by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) will make his first visit to the Texas border next week, a move GOP political consultants said has a deeper meaning than just a photo-op.
The 2024 Republican presidential hopeful is slated to stop in Eagle Pass, Texas, an extremely remote 30,000-person town in south-central Texas that in 2021 and 2022 was the epicenter of the border crisis. It is his second trip to the border, adding to an Arizona visit earlier in June, which will surpass the number of visits that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have made in office.
“He is attempting as many times as possible to get to the right of Trump,” said Luke Macias, a Republican consultant and political commentator, in a phone call with the Washington Examiner.
Former President Donald Trump, who made immigration restrictions a centerpiece of his administration and pledged to build a wall with Mexico, has visited the border once since leaving office in January 2021.
Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican operative in Texas and partner at Austin-based public affairs firm Steinhauser Strategies, said DeSantis is trying to position himself as the better border security candidate.
“Governor DeSantis is definitely running as the border security candidate in this campaign,” Steinhauser wrote in an email. “He has strongly asserted that he will deliver on many of the promises that former President Trump made, but did not deliver on. One clear example is finishing the border wall and striving toward true operational control of the border.
“He is going to show them that he means business on the border,” Steinhauser continued. “As governor, he signed a bill that requires employers to use E-verify, increases penalties on human traffickers, and suspends licenses of employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens. And he has bussed hundreds of illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities.”