Surging in polls, DeSantis still campaigns as underdog

Congressman's bid for governor getting huge boost from Trump

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis arrived in South Florida on Monday as the Republican front-runner for governor, but he still talks like the scrappy underdog.

"I've had more negative money spent against me -- $15 million -- than any other candidate running for office," DeSantis said.

His numbers have rocketed past his rival, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, largely on the big-time backing of President Donald Trump.

An ad that had him reading "The Art of the Deal" to his infant son and his daughter building a wall received national attention last week. He also appeared with the president at a campaign-style rally in Tampa.

The Trump endorsement is a tough hurdle for Putnam, whose grassroots campaign is about his decades-deep service in Florida politics.

Putnam has said he doesn't want "Washington dysfunction" to come to Florida, but DeSantis has a different take on that.

"The next governor is going to need to work with the administration for Florida, and if you're not willing to do that or not capable of doing that then you are not going to be doing the best for Florida," DeSantis said. 

Desantis told the GOP Ladies at Lunch in southwest Miami-Dade County that he wants to expand Florida's economy and hold taxes flat.

He said he brought federal money for water projects and opposed subsidies for the sugar industry, which is under fire for contributing to pollution along Florida's coasts and is a major backer of Putnam's campaign.

DeSantis ended with a words from the president.

"I'll just leave you with the words of our friend in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue … Ron Desantis ... a brilliant tough cookie," he said laughing.

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