By ANI FREEDMAN, InDepthNH.org
Just a few days before New Hampshire voters cast their ballot for their presidential primary pick, Republican candidate and Florida governor Ron DeSantis held a town hall in Nashua to connect with supporters and prospective voters.
In a small, tightly packed hotel event room, DeSantis directed attention to his record in Florida, while taking digs at his opponents Nikki Haley and Donald Trump whenever possible.
DeSantis opened his remarks by asserting that he delivered on “one-hundred percent” of his promises he campaigned on in Florida.
But shortly after he began listing off his accomplishments—and Trump’s failures to build a border wall and hold Hillary Clinton accountable—an unidentified young woman in the audience, wearing a DeSantis 2024 cap, shouted at the governor accusing him of ignorance about climate change and the money she claimed he accepts from oil and gas companies.
“Hey Ron, thousands of homes are flooded because of climate change in New Hampshire! What is your plan?” the woman stood up and shouted at the governor. She was immediately taken out of the room by security.
DeSantis responded, garnering laughs from the audience: “These people started coming in Iowa and screaming about global warming, when we were in the middle of a blizzard for Pete’s sake.”
DeSantis focused on what he could offer that the other candidates couldn’t, primarily regarding border security and reducing government influence. He told the crowd that on his first day in office, he would declare the border situation a national emergency to catalyze efforts to build the wall Trump didn’t and force illegal immigrants to return to their original countries.
“I’m going to be the president that brings this issue to a conclusion once and for all,” DeSantis said.
The immigration issue struck a chord with several supporters in the crowd, especially Terry Cearely and his wife, Connie, who are from Merrimack.
“New Hampshire is impacted by the border problem,” Cearely said. He couldn’t exactly say that he sees the issue manifesting here, being so far from the border. But Connie felt that eventually, people in New Hampshire would be affected.
“It’s only going to get worse,” Connie said. “When some cities are full and screaming, they’re going to go elsewhere. It’s going to affect everybody at some point.”
They don’t know if they are going to vote for DeSantis or Trump yet; both of them voiced how they’d actually prefer if DeSantis served as Trump’s vice president, and then ran again in 2028.
As the crowd asked DeSantis questions, he continually directed his answers back to his record or to the flaws of his competitors. One young man asked DeSantis’ his thoughts on his polling numbers, as the governor spoke confidently that he could deliver on his promises, this man wondered if DeSantis could win the nomination and general election.
DeSantis countered that while it’s difficult to compete with Trump as a well-known, former president, he has a record of underperforming in elections. He also poked at Haley overspending in her campaign, criticizing the flyers she sends to potential voters.
DeSantis defended his lesser popularity compared to Trump as a symptom of media—mostly liberal media—favoring covering the former president more, referencing the various court cases swirling around him.
“The liberal media likes it because it’ll help the Democrats,” DeSantis said. “I think the conservative media they view it as more ratings for them.”
DeSantis also brought up his recent debate with California Governor Gavin Newsom as a performance of strength, and another opportunity to criticize one of his opponents.
“I had practice in debating someone almost as liberal as Nikki Haley,” DeSantis said. The crowd applauded.
It was Cheryl Dowgos’ from Hudson first time seeing DeSantis in-person. She came because she said she likes what he stands for.
“I think he’s the better candidate out of the three,” Dowgos said. She previously voted for Trump. She still likes him, but felt the country needed a change. Dowgos is registered as independent and felt her beliefs, notably individual rights, aligned with the Republican candidates—DeSantis most of all.
“We need someone fresh, someone new, someone who can hold their tongue,” Dowgos said. She came to the event to make sure she was confident in casting her vote for him on January 23.
The last question DeSantis answered was from a man asking about heating oil and gas, something the governor expressed adamant support for.
“If you rely on wind and solar for most of your energy, you get the rolling blackouts like they do in California,” DeSantis said. He said he was in favor of opening more oil refineries, expanding natural gas production, and relying more on nuclear energy. In order to do so, he came back to one of his main points: shrinking government influence.
“We’re going to reign in the EPA,” DeSantis said. He claimed the left’s opposition to nuclear power in particular was pretext “to control behavior and control the economy.”
DeSantis quickly wrapped up his town hall to head to his next event, another town hall in Dover.
“Don’t listen to the media, don’t listen to the poll pundits,” he said to end his visit in Nashua.
Ani Freedman is a contract reporter with InDepthNH.org. She is a recent graduate from Columbia Journalism School with a passion for environmental, health, and accountability reporting. In her free time, she’s an avid runner and run coach. She can be reached at email@example.com.