2024 GOP presidential candidate, Governor Ron DeSantis, joined Brian Kilmeade to discuss his debate performance, why he is the best candidate to get things done Americans care about, the importance of stopping China’s global ambitions, how republicans are equally responsible as democrats for the debt and how to handle saving entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. DeSantis also spoke about Donald Trump making a big mistake not debating and how voters believe candidates have to earn the nomination. DeSantis responded to Vivek Ramaswamy’s position that America should be focused on protecting the border and not giving money to Ukraine and pushing making concessions to Putin in Ukraine. DeSantis does not agree giving a windfall to Russia will help us combat China but does agree with Ramaswamy that the first obligation as president is to defend our country before we get into international relations – you have to be strong at home if you want to be strong abroad. WHen asked about donations post debate, DeSantis said his campaign has gotten a major pop in donations after last night’s debate although he didn’t have exact dollar amounts.

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Rough transcript:

Brian Kilmeade [00:00:00] With me at the old pancake house. Like the guy with the deep voice said is the man who was Center Square last night on the field of eight. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. Governor, thanks so much for giving us some time, because tonight you will be in Iowa. That’s right. At an event, it’s very important for you, you. But besides politics, your other passion is baseball. Where are you going to be?

Ron DeSantis [00:00:23] So we’re actually going to be at the Field of Dreams from the movie with Kevin Costner. And it’s in northeastern Iowa outside of Dubuque. So we’re going to do basically a political event. We’re going to have a lot of people from the community come out, but we are going to be able to bring my wife and I are kids six, five and three. So they’ve all seen snippets of the movie. My son is actually in some of the travels we’ve been playing catch near some of the corn fields in Iowa. And at one point he asked me, Daddy, is this heaven? And I said, Oh, it’s Iowa.

Brian Kilmeade [00:00:52] I wish you got that on tape. You’d have another commercial governor, which changes after last night. And how do you feel after the 2 hours is now in the books?

Ron DeSantis [00:01:01] Well, what we saw last night is that, you know, I’m the one guy that that has proven that he can get all this done. We had the strongest solutions for our economy, crime and immigration, which are the most important issues. And we have the vision to focus on the issues that the America people care about and look forward, not look backwards. So I think we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. I mean, people are looking on the stage. And I think the question it’s like, yeah, you know, I’m talking about taking on the drug cartels and our voters like that because they know it needs to be done. But I think even before you get there, they look to see, okay, is this somebody that can be president? And I think we showed that, you know, we could be president where we’re governing the third largest state in the country, oversee the 13th largest economy in the world, and have had unprecedented success doing so.

Brian Kilmeade [00:01:48] So you get the fourth most time, I guess. Mike Pence, if you told me if I had Mike Pence to get the most time, I would said absolutely not. He’s kind of a mild mannered guy. He ends up.

Ron DeSantis [00:01:57] With just about it and interrupting and getting involved and doing that, which is fine. And so I was you know, I saw a little bit of the cross chatter that was happening amongst some of the other candidates. But you always want as much time as possible because that’s exposure you’re getting. But my view would be okay of the time you get how much of it is really good time being used to to deliver a message to the to the voters at home about what you’re going to do as president? I would say the time I got 100% of it was devoted to delivering our message that the country is in decline. We need to reverse it. Here’s how we’ll do it on economy, border, crime, all the important issues.

Brian Kilmeade [00:02:36] So one of the issues where I know you differ from Vivek Ramaswamy in the debate was on Ukraine. Here’s what he said. Doing something that President Trump does all the time. Mocking Zelensky cut six.

Speaker 3 [00:02:51] I think that this is disastrous, that we are protecting against an invasion across somebody else’s border when we should use those same military resources to prevent across the invasion of our own southern border here in the United States of America, we are driving Russia further into China’s hands. The Russia China alliance is the single greatest threat we face. And I find it offensive that we have professional politicians on the stage that will make a pilgrimage to Kiev to their Pope Zelensky, without doing the same thing for people in Maui or the south side of Chicago.

Brian Kilmeade [00:03:26] So your reaction to that, you didn’t get a chance to follow up?

Ron DeSantis [00:03:29] Well, yeah. I mean, look, I don’t I think I think as a Catholic, there’s probably not a lot of Catholics that appreciated the pope.

Brian Kilmeade [00:03:36] So.

Ron DeSantis [00:03:37] Yeah, I think that that was I don’t know why he did that, but but I do agree. I agree. Agree. This part as the president United States, your first obligation is to defend this country and our people. And right now, the ruling class in this country has failed to do that with our own border there. And so that would be my priority as president. Before we even get into international relations. You got to be strong at home. You know, if you want to be strong abroad. And that’s been a major failing that we’ve seen with.

Brian Kilmeade [00:04:06] The homeland security budget is.

