On Wednesday in Midland, against a backdrop of oil extraction infrastructure, Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis promised $2 gas in his first year as president.
The Houston Chronicle editorial pages were quick to point out that this proclamation shows how little the Florida governor knows about energy industry policy – but perhaps the energy policy itself was something of a distraction for the many news cameras following the badly trailing GOP nominee.
Jeremy Wallace covered the campaign stop for the Houston Chronicle and spoke with the Standard about the real reasons behind DeSantis’ visit.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: What were some of DeSantis’ energy policies he laid out while he was out in the Midland-Odessa area?
Jeremy Wallace: Well, his whole pitch circled around trying to bring down the price of gasoline. Clearly the sales point here is that if you can get rid of regulations and make it easier for the industry to be able to drill, then gas prices will come down. Of course, we know in Texas that as the price of gas comes down, that can actually hurt the industry’s ability to pull oil.
I was going to say, who exactly did he imagine were the people he was speaking to with this pitch? I mean, if he’s making this pitch in, say, California, where gas prices at the pump are in excess of $5, right. In Texas, they’re not nearly as high as they are in other states. And you have a lot of folks whose livelihood, certainly out in West Texas, is tied to the oil and gas industry.
Yeah. And as I pointed out in my story, the last year has been really good for the industry. You know, despite all the rhetoric about Joe Biden’s policies, what’s kind of missed in the conversation is that the number of rigs that are active right now in Texas is almost double what it was when Joe Biden came into office. And the number of jobs and the wages for oil workers in Texas are both up, according to the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
So you can see, look, the politics was one thing here in trying to, you know, make this case. But really the reason Ron DeSantis was here was he needs money for his campaign, and he was hitting fundraisers not only in Midland, but throughout the state of Texas over the next couple of days. And so I think, you know, while he was talking about energy, the real mission here was to collect as much money as he can going into the last couple of months here.
There’s only about 100 days left until the Iowa caucuses, and he is way behind Donald Trump in Iowa. And he’s got to figure out how to bridge that gap – and he can’t do it without cash.
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Okay. So cash is king, obviously, for almost any candidate. But it sounds to me like what you’re saying is DeSantis is so lagging in the polls that he’s willing to come to Texas with a message that might not go over well with a lot of workers in the industry, but it’s because he’s got to come to Texas to shake hands and show face to get some of those big donors.
Yeah, he was with the right people in Midland talking about oil. But again, I’m sure everybody in the room thinking $2 gas can’t be great for the state of Texas. You know, there would be less people working in the fields if it was $2 a gallon, I’m assuming.
But the situation for DeSantis is that, you know, think of this: He has really 60 days to turn this thing around. It’s like, to me, this is the Hail Mary. He’s going into the heart of Texas hoping that Texas can fuel this last surge. It’s like, if his campaign is ever going to take off, it’s got to go now.
And so, like, desperation is that he’s got to take away time in Iowa right now to raise money in Texas. There’s no reason to be in Texas campaigning, because, you know, we don’t vote until March. He has to worry about Iowa and New Hampshire right now. The stakes are really high for him. And so I think he realizes that he’s going to spend these next three or four days just raising cash in Texas, taking our Texas money and trying to apply it to Iowa – try to figure out how to, you know, solve the Rubik’s Cube up there.
What’s interesting, he’s trying to apply the lessons he’s learned from Ted Cruz. You remember, the U.S. senator from Texas, he had run for president in 2016 and actually won Iowa on a strategy where he was really focused on going to all the counties, really focused on being on the ground there. And DeSantis wants to mimic that, but he needs the money to do it, and so that’s why you see him making this run through the state.