In March, he signed legislation prohibiting classroom instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in some elementary school grades, a law that opponents derided as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It also placed DeSantis squarely in the culture-war debate over transgender rights, a theme he has continued to address. In a debate last night against his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, DeSantis gave a graphic and inaccurate description of gender-affirming care for transgender children, suggesting falsely that doctors were “mutilating” minors.
Last month, DeSantis prompted liberal condemnation and conservative applause when he sent two chartered planeloads of undocumented migrants from Texas — hundreds of miles from the Florida state line — to Martha’s Vineyard, the moneyed Massachusetts vacation spot frequented by celebrities and former Democratic presidents. It was an idea that Stephen Miller, a Trump policy adviser, had pursued while working in the White House, but that others in the administration rejected.
And unlike Lake, who has remained loyal to Trump, DeSantis has criticized him from the right, saying that he regretted not speaking out against Trump’s early Covid shutdowns. While Lake has fielded questions about running with Trump, DeSantis seems more likely to run against him in 2024. DeSantis refused to say in last night’s debate whether he would serve a full, four-year term if re-elected. (Here are four takeaways from the debate.)
The Never Trumpers’ Trump
Glenn Youngkin is not running for office now — he won Virginia’s governor’s race last year — but he has emerged as an in-demand surrogate for candidates at all levels of the Trump spectrum.
Youngkin presents what some strategists think is the most politically viable national model for Republicans in a post-Trump era. He does not share Trump’s fiery style, packaging himself as a fleece-vest-wearing suburbanite who can keep Trump’s coalition intact while picking up a significant share of the suburban voters that determine elections in his home state. While he was campaigning, Youngkin liked to say he could bring together “forever Trumpers and never Trumpers.”
But on policy, he has embraced many of the issues that rally the base. He has called for a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, prohibited the teaching of critical race theory, restricted transgender students’ rights and expressed anger over pandemic lockdowns. He acknowledges that Biden won the 2020 election, but has campaigned for election deniers, including Lake.
Youngkin has insisted that he is not yet thinking about a presidential run in 2024. But his carefully crafted national profile — as well as his meetings with megadonors in New York City — hints otherwise.