Ron DeSantis appears in a new campaign ad in which the Florida governor, a Republican, is described as being sent by God.
The ad that piqued the former president has raised a fair amount of controversy. Mimicking a 2013 Super Bowl ad for Ram trucks, “So God Made a Farmer” — which was inspired by a 1978 speech by the late Paul Harvey — the ad for DeSantis says that on the “eighth day” of creation, God needed a “protector,” so God “made a fighter.” That fighter, the ad suggests, is none other than the Florida governor.
It continues, “God said, ‘I need somebody who will take the arrows, stand firm in the wake of unrelenting attacks, look a mother in the eyes and tell her that her child will be in school…'” The ad never says DeSantis’ name out loud, but includes a montage of his public and private life.
Former President Donald Trump, stumping in Pennsylvania ahead of the midterms, mocked the Florida governor and his much buzzed-about future presidential rival as “Ron DeSanctimonious” after the ad aired.
Former GOP Chair Michael Steele wasted no time in ripping the ad. “It is some of the most a– backward blasphemy I’ve ever heard in my life. It is one of dumbest political ads you could ever make,” he said on MSNBC’s The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart.
“But it tells you what this white Christian nationalism is all about. That’s who that is an appeal to. It’s not an appeal to church-going folks on a Sunday, people who actually read the Bible,” he continued. “God needs a protector? … You ever hear of a man named Jesus? I don’t need Ron DeSantis to be Christ. I just need him to be governor.”
Former GOP communications director Tara Setmayer called him “Ron DeLusional,” saying the governor — who is running for reelection with a comfortable lead but is rumored to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024 — may be looking to knock off a Trump challenge. “He thinks he’s going to out-Trump Trump with this God complex savior thing going on? Trump already has the monopoly on that,” she said.
Steve Schmidt, a former GOP operative who has been critical of the far-right wing of the party, calls the ad “psychotic.” He writes that DeSantis, “has clearly developed a God complex in Tallahassee.”
The ad was released Friday through a twitter post by Casey DeSantis, the first lady of Florida, who professes her love for the governor in the tweet, and adds, “On behalf of millions of people, never stop fighting for freedom.”
Casey, a former Emmy-winning television reporter, recently cut another, softer ad vouching for her husband’s character by telling Florida voters that DeSantis took care of her and their three small children while she fought breast cancer.
“I was not shocked or surprised” by the new religious ad, says Anne Danehy, associate dean at Boston University College of Communication. “Digital ads are typically edgier, bolder because the best thing for digital ads is to go viral by having people share. To go viral, the ad must be bold. This is bold! It appeals to his base and having it released by his wife underscores he is a family man and believer in God.”
However, there’s a risk in being too bold, she says. “This ad may turn off highly religious voters,” she says.
Executive Office of the Governor, State of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Casey DeSantis
“It’s always attention grabbing if it’s significantly different and unique,” says Susan MacManus, political science professor emeritus at University of South Florida. “Some will call it extreme, others will call it extremely creative.”
She notes that people with various religious beliefs may each interpret the ad differently. “It will be received very differently depending on one’s faith, and even within the Christian faith. Religion is very interpretive and personal.”
“I’ve heard people say, ‘my child is from God.’ It’s more used in the context of a God-chosen person, like a missionary or a healer in the hospital, or a first responder who saved someone. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it from a politician exactly like that. That’s what’s so striking,” MacManus says.