Florida’s First Lady is a survivor.
Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, an independent or entirely apolitical, it doesn’t matter. It is a fact.
Casey DeSantis is a survivor.
Never has that been more publicly clear than in an ad featuring the First Lady issuing an emotional endorsement of her husband, not just as Governor of the great state of Florida, but as a devoted husband and father.
The ad brought me to gentle tears, watching this incredibly strong woman relive the biggest challenge of her life.
“If you want to know who Ron DeSantis really is, when I was diagnosed with cancer, and I was facing the battle for my life, he was the dad who took care of my children when I couldn’t. He was there to pick me off the ground when I literally could not stand,” Mrs. DeSantis says through choked back tears.
I love you, Casey. pic.twitter.com/HKID5TolyM
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) October 10, 2022
Don’t let the social media commentary fool you. In the halls off Twitter you will find two camps: those who support Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida’s First Family and share words of encouragement, up to and including hope that they will one day be America’s First Family, and those who despise the DeSantis brand and view the ad as an exploitation of Mrs. DeSantis’ illness at best and an exercise in hypocrisy at worst.
This ad, which the Republican Party of Florida has put at least $2 million into, will do nothing to sway either of those groups, the hard core partisans who have long since made their voting choices.
What you won’t see in the comments are the every day Floridians who pay little attention to the insider baseball and are less interested in the day-to-day politics of this state than they are to, say, figuring out how to make one kid’s baseball game and the other kid’s dance recital, inconveniently scheduled at conflicting times.
Those people, who make up the vast majority of voters in Florida and across the nation, won’t see exploitation. They won’t be compelled to call a cancer survivor names in the spirit of partisan squabbles. They might not even know just how much presidential ambition is a part of the 2022 calculous among the consultant class.
No, they’ll see a woman brought, literally it seems, to her knees by an illness all too familiar among far too many women. They’ll see a mom who loves her kids. A wife who loves her husband. And these optics matter.
The thing about political ads is, there’s almost always something to criticize. “Facts” are often a matter of interpretation. Nuance gets left behind in favor of well-tested and polled zingers and pocket book issues, claims that can be either debunked or watered down.
This has exactly none of that. There is literally no substantive way to criticize this ad.
For starters, it is artistically brilliant. A prominent Democratic consultant tells me it’s the best political ad they’ve seen this cycle. No buts, no hedging. Just the best. That’s saying something.
And it’s true. Every detail was clearly thought out and expertly executed, from the First Lady’s dressed down apparel to her casual, legs crossed perch on a couch, to the way all background music and ambient noise cuts immediately when she gets serious about her cancer battle. In that moment, it’s as if you’re sitting, warm cup of comforting tea in hand, in a chair directly across from her. You want to put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder to tell her that she’s brave, that she’s a fighter, that she survived.
There are no claims that can be debunked, only the quiet testimonial from a grateful spouse, and the endearing photos of a young Ron DeSantis and a dad DeSantis.
Sure, there are those who were quick to claim his efforts, the picking his wife up at her darkest moment, are merely the bare minimum expectations of a spouse. But riddle me this: How many couples find themselves in divorce proceedings after not taking their vows — in sickness and in health, in this case — seriously?
And for those claiming the ad exploits the First Lady’s very real illness, ask yourself: Who is doing the exploiting?
I imagine it was a very difficult decision to shoot, let alone air this very personal ad. No doubt conversations were had over and over about whether to follow through. Knowing personally how strong Casey DeSantis is in the powerful DeSantis duo, I have no doubt, ZERO, that she made the final call.
And even if you believe it was exploitive, or opportunistic, make no mistake, it’ll work.
In just 60-seconds, Casey DeSantis just pulled on the heartstrings of any husband who has cared for a sick wife, any mother who has had to miss bedtime snuggles because she was too sick to make story time, any parent who has seen a child through an awful illness, or anyone really, with half a heart.
For those 60-seconds, at least, Ron and Casey DeSantis were relatable, everyday people. For that emotionally taxing minute, the state wasn’t recovering from a catastrophic hurricane. People weren’t bickering about gas prices and whose fault they are. They weren’t arguing about taxes or the environment or abortion. They were there for Casey.
I already declared this race over, and I’m not the only one. Polls consistently show DeSantis with a healthy lead over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist. So maybe this ad was a little unnecessary.
But I’ll leave you with one reminder about political campaigns: Always run as if you’re losing. Just ask Hillary Clinton.