DeSantis disappoints UK business leaders – POLITICO



LONDON — He hopes to win the hearts and minds of devoted Donald Trump supporters ahead of next year’s US election.

But Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis failed to impress Britain’s business leaders at a high-profile event in London on Friday, in a tired performance described variously as “awful”, “underpowered” and ” like the end of a trip abroad”.

The Florida governor, who is expected to launch his candidacy next month to challenge Trump as the 2024 Republican presidential nominee, has met with more than 50 representatives from major UK business and trade lobby groups as part of a “ trade mission” from four countries. ending in London on Friday.

His trip was officially touted as an attempt to build Florida’s economic ties with the UK, Israel, South Korea and Japan, but it was widely seen in Washington as a chance for DeSantis to portray himself as a statesman on the world stage.

For many of those present, however, statesmanship was lacking.

A British businessman says DeSantis ‘looked bored’ and ‘stared at his feet’ as he met titans of British industry at an event co-hosted by Lloyd’s of London – the most largest insurance market in the world.

“He had been to five different countries in five days and he looked really exhausted, but his message was not presidential,” they told POLITICO. “He was awful.”

A second businessman who was in the room said it was a “low power” performance and “no one in the room thought, ‘this man is going places.'”

They said, “It was really a bit like watching a politician at the state level. I wouldn’t be surprised if [people in attendance] walked out thinking “that’s not the guy”.

“There was no stardust.”

A third person at the event agreed “it felt like the end of a trip abroad – which it was”, but insisted that DeSantis “went well”. The best a fourth could muster was that DeSantis was doing “good.”

DeSantis also met Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch during a whirlwind tour of London, although Prime Minister Rishi Sunak avoided a bilateral deal with the right-wing governor.

Sunak was at a Scottish Conservative Party conference on Friday, which a No 10 official said had been in his newspaper for “a long time”.

DeSantis trails Trump in the polls among Republican primary voters, but has drawn support from a number of establishment Republicans who see him as a less chaotic figure than the ex-president.

The governor won a landslide re-election last year in what is traditionally a swing state, and has drawn praise from many Republicans for his “anti-awakening” agenda and commitment to tax cuts.

A government official said Badenoch, a rising star in the Conservative Party, and DeSantis had a “fruitful” conversation and the couple “get along well”.

However, the pair did not discuss the prospect of a state-level economic memorandum of understanding between the UK and Florida, despite Britain’s efforts to sign similar agreements with other US states.

A second official said Badenoch’s team ‘wanted to avoid talking about a memorandum of understanding in Florida’ because others take priority, and because of the difficult optics for a UK government also dealing with the House. Blanche of Joe Biden on several trade-related issues.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Cleverly and DeSantis discussed “the close and important relationship between the UK and Florida”.

“The meeting was an opportunity to strengthen ties with the US state and support bilateral economic cooperation which is already worth more than £5 billion a year,” they said.



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