The Story Ron DeSantis Does Not Tell Is His Own

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has a classic American dream story.

He hardly ever tells it.

A middle-class kid, his baseball skills helped take his team to the Little League World Series — not that many Iowans would know it, despite his visits to all 99 of the state’s counties throughout his campaign for the Republican nomination. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he chose to join the Navy and deployed to Iraq, which he usually mentions only in passing. His wife, Casey DeSantis, was diagnosed with breast cancer early in his governorship, but he almost never talks about what it took to support her through it — while raising three young children — or what he learned.

And although Mr. DeSantis frequently appears with his children on the trail, he is more likely to describe them by their ages (7, 5 and 3) than their names (Madison, Mason and Mamie). Even Ms. DeSantis, a former newscaster who is seen as providing a human touch, tends to call him “the governor” instead of “Ron” at his rallies.

If there were ever a time for Mr. DeSantis to tell more of his bootstrap biography it would be now, as his hopes of a strong finish in the Iowa caucuses, and perhaps his entire presidential campaign, seem to be ebbing away. He trails former President Donald J. Trump by more than 35 points in Iowa and will almost certainly fare worse in New Hampshire on Jan. 23. Former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina has overtaken him in most polls.

But in a speech outside Des Moines on Thursday, just four days before the Iowa caucuses, when Mr. DeSantis invoked Benjamin Franklin and the sacrifices needed to preserve the republic, which included needing to “sometimes put on a uniform,” he didn’t take the opportunity to mention his own service or the fact that he is the lone veteran in the race. He talked about the “biomedical security regime,” ballot harvesting, social credit scores and FICA, but said almost nothing about his family.

Mr. DeSantis embracing his son, Mason, after a debate. He frequently appears with his children on the trail, but rarely mentions them by name. Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

Those who know Mr. DeSantis describe him as intensely private, averse to personal braggadocio and more comfortable with policy than with people. He believes deeply that Republican voters do — or should — care about his conservative bona fides and his accomplishments as governor more than his life story and personality.Two former advisers said he has long resisted efforts to persuade him to open up.

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