What is the value of a Donald Trump endorsement? Republicans have been grappling with that question this year. However, it is possible that potential presidential candidates would be more effective if they used their endorsements to expand the Republican brand rather than merely thwart party rivals as Florida governor Ron DeSantis did.
Twenty-five school-board candidates supported and promoted by Mr. DeSantis won their races or advanced to runoffs last week. It has always been believed that these are nonpartisan elections, and a candidate’s party affiliation does not appear on the ballot.
In modern America, school boards are among the most politicized institutions. In most cases, the teacher’s unions dominate or are in cahoots with them. By endorsing school-board candidates, Mr. DeSantis recognizes the reality and forces it into the open for voters to decide. Elections for school boards in Florida work this way: The candidate who receives the most votes wins. He will face the second highest vote-getter in November if he does not earn more than 50%.
Going into the election, Governor DeSantis endorsed 30 candidates for the school board. There were 19 of them who won their elections with more than 50% of the votes. In November, six other candidates will compete. This type of endorsement is new, especially for Republicans, Mr. DeSantis said on Tuesday. Previously, unions would support candidates. Some of our voters are now interested, as well as more parents. As far as statewide races are concerned, there are no consequential races that are competitive. It may be for this reason that people are motivated in this situation. Mr. DeSantis said the goal was to help fix the education system.
Comparing the DeSantis model with Mr. Trump’s is interesting. The endorsements of Mr. Trump appear inexplicable even to his allies — e.g., choosing Mehmet Oz — but Mr. DeSantis picked his candidates according to his education agenda. He’s all in for them if they’re all in for the agenda.
According to Florida Republicans, it is a “pro-parent agenda,” which includes policies such as opposing lockdowns and gender ideology in the classroom, increasing teacher pay, and facilitating grievance petitions by parents. DeSantis’ website details his efforts to restructure public education in Florida.
During the process, there were steps. Candidates were surveyed and then interviewed by the DeSantis team. Additionally, those who received endorsements received practical help in responding to attacks or finding resources.
The DeSantis administration fought against the unions and school boards during the pandemic to keep Florida’s schools open. Charlie Crist, who is running against him for governor, has chosen Karla Hernández-Mats, the union head of the United Teachers of Dade. Hernández-Mats opposed keeping the schools open. According to her tweet in October, angry parents were a form of domestic terrorism that the FBI should investigate. She contributed a meme with Halloween monsters heading to a school board meeting, including one wielding a chainsaw.
DeSantis’ endorsements raise the issue for Florida voters. Would they prefer Mr. Crist and his union allies to Mr. DeSantis and a team that allows parents to have a greater say in their children’s education?
Keep in mind the Virginia governor’s race of 2021. In an upset victory, Republican Glenn Youngkin championed the rights of parents in the same way. During a debate with Youngkin, Democrat Terry McAuliffe blurted out something everyone in his party believes but is usually smart enough not to say in public: I don’t think parents should dictate what schools teach.
In light of this, let’s go back to the endorsements of Mr. Trump. Clearly, Republican candidates highly value them, and they have proven their value in GOP primaries. They also come with an implicit threat: Mr. Trump will sabotage any candidate he endorses if they say something that displeases him-especially if they distance themselves from his claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Compared to the DeSantis model, which focuses on education issues, the DeSantis model sharpens the election focus.
Some Republican longshots have been turned into winners under Trump and DeSantis. The true test will be in November, when we will find out which model is more effective in building a Republican future.