With candidate Ron DeSantis facing withering attacks over a leaked presidential debate strategy memo, commentator Ann Coulter—who had him on her “Unsafe” podcast on Aug. 17—had this debate advice for him.
“I want [you]to concentrate on the three issues on which no one can beat you,” said Ms. Coulter, an unabashed cheerleader for the Florida governor. “And they are the three most important issues facing the country. And that is immigration, crime, and COVID.”
She’s not just any endorsement catch for him. Ms. Coulter’s 2015 book on illegal immigration, “Adios America,” gave Donald Trump the ammunition for what became his signature issue, one drawing tens of thousands of people to his rallies.
Ms. Coulter predicted as early as mid-2015 that he would win the presidency because of it when hardly any other political commentator foresaw that.
And she defected, just as notably, from President Trump’s camp midway through his term in office over his failure to build a border wall when he had the chance when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress in 2017 and 2018.
Ms. Coulter saluted Mr. DeSantis’s record on COVID-19 as Florida governor.
“And unless the president of Sweden is running in this presidential election, no one can hold a candle to you. And that’s why the media isn’t going to mention COVID.”
And then asked: “[So] why is it still possible to run on all Trump’s immigration promises?”
“Because he didn’t follow through with them,” Mr. DeSantis said.
“You know, I was at those rallies in 2016. Mexico was going to pay for the border wall. He was going to have record deportations. All this other stuff. And the reality is, the wall didn’t get built. I think that they did reinforce some existing wall. They did add some new wall. But there are massive, massive expanses of that southern border that are wide open.”
Mr. DeSantis said Mr. Trump, despite his tough immigration stance, tried as president to pass an amnesty with the Goodlatte bill and didn’t support the Rays Act, which would have reformed immigration.
He told Ms. Coulter if elected, he wouldn’t grant an amnesty.
The governor said he would deport illegal immigrants, beginning with the most recent arrivals and anyone with a criminal record.
Doing this, he said, would deter most illegal immigrants. They’d hesitate to take the costs and risks of the illicit immigration once they realized they’d be deported if caught. Right now, he said, they get to stay and are issued court dates often years in advance.
Ms. Coulter praised his passage of E-Verify in Florida—requiring employers to ascertain employees’ right to work in the United States—and doing so in the face of his state’s two largest industries, tourism and agriculture, which often seek cheap labor.
Mr. DeSantis said unemployment had gone down in Florida, and wages had gone up as a result. “And that should be considered a good thing,” he said.
He called for ICE, the federal immigration agency, to do its job and police workplaces using illegal aliens.
Mr. DeSantis talked about his plan to challenge “the conventional wisdom” that the children of illegal immigrants born on U.S. soil—sometimes called “anchor babies”—are American citizens under the 14th Amendment.
“Clearly, that was not the intent of the people,” he said. His administration would “tee up” the issue for the Supreme Court.
He expressed worry that justices—other than Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito—might not deliver on it, and Congress might not carry it out either.
“It’s a ridiculous policy that somebody can just come across our border, have a baby, and then basically you’re in a situation where you can’t send the parent home and send the kid too, because the kid’s an American citizen,” Mr. DeSantis said. “So it creates a lot of perverse incentives.”
Ms. Coulter noted that various government leaders, ranging from influential retired Federal Judge Richard Posner to former Senate Majority Leader and Nevada Democrat, Harry Reid, have warned the issue needed to be dealt with.
“Also, I love that you put in taxing remittances, something else that Trump never understood,” Coulter said. “That is how you get Mexico to pay for the wall. So, explain that, that thing on remittances.”
“I’m the one candidate,” Mr. DeSantis said, “that’s actually being attacked by the president of Mexico, AMLO (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.) He’s telling people not to vote for me.”
“So we’re going to set up a system where that is going to be taxed. It’ll almost be like an E-Verify for financial transactions.
“And that is going to take it to where, yes, you can use that to build the wall. It will be effectively having Mexico pay for the wall.
“It will also be a disincentive for illegal immigration because it’s not going to be as lucrative for them to come here and work and send the money back—if Uncle Sam is going to take a chunk out of it.”
Ms. Coulter said a President DeSantis could do that unilaterally without Congressional approval.
Mr. DeSantis, both with Ms. Coulter and on another radio interview the same day with Dana Loesch, talked up his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic when he bucked Washington, the health authorities, and most local governments to reopen Florida businesses, beaches, and schools quickly.
Both interviewers noted the political beating Mr. DeSantis took over it.
Ms. Coulter recalled the nickname “Death Santis” some lockdown advocates tagged him with, and Ms. Loesch mentioned another, “the grim reaper governor.”
“I was getting hammered in late March of 2020,” Mr. DeSantis told Ms. Loesch about the pandemic’s beginning.
“Because there were people on the beach in Florida. I even get people from the White House saying: ‘This is a bad look. You got to do this [and close them down.]’ And I’m like, ‘well, wait a minute.’ First of all, they’re outside. And it’s a respiratory virus. So I took a lot of flak for not closing the beaches.”
He said some Florida localities caved to the outside pressure and closed their beaches, but some, like Daytona Beach, never did.
“You had all the Democrats saying that there should be an order for a statewide beach closure. Even some Republicans were saying that at the time. We did not think it was justifiable.”
“As a leader, you can’t get swept away by media hysteria, because there’s no scientific justification, even if you’re in a lockdown. Outdoor activities do not spread COVID.
“I mean, that is not where you do it. It’s usually in enclosed spaces. So to take away outdoor activities and force people inside—it would have been ludicrous to do so. And I just didn’t go along with it.”
With Ms. Loesch and New Hampshire radio host Jack Heath, Mr. DeSantis fielded questions about Mr. Trump’s commanding lead in national polls.
He dismissed the impact of national polls.
“We don’t have a national primary,” Mr. DeSantis told Ms. Loesch. “You can take a national poll. That’s not the same as what’s happening in these early states. And we’re focusing on the early states because that’s how the process works. And that’s how the delegates are awarded.”
“I think we’re doing very well in Iowa. I would not trade places with anybody else,” said Mr. DeSantis, who has vowed to visit all 99 Iowa counties and said he has ticked off 38 so far.
“At the end of the day, this can be a long slog. It depends on how the field shapes up. We’re built for the long haul. We’ll be there all the way until the end. But I really, really like what’s happening for us in the state of Iowa right now.”
Mr. DeSantis told Mr. Heath he was committed to putting in the required time in New Hampshire.
He ticked off a list of visits and events he’d done.
“You’ve got to do that. Over and over, over the next six months, I’m committed to doing that. We’re going to work hard. I’m going to get in front of as many New Hampshire voters as I can.
“And what we’ve found is, when people get to see me, they say, ‘Oh man, you’re really good. You’re nothing like what the media says about you.”