Ron DeSantis [00:04:08] But but I don’t but but I also I don’t I don’t agree. The idea that like, somehow giving a windfall to Russia is going to help us combat China, I think it’s I think that that’s wrong. I think I think China is somebody that has really significant global ambitions and we’re going to actually be rolling out of China a good China speech very soon. But it’s a combination of having enough hard power in the Indo-Pacific to deter their military adventurism, not just with Taiwan, but with other areas, too, to recognize the economic benefits this country over many decades has given to them. We’ve got a ridiculous relationship where they dump product here. We don’t have the ability to sell stuff. So so you have to decouple our economies so that we’re self-sufficient without having to worry about that. That will really hurt them. And then finally, understanding how they make influences in our region and in our own country. So, for example, in Florida, we we banned the purchase of land by the Chinese Communist Party in our state because they were thinking about buying a farm in Levy County, and we said no. And then we passed the legislation to do it. So I think there’s a lot of things that need to be done to deal with China, but I don’t think saying that that just saying Russia can take what it wants is going to help us combat the China threat.

Brian Kilmeade [00:05:25] As you know, China is economy is as bad as it’s been over the last 25 years. They can’t get people employed from 18 to 25. They’re pressing their colleges to get these kids jobs. They don’t have them. Their growth is much slower than they thought and they thought they’d just throw money at the situation. But there’s nothing to build and no one’s looking to buy. You have a window of opportunity.

Ron DeSantis [00:05:45] Exactly. I think I think this is the decisive decade. I think if we do what we need to do, I think that the China threat will will subside. I’m not saying they’re ever going to be an ally, but if we don’t play our cards right, they could surpass us in this decade. And then the world is going to look a lot different if China is the dominant superpower, because they will use that that their power to be able to do things that will impact the average the average Americans life. So but economically, we have some levers we can pull. We’ve got to stop having policies that enrich them that will really, really put them on the map.

Brian Kilmeade [00:06:22] The BRIC alliance is getting bigger. They’re going to look to get in Argentina, Saudi Arabia, India’s there already. Russia having their own problems in China. They want to rival the G8. They want to be better and more. They want to get rid of the dollar, be as strong as the G20. Should Americans be concerned about that? Is Governor DeSantis concerned about that?

Ron DeSantis [00:06:43] I think we should be concerned. I think, though, if we play our cards right, that is not going to happen. I mean, you look at like a country like India, the end of the day, when push comes to shove, if we if we play, do what we need to do. India is going to be in our orbit when it comes to China. They just have too many too many disagreements. So I think it’s really if America is strong, that is not going to happen. Now in the current course with Biden and where we’re going, you know, in ten years, could that happen? Yes, but I don’t think it will if we if we have policies in place that prevent it.

Brian Kilmeade [00:07:13] Last night, Nikki Haley says, I call out Republicans on spending that Donald Trump spent three ends up with 7 trillion morphs before the pandemic, 3 trillion spent into the deficit. Do you, Paul Republicans you were in Congress for a while. Are Republicans said to the.

Ron DeSantis [00:07:28] Response your percent this debt of 32 trillion is not just one party. As much as we rightfully criticize Biden for what he’s done since he came into office, Republicans have spent and borrowed trillions and trillions of dollars. And I think just with the Trump administration, they did 7 to $8 trillion in new debt added on. So that’s just the reality. There’s something about, you know, these rich men, north of rich men in the D.C. area, they borrow and spend and that D.C. area does much better. Five of the eight wealthiest counties in our country are suburbs of Washington, D.C. So those policies that hurt the hurt the American people do benefit the politically connected.

Brian Kilmeade [00:08:13] But two thirds of our budget goes to automatic payments on entitlements that people are paid into. But how do you get elected and tell people, I got to revamp Social Security and Medicare?

Ron DeSantis [00:08:22] But that is it’s true in terms of the two thirds. But. If you look at the debt that’s been added in the last six or seven years, most of that was from Congress spending discretionary. They didn’t have to spend the money and they chose to do it. Then what happens is you’re locking in these high levels of spending that they justified with COVID, and that’s kind of the new normal. You can’t sustain that. So I do think you’ve got to take the actual budget that we deal with every year, and you got to revert a lot of that money back to where we were four or five years ago. You won’t miss a beat. These agencies have grown by 50% in terms of their budget, like like the CDC is. Are you 50% better off than you were under then the last four or five? Of course not. So so this is something that I think with the Congress you absolutely can do. And, you know, part of the thing with with like talking about like Social Security, you know, Congress has spent Social Security money for decades. Social Security has has run up big surpluses through the years. They’re not doing it anymore. Congress would take that surplus and they’d spend it and they’d write an IOU. So so they really are just irresponsible. It’s irresponsible.

Brian Kilmeade [00:09:29] And that but, you know, they were living. We got it right. Everybody knows you got to raise retirement age in order for this to be solvent and probably take more money than just six months or raise that threshold of contributions. How do you do that and say that to seniors and expect their vote, especially in a state like yours? You’re very cognizant of that.

