Casey DeSantis -- her husband's not-so-secret campaign weapon -- ramps up campaign events

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he doesn't think she's a secret anymore.

December 15, 2023, 1:13 PM

Casey DeSantis is often called her husband's campaign secret weapon, but during a campaign stop in a barbecue joint in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he doesn't think she's a secret anymore.

Over the past few months, Casey DeSantis has amped up her appearance on her husband's presidential campaign leading up to the Iowa caucuses, making the case to voters why he should be elected president of the United States.

DeSantis and his campaign say his wife's ability to draw crowds and make personal connections with voters is critical to their campaign strategy.

"She's going to be out more [on the campaign trail]," DeSantis told ABC News' MaryAlice Parks in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Saturday. "I like being with her on the campaign trail, but from a campaign strategy perspective, it's better for her to be doing her own events because she draws crowds, she flips voters and sometimes she'll meet with 10-15 potential caucus-goers."

The governor's campaign has already displayed the integral part Casey DeSantis is playing in her husband's presidential run, which includes her appearing on the campaign trail with Ron DeSantis, hosting her own campaign events and participating in campaign ads.

Casey DeSantis watches her husband Florida Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis speak in the spin room following a debate held by Fox News, in Alpharetta, Ga., on Nov. 30, 2023.
Christian Monterrosa/AFP via Getty Images

Earlier this week, the first lady of Florida held several campaign events in different parts of Iowa in support of her husband.

In July, Casey DeSantis launched the latest iteration of "Mamas for DeSantis" at her first solo campaign event in Johnston, Iowa, alongside the state's popular Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who endorsed Ron DeSantis in November.

The initiative, led by Casey DeSantis, seeks to mobilize mothers, grandmothers and parents to help elect her husband president.

Matt Wells, the Washington County chairman for the DeSantis' campaign in Iowa, told ABC News in an interview that the governor's wife is the best campaign surrogate out there.

"She's a very good communicator and people really kind of lean into what she's saying," Wells told ABC News. "She will hold the attention of every woman in the room."

Kate Andersen Brower, a journalist and author of "First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies," told ABC News that Casey DeSantis, a former TV journalist, is her husband's "emissary to women."

Brower explained Casey DeSantis' role as first lady of Florida has given her practice at being in the national spotlight and helping on the campaign trail.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks as his wife Casey, left, looks on during Rep. Randy Feenstra's, R-Iowa, Faith and Family with the Feenstras event,  Dec. 9, 2023, in Sioux Center, Iowa.
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks as his wife Casey, left, looks on during Rep. Randy Feenstra's, R-Iowa, Faith and Family with the Feenstras event, Dec. 9, 2023, in Sioux Center, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall/AP

"First ladies of states like Casey DeSantis are in a unique position because they already are used to being out there in the public eye," Brower said. "So, in a lot of ways, she reminds me of Nancy Reagan when Ronald Reagan was governor of California and she was certainly campaigning a lot. So, I think that she has that added advantage of knowing what's at stake and being out there and really just hitting every key state she can and being really vocal."

But as Casey DeSantis becomes more of a prominent figure in her husband's presidential campaign, she has already started to see the negative impacts being a major surrogate can have on the governor's presidential run.

In an interview with Fox News on Friday, Casey DeSantis called upon "mothers and grandmothers" from other states to "descend upon the state of Iowa to be a part of the caucus" next month -- touting the large coalition of mothers and grandmothers the campaign has garnered over the past few months through "Mamas for DeSantis."

Her comments led to criticism from voters and her husband's political opponents, claiming she was advocating for non-Iowans to vote in the state's caucus. A couple hours later, she issued a statement on X clarifying her comments.

"While voting in the Iowa caucus is limited to registered voters in Iowa, there is a way for others to participate," Casey DeSantis wrote. "I'm calling on mamas and grandmamas from all over the country to come volunteer in support of Ron DeSantis in the Iowa caucus. Go to to get registered to participate!"

Brower likened the recent backlash against Casey DeSantis' comments to a situation former first lady Michelle Obama faced during her husband's first presidential run in 2008 during a campaign event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she said, "for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change."

She later clarified her comments, saying she was proud of Americans engaging in the political process.

"I think that we're seeing something similar here with Casey DeSantis in Iowa, where she said something off the cuff," Brower said. "She didn't mean it exactly that way and then there is this big price to pay from this speaking."

Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis arrives with his wife Casey DeSantis to attend the "Faith and Family with the Feenstras" event moderated by Rep. Randy Feenstra in Sioux Center, Iowa, Dec. 9, 2023.
Christopher Reistroffer/Reuters

Casey DeSantis has spent much time campaigning for and with her husband in the early nominating states, where just this week she was out door-knocking in different counties in Iowa.

In a statement to ABC News, Dave Vasquez, the national press secretary for the DeSantis-aligned super PAC Never Back Down, said the governor's wife is hitting as much ground as she can in Iowa to support her husband's presidential campaign.

"First Lady Casey DeSantis is working her way across Iowa, connecting with voters and winning over caucus-goers from farm towns to big cities," Vasquez said. "As a spouse, a mother and a leader, her message about her husband and his record is resonating with Iowans and building momentum in a way very few people can keep pace with."

According to the DeSantis campaign, Casey DeSantis has participated in 154 campaign events since the launch of her husband's presidential run.

A core pillar of many of Casey DeSantis' stump speeches on the campaign trail for her husband has been centered around faith and how it has influenced their lives -- and how those things drive Ron DeSantis as a leader. Known as an Iowa GOP kingmaker and evangelical leader, Bob Vander Plaats recently endorsed the Florida governor and told ABC News in an interview that Casey DeSantis' remark on how faith leads her family will be well received in Iowa, allowing voters to connect and get to know her husband and his character.

"The first step is Iowa and Iowa will really get to determine your character," Vander Plaats said. "And so, if you have the right character, the right foundation, and a lot of that has to be formatted and formalized by your faith, that kind of determines who you are and to give [voters] an idea about how you will lead."

"And so what [Casey] is doing is cementing this is who I am, this is who we are as a family. We believe in a higher call; we believe in a higher purpose and this also gives us the heart to serve."

ABC News MaryAlice Parks, Will McDuffie, and Arthur Jones contributed to this report