mastriano, what he’s doing is he’s encouraging the entire bigotry,” said Rabbi Mark Winer, the president of the Florida Democratic Party Jewish Caucus.

In Ohio, the DeSantis rally is within the congressional district of Representative Tim Ryan, the Democratic nominee for Senate, who’s giving Mr. Vance an unexpectedly close challenge in a state that has tilted reliably red in recent times.

Republicans’ worries in regards to the race were confirmed on Thursday when an excellent PAC tied to Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, said it was reserving $28 million in TV and radio ads to assist Mr. Vance, an unlimited increase over earlier Republican commitments to the competition.

In Florida, Mr. DeSantis has governed the state as a laboratory for right-wing policy, regardless that the red-tinged state continues to be a reasonably evenly divided battleground. But as he campaigns to the Trump-loving G.O.P. base as a pugilist fighting “woke” liberals, he has been careful thus far in televised ads for his re-election campaign to strike a somewhat different tone.

Most of his ads don’t include a message from Mr. DeSantis himself; slightly, they feature people praising his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and voice-over readings of thank-you letters his office has received from joyful constituents.

Mr. DeSantis has avoided repeating false claims about fraud within the 2020 presidential contest, preferring to give attention to the election laws he has pushed in Florida, including the creation of an office of election crimes and security. On Thursday, he announced that 17 people had been charged with casting illegal ballots in 2020 — an election during which 11.1 million Floridians voted.

A few of Mr. DeSantis’s cultural offensives have met legal resistance: On Thursday, a federal judge blocked a key a part of one among the governor’s signature laws, often called the Stop WOKE Act, which bans discussions of race that make people uncomfortable in schools and corporations.

After Mr. DeSantis spoke in Pittsburgh, Jack Lynch, a close-by resident and business owner, said the Florida governor had “exceeded my expectations by far.”

He called the speech “a prerelease” to a DeSantis run for president. Asked if the governor would win his vote against Mr. Trump in a 2024 primary, Mr. Lynch said, “I feel he’s on the trail of doing that with lots of people here, not only myself.”

Trip Gabriel reported from Pittsburgh, and Patricia Mazzei from Miami.

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