Ron DeSantis [00:09:50] So we have not only seniors, I mean, I’m cognizant of it from a personal perspective, but my grandmother lived till 91. Social Security was her sole source of income. So when you’re in a high inflation environment on a fixed income, as a senior citizen, yes, they give you a cost of living adjustment, but it’s not anywhere close to being what you need to be able to afford groceries and gas. So. But I’d say the first day what’s hurt Social Security the most in the last two or three years is the inflation, because it does cause the cost of living to go in. So if you get inflation down to one or 2%, that is going to save Social Security a lot of money. You’re never going to be able to make it work if you continue on the understood it.

Brian Kilmeade [00:10:28] Right now, people want to buy a house and move to Florida. They see 7 to 8%. It’s changing everything. People are aren’t selling their three year.

Ron DeSantis [00:10:35] Locked into their house. Yeah because you had all.

Brian Kilmeade [00:10:38] That taken inflation.

Ron DeSantis [00:10:39] Era of low interest rates people bought homes. Now they even if they want to move, you’re changing a house for your interest. Your mortgage payment may double for a lot of these people for a similar house compared to what they were locked into. So yeah, they’re locked in. They’re not selling. It’s and that’s the thing. The Fed’s raising these interest rates to try to deal with inflation. But the housing because the market’s not turning over and there’s not enough new supply, the prices aren’t going down. And so so the interest rate increases are not actually effective at reducing that. They’re actually causing it to stagnate higher.

Brian Kilmeade [00:11:15] So. You are on an unbelievable roll after winning reelection by a substantial margin in what everyone thought is a battleground state. But you basically helped turn that thing red. Florida can’t take it for granted. But almost since the day you won reelection, you have been hit by The New York Times and from Donald Trump, specifically $20 million. How is that taking a toll on you? Look, I.

Ron DeSantis [00:11:38] Think part of it is, you know, after the reelection, I was in the news a lot. The party obviously did very poorly in the midterm. We did very well. So it’s a good success story. Different things in the news have changed dramatically. And that’s why I think that’s kind of been the main, main issue that I’ve had to contend with. But yeah, corporate media thereafter, me, I’m their number one target. So I think what that should tell Republican voters is they view me as somebody that would beat Biden, but more importantly, that would actually get in there and do the things we need to do to reverse the country’s decline. They don’t want to see the border taken care of. They don’t want to see biodynamics reversed. They don’t want to see energy dominance again. They don’t want to see us clean up the bureaucracy and deal with the weaponization and the weaponization. They don’t want any of that. And so I think they view me as the biggest threat to bring all that about. So we get I think someone did an analysis of like the the liberal networks since I got into the race and I think it was like 80% of the coverage has been hit pieces on me.

Brian Kilmeade [00:12:40] Have you looked at your donor or have you looked at your coffers since you got off the stage?

Ron DeSantis [00:12:45] I haven’t seen, but I heard it was really, really positive. So I don’t have the exact numbers. But people said we got a major.

Brian Kilmeade [00:12:51] Pop and and you look forward to the second debate with less people on the stage. How would that affect your performance?

Ron DeSantis [00:12:56] Well, here’s the thing. So when you have eight people, you get a minute and you really it’s not even really a debate. You just got to deliver the message. If it’s on the border. I’m going to talk about we’re going to leave the drug cartels, bring in fentanyl in the country, stone cold dead. I’m going to make sure people know that’s my policy. Say we had five people. You probably would have a little bit. You got.

Brian Kilmeade [00:13:14] 10 minutes. You talk.

Ron DeSantis [00:13:16] You probably have a little bit better time with back and forth on some of it. So so we’ll see how it all shakes out. But I know I will be there. I don’t know how many people are going to be on the stage, but but I will be there and it’s important part of the process.

Brian Kilmeade [00:13:27] Can you win the nomination and close the gap if Donald Trump is not at one point on that stage?

Ron DeSantis [00:13:32] Yes, I think he I think he’s making a big mistake by not debating our voters believe you have to earn it. And Republicans, you know, even like when they’ll say polls, oh, he’s, you know, at 40% here in this state, you know, that’s six.

Brian Kilmeade [00:13:46] 4019 in Iowa.

Ron DeSantis [00:13:48] That 60% that are saying they would they want another choice. And he was somebody who, you know, 90 plus percent of Republicans voted for in 2020. So you’ve got to earn it. And I think that if he doesn’t debate, that will absolutely hurt him. So I think he should, because I think it’s better for the process. But honestly, in terms of mine, if he keeps this position, I think it’s totally not going to work for him.

Brian Kilmeade [00:14:12] Field of Dreams tonight. Don’t be late.

Ron DeSantis [00:14:13] No, it’s going to be great to see.

Brian Kilmeade [00:14:15] I’m so glad your family had a chance to join you on the trail. You were in the perfect age because it’s preschool. You could pull them out when they get to fourth, fifth and sixth grade. Governor Ron DeSantis might be campaigning alone. But right now, the troops are with you.

Ron DeSantis [00:14:27] Yeah, we’re having fun with it. And I think they are. They’ve seen the movie. I think they’re going to be fired up to see the corn and everything. And we’re going to have a bunch of Little League teams out there. So it’s going to be fun.

Brian Kilmeade [00:14:36] Go get. Governor, I understand this. California, the very least, hopefully before that.