(JOHNSTON, Iowa) — Casey DeSantis, the wife of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, made her solo campaign debut on Thursday — appearing in an intimate setting where she talked about her life as a parent and politician’s spouse while stressing how moms like her could be a political force.
The event in Johnston, Iowa, was the latest example of how Casey DeSantis is deploying herself on the trail in support of her husband, who is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination over Donald Trump.
A former TV journalist, Casey DeSantis has increasingly been put in front of voters to advocate for the governor.
“As long as I have breath in my body, I will go out and I will fight for Ron DeSantis,” she said. “Not because he’s my husband. That is a part of it, but it’s because I believe in him in every ounce of my being. If you want somebody to go up to Washington, D.C., to clean house, to be able to put this country back on a trajectory where we are talking about our rights coming in from our creator and our government being put in place to protect our rights that are ours — he is the man to do it.”
“And if I have to crisscross this country,” Casey DeSantis said, “I’ll do it.”
She previously joined her husband during the official kickoff of his presidential campaign in May and has attended every single campaign event with him in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — giving her own remarks at a majority of them. She is reportedly also a close adviser of her husband.
As Florida’s first lady, she focused on issues including breast cancer awareness, parents’ involvement in the classroom and a push, she has said, to “reframe mental health education to focus on resiliency.”
Appearing alongside Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in the crucial primary early voting state, Casey DeSantis on Thursday kicked off the newest iteration of “Mamas for DeSantis,” which the DeSantis campaign says will mobilize mothers, grandmothers and parents to help elect Ron DeSantis.
The campaign boasts that the group is envisioned to be the largest mobilization of parents in the country’s political history.
Casey DeSantis first launched the group in 2022, during the governor’s reelection campaign in Florida.
Invoking similar language as her husband, she said Thursday that the “Mamas” would work “to protect the innocence of our children and to protect the rights of parents.”
She also spoke about her initiative “Hope Florida,” started in 2021 “to guide Floridians on an individualized path to prosperity” and “economic self-sufficiency” with aid from private communities and religious groups as well as the government and nonprofits, as the governor’s described it at the time.
During the Thursday event, Casey DeSantis shared stories from her home life with three children and how she grappled with health worries after being diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2021, for which she underwent chemotherapy and surgery.
She spoke candidly about her fears as a mom — and linked it to her husband’s campaign themes.
“There was a time in my life where I didn’t know if I was gonna see my kids graduate from kindergarten, let alone high school,” she said.
“And I’ll tell you what, when you go through something like that and you’re in the middle of the night, scared, and you don’t know what’s going to happen … you crawl into bed with your kids, and you’re getting hope for tomorrow that you can have some more time with them,” she said. “And then you realize that God has given you more opportunity to be able to live. When you’re given that opportunity in life, what do you do with it? Do I care what a headline says? No. I care about protecting the innocence of my children and your children.”
Ahead of the national launch of “Mamas for DeSantis,” the DeSantis campaign pushed out a new ad featuring Casey DeSantis where she leans into the culture war like her husband, including on what she calls parental rights, and touting her husband’s accomplishments.
Casey DeSantis, who narrates the ad, touches on issues such as COVID-19 restrictions around masking, transgender women playing in women’s sports and discussions around gender identity, arguing that these topics threaten children’s innocence — a view that has stirred some controversy in Florida.
“Enough is enough,” she says in the ad. “When you come after our kids, we fight back because there’s nothing we won’t do to protect our children.”
David Kerr, who attended the launch of “Mamas for DeSantis” in Johnston on Thursday, called Casey DeSantis a “weapon” for her husband’s campaign.
“She’s very impressive,” Kerr said.
Jon Dunwell, an Iowa state representative supporting Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign, told ABC News that it was good that the first lady of Florida kicked off her first solo stop in Iowa.
“Iowa was about getting up close and personal to candidates, their families and their teams,” Dunwell said. “It’s about shaking hands. It’s about being in small groups like this and having the opportunity to really see how they interact with people when they get a chance to hear their message. And so this is the perfect place to start.”
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