ELMHURST, Ill. — The law enforcement groups Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke to before Monday may have been in three different cities, but they had one thing in common: They are squarely in Donald Trump territory.
DeSantis, who is expected to announce his run for president, visited New York City and the Philadelphia and Chicago suburbs to praise the policies he helped implement in Florida, which he said provide law enforcement the support they need.
By taking a pro-police message directly to the rank and file of some of the largest police unions in the country, DeSantis was addressing a specialized constituency that Trump has possessed since he first ran for president in 2016.
DeSantis is stepping up his messaging out of Florida ahead of a potential White House announcement. Next week, he will publish his book and is scheduled to headline Republican events next month in Alabama, California and Texas.
Presidential hopefuls covet the endorsement of the National Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police labor group. The group endorsed Trump in 2016 and again in 2020. An aide said DeSantis had no more plans any time soon to address other law enforcement groups, but he is expected to make similar comments in future speeches.
On Monday, at the Knights of Columbus hall in Elmhurst, a suburb less than 20 miles from Chicago, DeSantis wowed a crowd of about 250, who frequently clapped and hissed at his remarks about what he had enacted in Florida.
Meanwhile, outside the venue and across the street, a group of protesters arrived long before the event began, holding signs saying things like «It’s okay to say gay» and chanting «racist, sexist, anti-gay, Ron DeSantis, go away.» .”
DeSantis took the audience on a tour of his crackdown on crime, saying he wanted the death penalty for anyone who murders a police officer. DeSantis’ «Back to Blue» message began with his adoption of law enforcement, which he said he had taken for granted.
“You are not going to have a good economy if the streets are not safe. You’re not going to have a good education if people don’t feel safe,” she said. «None of that works unless you have the base.»
He also criticized states that had implemented cashless bail policies, such as Illinois and Oregon, for what he called the system’s leniency on rioters in Portland in 2020.
«If you’re involved in mob violence in Florida, you’re not going to be treated like they are in Portland,» DeSantis said. «In Florida, if you’re doing that, you’re not getting a slap on the wrist, you’re getting the inside of a jail cell.»
As if to underscore how close DeSantis had come to his arena by focusing so much on law enforcement, Trump posted a video Monday announcing a seven-point plan to reduce crime and «restore law and order.» It included going after “radical Marxist prosecutors who are abolishing cash bail, refusing to charge crimes, and turning our cities over to violent criminals.” He also called on the Justice Department to open civil rights investigations into the prosecutors, naming those in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, «to determine whether they have unlawfully engaged in race-based law enforcement.»
But DeSantis went beyond law enforcement politics in his speeches, going through a reel of his latest political and legal entanglements, including the fight with Disney, the removal of a prosecutor who had refused to enforce laws on abortion and the fight against «wake up education» and «wake up indoctrination». » from students.
While the room was made up of law enforcement officers, including members of the Chicago FOP, it was also a who’s who of state legislators and members of Congress. The variety of politicians alone was a telltale sign that Republicans were ready to listen to an alternative to Trump.
Republican Rep. Darin LaHood, who was also a prosecutor, said he knew DeSantis when they were in Congress for three years. DeSantis, he said, called him recently to invite him to Monday’s event, where LaHood had a speaking role.
“This is about supporting the police and supporting law enforcement. In my opinion, it’s not about 2024,» LaHood said in an interview. «This is about him highlighting the success they’ve had in Florida.»
Another Illinois Republican, Darren Bailey, who recently ran a failed Trump-backed gubernatorial campaign, said he supported law enforcement and listened to DeSantis’s message.
“I’m excited for someone of this prominence to come, especially here in this part of the state,” Bailey said. Asked if he thought DeSantis was encroaching on Trump turf by appearing before the FOP groups, Bailey said: “You can read between the lines and you would assume that, but I don’t know. I’m glad it’s uplifting men and women who serve and protect.»
The Democratic National Committee responded to DeSantis’ tour of law enforcement groups on Monday, saying the improvements he touted were made possible, at least in part, by White House-backed funding.
“Actions speak louder than words, and it was President Biden and the Democrats who passed the American Rescue Plan that funded first responders and law enforcement departments across the country,” said DNC spokesman Ammar. Moussa, in a statement. «If Ron DeSantis had his way, Florida would not have had the resources to deliver to the law enforcement community.»