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Newly released opposition research on DeSantis reveals Democrats' fears and future smears

Photo by ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images

American Bridge 21st Century is one of the largest research, tracking, and propaganda firms utilized by the Democratic Party. This week it released 500 pages of opposition research concerning prospective presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. AB2C also launched a corresponding website cataloging its various fears and smears.

While this trove of intelligence, counter intelligence, and borderline libels may provide Democrats and other leftists with unifying themes to campaign on or against, the resultant caricature of DeSantis similarly provides insights into his perceived strengths — and how he might use them to great effect in 2024.

AB2C distilled down its concerns and projections thusly: "Who is Ron DeSantis? He's a failed governor. He's a threat to Social Security and Medicare. He's a corrupt and authoritarian career politician, and he's a policy extremist who's out of touch with the voters on every issue."

The researchers accusing DeSantis of failure, authoritarian tendencies, and a detachment from the voters are keenly aware that he won his second gubernatorial election with nearly 60% of the vote and nearly a 20-point difference between him and his Democratic opponent. All but five counties turned or remained red, including Miami-Dade.

According to the latest Mason-Dixon Florida poll, 59% of registered voters in the state approve of DeSantis' performance as governor.

The latest Marquette Law School Poll national survey found that in a matchup, Biden and Trump would each receive 38% of the vote. However, in a matchup between Biden and DeSantis, the Florida governor would receive 42% of the vote and the president 41%.

The researchers are also likely aware that their accusation — that DeSantis is a "career politician" — may not necessarily land with voters cognizant of the governor's history serving in Iraq as a Navy lieutenant and advisor to SEAL Team One.

Like past opposition research dossiers, AB2C's aim appears to be less objective and more rhetorical, particularly since the bulk of the other premises driving along this caricature of a bumbling authoritarian do not stand up to scrutiny.

Straw man

In arguing that DeSantis is a failed governor, the dossier claims he "played politics with Floridians' lives throughout the pandemic."

To this end, AB2C suggests that DeSantis "spread misinformation about the COVID-19, including that the vaccine caused fertility issues, getting boosted would make people more likely to get COVID-19, masking in schools was ineffective, that the state was overcounting COVID-19 deaths, that undocumented people were to blame for the spread of COVID-19, and that natural immunity was the best way to fight against COVID-19."

Should Democrats repeat these particular talking points, they may have to ignore the studies and reports that have confirmed the veracity of many of DeSantis' assertions.

The dossier also frames DeSantis' support of school choice and parental rights as a failure, claiming it helped ensure low pay for teachers in the state, teacher shortages, and the diversion of "funds away from public schools and into private schools."

In the section claiming DeSantis was a failure, the Democratic propaganda outfit included a record of numerous laws DeSantis advanced and/or ratified, including those pertaining to the pandemic and wokeness in schools. It is not clear whether this record was intended to bolster the researcher's argument to serve as counterpoint, evidencing the governor's efficacy.

Among those detailed was legislation:

  • protecting the unborn;
  • requiring abortionists to obtain parental consent before victimizing a pregnant minor;
  • making it a crime for a doctor to medically inseminate a patient without their consent;
  • repealing the state health officer's authority to impose vaccine mandates during a public health emergency;
  • adding penalties for making death or terroristic threats online;
  • recognizing domestic violence as a public health threat;
  • preventing rapists from obtaining bail while on a post-trial motion or appeal;
  • criminalizing sexually-explicit deepfakes and revenge porn; and
  • various other bills ostensibly popular with the citizenry.

Whereas the governor's COVID leadership, his support of parental rights, and his ability to pass popular legislation may not be the silver bullets AB2C frames them to be, the dossier's subsection on Florida housing prices is a sticking point for some opponents.

Florida didn't make Forbes' September 2022 list of the top 15 states with the highest average home prices; however, the cost of buying a home or renting an apartment has since risen at a faster rate than in most other states, reported the Tampa Bay Times.

The Times noted that DeSantis "largely ignored the affordable housing crisis during his first term."

So far in his second term, DeSantis appears to have made efforts to account for this alleged blind spot, endorsing legislation to address the problem.

Part of the solution entails Republican's $711 million plan to construct more affordable housing and incentivize new builds with tax breaks and interest-free loans. This legislation passed late last month.

An incapable tyrant

AB2C attempts to simultaneously depict DeSantis as bumbling and tyrannical, intellectually inflexible and a flip-flopper.

For instance, the researchers indicate that the Florida governor is simultaneously capable of making an example of the behemothic Walt Disney Corporation, which had endeavored to use its corporate might to defeat a popular bill buttressing parental rights in education but an "amateur" when weighing in on matters of international concern.

After denouncing DeSantis for not wielding the full power of the state to coerce the populace into adhering to federal pandemic protocols, the researchers suggested that he otherwise "wields the power of the state for his own benefit, not the benefit of the people who put him in office."

While insinuating an authoritarian rigidity in DeSantis' thinking, the researchers have an entire section chronicling instances where he adapted his thinking in response to shifting trends and popular demands.

'An extremist on the issues'

AB2C claims that DeSantis is "an extremist on the issues," having "constantly positioned himself with the most extreme members of his party."

In the section advancing this claim, the researchers delineate potential wedge issues in the 2024 election, including abortion; banking; climate alarmism; gun control; taxes; China; unions; and veterans' affairs.

In addition to making the case that the governor's views on these issues are radical, the researchers also attempt to create daylight between former President Donald Trump and DeSantis on economic nationalism.

The document claims that DeSantis was "skeptical of Trump's trade tariffs on steel and aluminum"; "voted to increase the voting share of emerging countries at the IMF"; helped spare China from scrutiny for currency manipulation while in Congress; and enabled former President Barack Obama to pursue the Trans Pacific Partnership by voting for his "fast-track" authority.

Pat Dennis, the president of AB2C, admitted on Twitter, "Yes, I want them to attack each other."

Extra to fomenting infighting on the right, Dennis indicated his team hopes to help Democrats convince voters that DeSantis is "caught up in culture wars, unfit for office and utterly unprepared for the public pressure that comes with a contentious Republican presidential primary."

Axios reported that the dossier represents a year-long effort to brand DeSantis as a "MAGA extremist."

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