The governor’s approach to voting issues is especially instructive. Shortly after taking office, he moved to restrict the recently restored voting rights of people with felony convictions, enshrined in a 2018 ballot measure, by requiring those with serious criminal histories to fully pay court fines and fees before re-enfranchisement. His emphasis on scattered episodes of possible fraud has appeared to be situational, highlighted by the creation of an Office of Election Crimes and Security and an announcement in August that more than a dozen former felons were being arrested for illegally voting. (In media interviews and court filings, some of the offenders have claimed they were effectively entrapped, encountering no issue when they sought to determine if they could vote and learning of an eligibility problem only upon their arrest.) When several people from the Villages, the vast Central Florida retirement community that skews Republican, were arrested for trying to cast multiple ballots in the 2020 election, DeSantis did not convene a news conference.

As a matter of national signaling, the voting effort stands as another argument to Republicans that Florida is supplanting even Texas as the consensus capital of American conservatism. Lawmakers expect the profile of future down-ballot Republicans to closely resemble the governor’s, reflecting his endorsements in legislative and especially school-board races and allowing him to shape the state’s agenda effectively unchecked. (His school board endorsees, including some connected to Moms for Liberty, were broadly successful in their August primaries.) The governor’s grip on the Legislature is already firm. Signing the state budget in June, DeSantis sounded almost taunting while congratulating himself for vetoing line items prized by the Republicans standing behind him. “They may not be clapping about that,” DeSantis said, “but that’s just the way it goes.”

A short time later, Wilton Simpson, the Senate president who had hundreds of millions in spending on his own priorities slashed by the man introducing him, had his turn to speak. “How about Ron DeSantis?” Simpson began, clapping in his direction. “America’s governor.”

Robert T. Bigelow, a Nevada space entrepreneur with little history of prolific donations to Republican causes, decided earlier this year to make what appears to be the largest single political contribution from an individual in Florida history: $10 million. (The state places no limit on donations to a political committee.) Bigelow was not steeped in Florida politics. Though he liked what he had seen of DeSantis on the news, singling out his Disney fight, Bigelow said he did not realize the governor was up for re-election until a friend informed him earlier this year. “I thought, Gee, what an excellent time to, early on, contribute to the man and pay him that respect,” Bigelow told me, in his first extended public remarks on the matter.

A short time later, on July 7, according to Bigelow, the governor was on a plane to meet him in North Las Vegas. DeSantis stayed for “at least three hours,” Bigelow said, touring his aerospace facility and settling in a conference room for sandwiches. “I told him, ‘You know, if you run for president, you’re going to be the people’s president,’” Bigelow told me. “He says, ‘I like that.’”

For years, DeSantis was an acquired taste for donors. Contributors used to observe to one another that his clothes never quite fit, wondering aloud if he had a house account at Men’s Wearhouse. More recently, some party operatives have grumbled about the DeSantis family’s affinity for the perks of power, zeroing in on media reports about Mori Hosseini, a Florida developer and longtime Republican donor, who was said to have helped arrange a round of golf for DeSantis in 2018 at Augusta National, home of the Masters. In 2019, Politico reported that Casey DeSantis used Hosseini’s private plane to travel to a state function. (The governor’s net worth, as of late last year, is a little over $300,000, according to a recent financial disclosure, though a rumored book deal would increase the figure considerably. The disclosure said he was still working to pay off some $20,000 in student loans.)